2,000 “What if?” Questions From School Stakeholders

What if schools were what we wanted them to be?  Why are they not?

As many of you know, I have collected more than 2,000 questions from teachers, administrators, parents, and students around the country over a period of more than 18 months.  (HT Bo Adams was the first of many that I know of to start articulating a personal list of “what if?” questions a couple of years ago when he posted a short “what if?” blog every day for two months.) Very simply, I gave large groups of stakeholders just a few minutes to think about and pose questions that started with the words “What if…?” that might significantly change something at their school for the better.  I kept all of these notes, logged them into a database, and last summer sorted them into “buckets” of similar questions.

I have just published an article in Independent School Magazine on the findings from this crowd-sourced research.   As soon as the full article is available online, I will post a link to it.  In the meantime, check out this graphic.  A full 70% of the questions mapped into just 11 categories, and all of them coincide with what we would call deeper, richer, more student-centered, post industrial-age learning. It is a remarkable convergence to what was a completely unrestricted and open-ended question.

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 1.21.19 PMThe other huge lesson of this picture: these top concerns/ideas/hopes of educational stakeholders rarely take center stage on our school strategic plans.  In other words, what we really want, what we know would make our schools better places of learning, are almost never addressed in our guiding strategic documents.  This is a very strong indictment of the traditional model of school strategic planning, lending support for a “zero-based” model of thinking that starts with much more attention to truly expansive questions like “what if” and “how might we”.

Look for the full article soon; it includes a more detailed explanation of each of the top 11 things we want for our schools.

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