Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dissent -v- The Echo Chamber

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about multiple perspectives and reflected on the fact that some of the best committees and teams I've ever been on have been those where the members thought very differently from each other.  We had lively debates, we pushed each others' thinking.  The important thing, of course, was that we were allowed to have these diverse opinions about the best way forward, that these opinions were respected and were not seen as threatening to the other members of the team.  Sometimes we agreed to differ, sometimes we came up with consensus.  We didn't have to all have one "right" answer, one type of "group think", our main job wasn't just to praise or support the initiatives of the person heading up the team.

Today I was reading a blog post by the Canadian educator Joe Bower entitled Seek dissent.  He writes about how he is pushing his students to think for themselves and he shares the following video which talks about dissent liberating discussion.

Joe also links back to one of his earlier posts, Mandated Optimism.  In this one he writes about the dangers of being compliant and mentions a poster that states "Only positive attitudes allowed beyond this point".   I've been thinking about attitudes recently, and as a friend said to me recently "attitudes are a matter of perception".  Some people may think having or voicing independent thoughts and opinions to be a sign of a good attitude, others may think differently.  Some people may think that a "smile and don't complain" attitude shows positive thinking, others may think it shows no thinking at all!  And of course attitudes can change as circumstances change.  I have seen many students who apparently had a "bad attitude" in some lessons or with some teachers, but who flourished with others.  I have seen the same thing with teachers too who have grown professionally in some teams that encouraged action research, but who were frustrated in teams who didn't like anyone questioning the status quo.

The IB Learner Profile encourages thinking and open mindedness.
Thinkers "... exercise initiative in applying thinking skills critically and creatively to recognize and approach complex problems, and make reasoned, ethical decisions."
People who are open minded: "... are accustomed to seeking and evaluating a range of points of view, and are willing to grow from the experience."

The PYP Attitude independence also encourages: "thinking and acting independently, making their own judgments based on reasoned argument, and being able to defend their judgments."

As teachers, as colleagues, as administrators I think it is important to model the learner profile and the attitudes.  If we do so then we are encouraging everyone to think for themselves and to join in with and contribute to the discussion.

Photo Credit:  Speak no evil, See no evil, Hear no evil by Rose Robinson  Attribution 

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