Challenges

Asking School Principals The Right Question

How have you changed your communications strategy in the digital age?

Sheninger's question, if addressed to the instructional leader or administrator, is a reactionary response to a cultural movement that begins with the educator.  If the question is directed to the educator, then the question is incomplete.

I'm not sure how much utility there is to catapult leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, etc. to the educational field.  As great leaders they certainly had a message and could communicate it well to others.  And yes, school principals need to be able to do this to a degree, but I think it's more important that principals are able to promote relationships within the local context of the school.  The level of detail and locality in relationship building required in schools is hardly achievable between a country's president and its citizens.

Changing a communications strategy is a cultural change involving all educational stakeholders.  It's not enough to ask the question to one stakeholder without understanding the relationship (and implications) the answer has in terms of others.  Purposeful change comes from understanding how a change in one educator affects change in someone else.  Principals who understand their local complexity, understand how to rally relationships together in order to problem set and solve.

If I were asking school principals the question, I would ask...

How can interactive environments bring the necessary people together in order to problem set and solve around a school's mission and vision statements, cultural values, and current objectives?

What questions would you ask school principals?  Educators?  Instructional leaders?  Civic leaders?

Asking School Principals The Right Question

How have you changed your communications strategy in the digital age?

Sheninger's question, if addressed to the instructional leader or administrator, is a reactionary response to a cultural movement that begins with the educator.  If the question is directed to the educator, then the question is incomplete.

I'm not sure how much utility there is to catapult leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, etc. to the educational field.  As great leaders they certainly had a message and could communicate it well to others.  And yes, school principals need to be able to do this to a degree, but I think it's more important that principals are able to promote relationships within the local context of the school.  The level of detail and locality in relationship building required in schools is hardly achievable between a country's president and its citizens.

Changing a communications strategy is a cultural change involving all educational stakeholders.  It's not enough to ask the question to one stakeholder without understanding the relationship (and implications) the answer has in terms of others.  Purposeful change comes from understanding how a change in one educator affects change in someone else.  Principals who understand their local complexity, understand how to rally relationships together in order to problem set and solve.

If I were asking school principals the question, I would ask...

How can interactive environments bring the necessary people together in order to problem set and solve around a school's mission and vision statements, cultural values, and current objectives?

What questions would you ask school principals?  Educators?  Instructional leaders?  Civic leaders?

Educator As Decision Maker

I was reading Ditch the Plan! #30GoalsEdu today and it got me thinking ... always a good thing.

If we ditch a plan, are we really planning to begin with?

Finding those teaching moments requires one to reflect-in-action.  Instead of ditching a plan before the fact (i.e., class), reflect on those times when you were reflecting in action, and during the class itself, you realized that you must ditch the plan.  Reflect on those classes when you deviated from the syllabus in order to take advantage of a teachable moment.

Hunter (1979) claims that teachers make decisions before, during, and after lessons primarily around three distinct categories: content, style of the learner, and the behavior of the teacher.

(Language) Educator Challenge: What decisions have you had to make during a class that deviated from the syllabus?  Formulate your answer in terms of forms of evidence: content, style of the learner, and/or your own behavior.  Provide a rationale as to why you had to make these decisions.

Essential Question Discourse Analysis

I was reading Alber's (2013) 5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students and I began to think about how discourse emerges behind asking essential questions in the classroom.  Alber (2013) suggests that teachers ask the following types of questions:

  1. What do you think?

  2. Why do you think that?

  3. How do you know this?

  4. Can you tell me more?

  5. What questions do you still have?


When applying the Socratic Method, pace becomes important.  The suggested question types provided above avoid the easier "yes/no" questions that allow for lower order thinking, but what happens when students 1) are not used to answering essential questions (or used to the teacher simply giving the answer), 2) lack the content knowledge to adequately address such questions, or 3) lack the language skills - in the case of English language learners - to provide an adequate response.  Alber (2013) suggests a type of think, pair, share activity to allow for deeper group discussions, but this too affects the overall pace of classroom discourse and an interruption of the Socratic Method.

(Language) Educator Challenge: Record yourself during a class and analyze the way you form questions and how your students reply.  For example, how do you lead up to any one of the five questions above?  Are there lower-thinking questions that occur first, or are you able to jump right to these questions in order to generate thought-provoking discussion?  Conduct a discourse analysis to see how you present questions in a way that maintains good pacing and thought-provoking discussions around big ideas.