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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Going the distance where it counts

Transformation begins by asking the right questions.

Some people use what I call "checklist thinking". In my line of work, that means I talk about a teaching technique and they tell me whether or not they do that. (And of course the answer is usually affirmative.)

PBL? CHECK!
Formative assessment? CHECK!

I describe an ideal, they see some piece of it that looks something they did. "Yep, I do that."

But it's too simple to approach life as a series of yes/no questions.

A better question is often, "How much do you use...?" I call this a yardstick approach. It raises the question of measuring and differences in results.
  • With it we acknowledge a distance between minimal practice and effective application. 
  • We can start to assess where we are at. 
  • We can identify important aspects that make results poor, good and best. 
  • We can begin to identify steps to improve.
Checklist thinking leads to mediocrity. Yardstick thinking leads to growth.

As a last thought, I'll add that checklist thinking isn't all bad. I assure you I use it frequently, like when I mow my lawn and when I send a reminder email about a printer issue to our district tech. Is that done? CHECK!

Obviously we can't start rating ourselves on a scale for everything. The areas in our lives where we use the yardstick approach, though, are the areas we value most whether we admit it or not. The trick is to acknowledge our priorities and then evaluate the efforts accordingly.

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