Newsletter – November 11, 2015


Weekly update includes this week one additional administrative announcement.  I’m happy to report that we have concluded an agreement with Michelle Alzamora to move into the lead chair at the Elementary Division as the new principal.  Over the last 5 years, Mrs. Alzamora has held various roles at the school including teacher, Literacy Coordinator, and Assistant Principal.  We are excited that she has committed herself to honoring the work of the division and reaffirmation of the path they have set for growing and learning as a team.

On the more educational side of things, I wanted to share with you some nuggets that I gleaned from the recent IB Regional Heads Conference in the Hague.  David Perkins, one of the keynote speakers, shared some insight into their work in instructional planning. Like our work on personalized learning, he talked at length about “Life Worthy Learning!”  His work at Harvard Project Zero has led to a new initiative referred to as Learning that Matters (LtM).  This is a leadership initiative in partnership with the Independent Schools Victoria (ISV), Australia.  Of particular note is a white paper discussing the conceptual framework for leadership in the context of LtM.  It starts by understanding the trends in the expanding universe of what’s worth teaching.  This is referred to as the 6 Beyond’s:

  1. Beyond content – 21st century skills, competencies, etc., such as critical and creative thinking, collaboration, communication, self-management.
  2. Beyond local – Global perspectives, problems, and studies, as with our global economy or worldwide problems of energy or water supplies.
  3. Beyond topics – Content as tools for thinking and action, for instance with regard to some of the big issues above.
  4. Beyond the traditional disciplines – Renewed and extended visions of the disciplines, for instance broader views of history or studies of contemporary communication technologies.
  5. Beyond discrete disciplines – Interdisciplinary topics and problems, such as the roots of intergroup human conflict or poverty.
  6. Beyond prescribed content – Learners as choosers of what they learn well beyond the typical use of “electives.”

His argument is that there is a growing importance in looking at a combination of deciding what needs less focus because of its declining degree of importance and coupling this with a look at how other things can be combined and expanded to grow deeper understanding and applicability to new situations.

I couldn’t help but notice some of the parallels of this work with our work on personalized learning descriptors.  The current cornerstones definitions speak to student learning that crosses disciplinary lines, and provides a deeper understanding that is tuned to interests and passions.  Beyond #6 is particularly focused on this type of “chosen” learning.

While we work hard every day considering how to increasingly articulate curriculum and outcomes through standards and assessments, we are also defining and understanding the plausible futures that 21st century thinking demands.  We all struggle with trying to predict what the future may hold for our youth, it is clear that some elements of the future are fairly easy to predict.  We know our students will face significant challenges that will test their ability to innovate and learn.  We know that technology will continue to grow as an influence in their lives.  We know that they will increasingly face the challenges of scarcity and the essential need to reevaluate their partnership with the planet.

And we can also hope that they will reap the benefits of their collaborative spirit when issues of peace and prosperity are achieved through the efforts of an enlightened generation.  I have every faith that our globally aware graduates of AAS will contribute significantly to that accomplishment.

  1. #1 by Linda J. Dawson on November 16, 2015 - 10:50 pm

    Jon, I enjoyed reading your post and will download the white paper.

    We met at the AAIE conference several years ago. My expertise is in working with governing boards, their role clarity, their contribution to student achievement in defining Results and supporting staff work to achieve those Results.

    Since student Results were the focus of your article, I wonder what role you see the board performing and whether they have the skills and intent to be the leaders and/servant of that focus? It is our work with our clients to make that happen.

    • #2 by Jon Zurfluh on November 17, 2015 - 7:22 am

      Linda – Do take a look at Perkin’s work. While some found him lackluster in his presentation at IB Regional, most saw that the insight and thoughtful approach was profound. The work and Project Zero continues to challenge current paradigms. Our board is well prepared for the work of supporting results. We have laid foundation with the current strategic plan and are set to embark on a more nimble approach to strategy work that will adjust and align our efforts further.

      The board is always balancing the need for visioning and their fiduciary role of structuring for accountability. In this sense, the value the underlying work of the administrative team and provide for the direction of the work, but they speak through policy that must capture the results of the work in operational goals setting that establishes the measurement of “adequate progress” toward goals. While not true policy governance, it does embody the tenets of balanced and engaged governance.

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