Busted Bell Curve III: Tough Questions About Superstars Among Us

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Busted Bell Curve III: Tough Questions About Superstars Among Us

The research last week that appears to have busted our ideas about the bell curve of human performance will continue to resonate in many ways (links on last week’s post).  Here are two more, prompted by media reviews and Twitter traffic on two important topics.

The media was buzzing last week about the Harvard-MIT online collaboration, with this comment by David Brooks in the NYT, and shared by several on BendBulletin.com: “If a few star professors can lecture to millions, what happens to the rest of the faculty?”  Think about this in terms of the research that shows that a few superstars are, in fact, responsible for pulling the train in most endeavors. As a school person, your head is about to get very noisy and messy.

Should we embrace new structures that leverage a few superstar teachers? Are teachers superstars due to what they teach, or the relationship that they have with their students?  Aren’t some teachers iconic at our schools for one, but not for the other? Is there a way to get the best of both worlds? Why do we assume that the traditional role of teacher: deliverer of content, organizer of classroom, mentor of a fixed number of students per year, yields anything other than average performance on each of these key functions?  Why not hire superstars for each of these critical student services and realign schools to leverage their superstar talents?  I am going to be stewing on this one a LOT.

Here is the next sacred cow, albeit sort of a newbie calf in our thinking compared to the above.  We all now “get it” about the importance of collaboration, or at least many of us are on the track with growing PLC’s and PLN’s and social networks.  But who are we collaborating with?  If a few superstars have a large proportion of the great new ideas, how much good is collaboration if our network does not include superstars?  Not to be too negative about it, but the best-intentioned group needs an engine to get it rolling down the track.  Where is that engine in our schools and our PLC’s?  Do we have to look outside school for the superstar?  Or can we hire, develop, and leverage them? Is collaboration without a superstar in the group still valuable?  I don’t have any of these answers, but I am happily drowning in new questions that need asking!

If the bell curve is in question, and if we are honest and objective in our desire to make real change, then we have to ask questions like this that are going to make people uncomfortable.  But that is good: discomfort is the flag-bearer of innovation.  And now I have to go and update my running list of Big Hairy Questions that pose both real risk and real opportunities for our schools!

By | 2012-05-06T16:06:03+00:00 May 6th, 2012|Uncategorized|1 Comment

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