Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Syrup, Post-Its, & Nicknames. Why Can't Good Teaching Be As Sticky?

"It's in EVERY research book you read. It's talked about at every educational and professional development conference you attend. It's the focus of every methods book. Inquiry-based teaching is it. Inquiry. Inquiry. Inquiry. But you don't see it implemented in the classroom, and if you do, it's not done well. Inquiry—it just isn't sticking."

Yesterday morning, I finished Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point. (Recommended!) Yesterday afternoon, a university education professor said the above to me. I was taken aback. Anyone who has read Tipping Point likely knows why. I felt like one of those cartoon characters where a lightbulb starts flashing above your head!

Gladwell states that the three agents of change include the Law of the Few, the Power of Context, and the Stickiness Factor—the third agent being the cause for the lightbulb. The following Gladwell quote echoed in my head.
"The Stickiness Factor means that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it makes."
My friend (and co-author) Dennis Smithenry and I are incredibly passionate about the benefits of Whole Class Inquiry. So when the professor said, "Inquiry—it just isn't sticking," I got to thinking about how we might be able to change that. How do we make our idea  "tip?" (Font choice in picture at right in honor of my husband.)

It was what the professor said next that really helped. "So many teachers believe that inquiry is a good idea; they just don't know how to make it happen. But being here, seeing it in action, talking to you, listening to the students, now the message makes sense. The theory of inquiry is alive in that room. "

Gladwell believes that some ideas are worthy, but have not been worded in a manner where the majority of the potential users can understand, let alone implement. The key to getting our message to tip? We need to redefine Whole Class Inquiry using the vocabulary and practice of these experimental, dedicated educators. We can't use Whole Class Inquiry to describe Whole Class Inquiry. We need to simplify a complex idea into presently used language. But how?

I'm working on it. And if I can't figure it out, there's always Krazy Glue...

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