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Enquiring Minds: Schools, Teachers, Students

The Enquiring Minds Learning Model is the main outcome of the Enquiring Minds Project. It is currently in draft form and the project committee is interested in feedback. The purpose of the model is to provide a framework for other schools interested in implementing the methodology. The underlying assumption I sense in the document is that enquiry is a process closely linked to research, and the paper decribes and extends the popular idea of students and teachers as researchers. That is, the school is an institution for enquiry-based research in which both teachers and students are actively engaged in pursuing personally motivating and individualized investigations...

Schools, Teachers, Students

The opening section of the document outlines the main descriptors of what a school, teacher and student is. Redefining our traditional view of these basic elements in the education process is one that receives a great deal of attention. The purpose is to encourage us to change our assumptions. Most commonly this change involves a basic shift from a system of knowledge distribution to knowledge creation. This shift, also noted in Enquiring Minds, is not new or innovative. It is in fact quite commonplace. What would be innovative is a fundamental and durable changed based on these ideas actually taking hold in an education system

Schools: If a school becomes a centre for knowledge creation, this means that each school is unique in terms the kinds of research and investigation taking place through teachers and students. Sharing and collaboration naturally invites the application of networks to create a sense of connection and joint venture across schools. Since the implied process is a dynamic one, knowledge is constantly changing in each school making it impossible to "freeze" knowledge in time, unless of course we attempt to take a snapshot of it at a particular moment in time. The values associated with this are often referred to as being democratic in time since a greater degree of equality is implied in the relationships across school, teacher, student and community.

One area the framework should emphasize more is the idea that each school is a centre for knowledge innovation. In this sense, each school becomes a resource for other schools, teachers, students and community. This line of thinking invites us to consider how schools can interact with each other more effectively around common interests and directions. I outlined this idea in Connected Intelligence: Impact:

Connected Intelligence: Schools
* From: A physical building where learning takes place…
* To: A communications hub for global interactivity and participation

I find that the current version of Enquiring Minds is more focused on an internal look at school dynamics, which in itself is quite helpful, but does not place enough emphasis on possibilities for schools working together in a self-organizing manner. If a school can become a centre for knowledge innovation, then several schools sharing and working together in a connected manner can only increase and expand that potential.

Teachers: The basic shift proceeds from the teacher as communicator of their own specific expertise to teacher as co-researcher. This, again, is a very common idea but deceptively difficult to implement in a practical and durable manner. If teachers are in fact co-researchers, knowledge again becomes dynamic and mobile. This, in comparison to traditional curricular, is a dramatically different proposition. In the current structure of education, teachers simply do not have time to be researchers, nor are they encouraged to do so if they are faced with having to deliver standardized testing. Some education districts are actually considering making the situation worse by linking teacher performance and pay to standardized test results. This is one of the most idiotic notions surrounding assessment today.

However, assuming the educational environment for teachers can be changed so they do have time and are properly rewarded for conducting research, then they can serve as guides and mentors for students. The Enquiring Minds Draft Model notes that teachers should share their aims and theories about teaching and learning with students. This needs to be extended. The model itself, whatever it turns out to be, should include student ideas and be directly impacted by the work that they do, as well as the work of teachers. In other words, the model is not singular, it is plural.

Connected Intelligence: The Teacher
* From: An expert in a particular field of information…
* To: An experience designer focused on the mentorship of individual talent and potential
- Connected Intelligence: Impact

Student: For a student to be fully engaged in the environment described above, it is obvious that traditional notions of curriculum and instruction must either be changed or simply discarded. The perspective on students in Enquiring Minds focuses on four areas: a) Enquiring Minds - that students are curious about their world; b) Research Skills - that students have the capacity and ability to investigate and examine experiences; c) Communication Skills - that students can share their personal discoveries with other in meaningful ways; and d) Transforming Skills - that students have a greater sense of connection to the world as well as the potential to change it.

I would assume that this same list would also apply to teachers. I would also assume that the underlying structure of the school system itself is wholly designed to support these endeavors. This would mean that the current systems of curriculum, instruction, and evaluation are completely irrelevant. In my own experience, this is where I found, by far, the greatest resistance to change.

Connected Intelligence: The Student
* From: A receiver of standardized information…
* To: An active creator of knowledge and designer of experience
- Connected Intelligence: Impact

It is also inevitable that some students will have greater ability in specific areas in comparison to their teacher. This is perfectly natural and as it should be. For some teachers, however, this may come as a shock since the traditional role of the teacher has been closely aligned with having and delivering a narrow band of expertise to those that do not possess it.

Shifting Our Perspective on Education

Glancing down the list of 14 key shifts I designed for the Connected Intelligence Program I am reminded of the importance shifting our perspectives on the basic vocabulary of education. Although I haven't looked at this list for several years now, nor does the number fourteen have any special significance, many of the basic shifts remain valid.

Each of these shifts must become part of a coordinated strategic plan since they are to a large degree interdependent. Connected Intelligence was one such strategic plan (see: Connected Intelligence: Training and Development), and Enquiring Minds will need to do much the same. That is to say, describing the model or framework is the easy part - actually implementing it in a sustainable and durable way is something completely different.

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