Saturday, February 14, 2015

Find common purpose, and strategies are just details

Lately I've been part of a new initiative at my school. Surprise, surprise. Any of you familiar with American education will know that new initiatives are nothing new--they're the like an addiction.

But this one, I really do like. It's about using mastery-based performance tasks to measure students' progress toward broad, practical graduation standards like communication and problem solving skills.

But, frankly, to many teachers, it is just one more thing (and for some, it's the straw (after the straw after the straw) that broke the camel's back).

That's why my ears perked up when I heard the following. I've been listening to Crucial Conversations during my morning commutes (and sometimes afternoons, though those are usually reserved for blowing off steam with my favorite Dutch DJ, Armin van Buuren). And yesterday they were covering their C.R.I.B. Method for establishing a mutual purpose (C.R.I.B. stands for Commit to seek Mutual Purpose, Recognize the purpose behind the strategy, Invent a Mutual Purpose, Brainstorm new strategies.) 

When we are in disagreement with someone, one of the most important things we can do is seek a common purpose. Instead of arguing about strategies (like mastery-based learning or performance assessments), what if we first found our common purpose? Maybe it would be something like: 
"We all want to see all students succeed."
(BTW, I hope it would be exactly that.)

Once we establish that all of us want every student to succeed, then the only question is how best to do that. And then the details are really minor issues in my book. We can work them out together. Whether the strategy we use in the end is mastery or the old fashioned lecture, as long as we agree that the goal is to get every child to succeed, and as long as we measure our progress and really do progress toward that goal, I'm satisfied.

And I think the same thing goes for so many relationships and issues in life. If we can establish a common purpose (and if we have trouble with that part, that's what the C.R.I.B. method is for), the rest is just details.

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