Leader to Leader

If the Ladder Is Leaning on the Wrong Structure

At the recent ASCD Leader to Leader (L2L) conference, attendees had a series of passionate unconference conversations. Several groups refined their thoughts into a series of presentations to share with other attendees in an "idea marketplace." During the idea marketplace, unconference groups presented for four rounds of 10-minute sessions, giving their peers the opportunity to learn from several groups in one session.

This post, written by Jason Ellingson, an ASCD Emerging Leader and past president of Iowa ASCD, shares his group's experience. Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #ASCDL2L.

If the ladder is leaning on the wrong structure, it doesn't really matter if you can climb it.

At ASCD's L2L conference, participants were presented with an education forecast by the KnowledgeWorks organization that demonstrated a significant shift in the workforce and our education system. Based on the presentation, a group of us decided to focus on what new system of education would be needed to fairly prepare our students for this new workforce and new society.

The group decided that a new system of education needed to focus on personalized learning, a system that supports anytime, anywhere, any pace, any pathway for student learning. We believe that there needs to be greater student voice and student choice in student learning. Students must have a greater say in what they learn, how they learn, how they demonstrate what they have learned, and how they know that they have learned.

Our current system of education does not adequately prepare students for the nonacademic skills of flexibility, adaptability, problem solving, collaboration, and metacognition that are increasingly more important in the workforce. Our 20th century education system is not the right structure on which we should be leaning our students and educators.

KnowledgeWorks provided the L2L participants with several new educator roles, roles that align to the guiding purpose of a personalized learning education system. As we explore these new roles within a new paradigm of education, ASCD has a unique opportunity to lead this transformative change in educating our students. Leading a massive overhaul of the country's education system will not be easy, and ASCD has the reputation, resources and resolve to move this work forward for the betterment of our students.

First, ASCD has an opportunity to communicate a sense of urgency. KnowledgeWorks explained that the changes in society and workforce are already occurring, yet we still have an education system that is not fully preparing students for these changes.

Second, ASCD has devoted significant time and resources to its Whole Child Initiative, making it one of the cornerstones of its work. ASCD can review the five Whole Child Tenets (healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged) to demonstrate alignment with a personalized learning education system.

Similar to the Whole Child Network of Schools, ASCD could select pilot schools or districts across the country that can be leaders in the personalized learning education movement. ASCD could create a network of support and collaboration that would allow the pilot schools to share resources and build collective capacity. Further, ASCD can partner with foundations and businesses to provide funding to collect and share this evidence of innovative practices. ASCD affiliates could even help by sharing names of schools with ASCD and providing support closer to the field.

A major area of leadership for ASCD could be with a new teacher development and evaluation system for personalized learning. With increasing focus on teacher performance, ASCD could provide guidance into new teacher roles, feedback systems, and evaluation tools to support the growth of educators in a personalized learning system. This would be a major step to overhauling the current system.

Finally, ASCD can use its established social media tools—Twitter, ASCD EDge® social networking platform, and the ASCD website—to share resources, establish collaboration networks, and highlight new practices. The use of social media tools will allow for faster and broader dissemination of ideas and information, causing more educators to be involved in this important work.

We have the opportunity to "lean our ladder" on a new, more robust, more personalized education system. I hope ASCD helps lead the way for the betterment of our learners.

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