Saturday, September 23, 2017

Resolving problems: when to paraphrase and when to question

As I'm coaching teachers at school, I spend most of my time in planning and reflecting conversations, however sometimes it's clear than although I start with thinking that a teacher wants to plan or reflect on something, it can often be that during the conversation something happens that lets me know that the conversation is not really about planning or reflecting, but instead the coachee has an issue that he or she is stuck with and that planning and reflecting are not the best ways to address this.  That's the time that a Cognitive Coach will need to switch to a problem resolving conversation.

I remember at a previous school I had a number of conversations with a member of the administration where I also felt I was stuck in a problem - the biggest problem that I faced there was knowing that the school had not bought the required number of licences for the number of computers a particular piece of software was installed on.  This went totally against my principles and deeply affected my sense of integrity.  However whenever I would raise concerns about this or anything else, I was told that I was a "glass half empty" person and that I needed to focus instead on what was going well, not what was going badly. I remember feeling an enormous sense of frustration after these conversations, above all else the feeling that I was not being heard and that my concerns were not validated.  Usually I came away from them feeling worse than before.  Now that I've trained in Cognitive Coaching the reason is very clear to me: what I said was never acknowledge (which is what we call the existing state and is done using a paraphrase), what I felt was never acknowledged (instead I was told I should not feel it), and I could see no pathway forward (which could have been achieved by questioning me about what the desired state would be and what resources I might have to achieve this).

For our Cognitive Coaching bookclub, this week we are focusing on the problem resolving map.  The problem resolving map is really powerful as it can actually trigger physical and emotional changes in the brain that open you up to optimism, resourcefulness and creative energy, even when you are stuck and uncertain of what to do and feel trapped in a situation without alternatives.  The problem resolving conversation is made up of 2 parts:  pacing and leading.  A coach will pace to honour the existing state and to create awareness of a possible desired state.  Pacing simply lets the coachee know that there is no judgement on whatever he or she is experiencing.  In the previous conversations that I just mentioned, I always felt that my feelings were being denied or judged, and this led to me feeling even more stuck than I was before.  As it says in the Cognitive Coaching book, "by denying the speaker's feelings, it is more likely that the feelings stay unchanged".  Pacing reflects what is, and then makes visible what is possible.  Leading starts when the coachee has signed off on the desired state.  While pacing is all paraphrasing, during the lead the coach will mostly be asking questions.

One of the most important sentences I read in this chapter was as follows:
[We need to} set aside our desire to be consultants rather than coaches, not to be experts and fixers.  Instead the coach enters the world of the coachee with humility, empathy and compassion.
The pace and the lead belong together.  Art Costa and Bob Garmston write that leading without pacing is ineffective because most people can describe what they don't like, but often cannot describe what they want - the coach coming up with a possible goal statement helps the person being coached to see the problem differently.   The other thing that is really important about the pace is that it is not about coming up with a goal that involves doing something, but instead is about being, having or feeling.  As Art and Bob write, a goal is always about a destination, not a journey or what you have to do to get there.  And for many of us the destination can be summed up in 3 main ways:  it's about identify, connectedness or potency.    In the earlier example I gave, what it really amounted to was identity - being asked to do something that I was uncomfortable with was a threat to my sense of integrity.  Looking back now, the reason that the conversations I had at the time were unproductive was largely down to the fact that there was no pace.  The pace works directly on the emotions and (I love this phrase) "restores or refreshes the chemistry of hopefulness" so that the emotions of the coachee are validated without increasing the chemistry of defeat or frustration.

So once the pace and the goal statement are signed off, the coach proceeds to the lead.  Here the coach needs to think which state of mind needs to be awakened to deal with the wicked problem.  If questions around that state of mind don't appear to be productive then the coach can simply try asking questions around another state of mind.  It's also during the lead that you can deal with 3rd party problems.  These are ones where the problem does not belong to the coachee but to someone else. When this happens the coach needs to refocus on the coachee as you can see in the following set of questions:
  • What behaviours do you want from the person/group?  (focus completely on others)
  • What knowledge, skills or attitudes will they need to perform those behaviours?
  • What might you do to help them develop these resources?
  • What internal resources do you need in order to do that?  (focus back on the coachee)
The aim of a problem resolving conversation is not to solve someone else's problems, so there may be no real conclusive ending to the conversation.  Often a coach may pose a question for the coachee to think about at the end of the conversation.  In this way it's clear to see the distinction between coaching and consulting.  With consulting, the goal is to solve problems and the conversation ends when the coach has come up with an action plan.  With coaching, the goal is to support the internal resources and to restore states of mind of the coachee - so the conversation does not have to come to a conclusion in order to be of value.  For a coach this may be difficult as he or she needs to give up the need for closure or to know the end of the story.  

However there is a benefit to the coach as well as to the coachee.  In recognizing the 5 states of mind in others, the coach also comes to recognize these states in him/herself.  For example, I have come to see through coaching others that my lowest resource is the state of mind flexibility.  Now I'm much more aware of this and consciously push myself to see things from another's point of view.  So maybe I am a glass half empty person, or maybe with the right coaching I can be a glass half full person, or maybe the glass is intended not to be full for some reason or other.  What I am sure of, however, is that digging deep into coaching not only helps others, it also helps me to think more kindly about others (as flexibility increases) and so it helps me to become a better person too.  What an amazing win-win!

Photo Credit: Let Ideas Compete Flickr via Compfight cc

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Shaping the future of learning

As part of the visioning team at ASB I've been reading through several publications from KnoweldgeWorks, and today I read Shaping the Future of Learning.  It's clear from this that there are both new opportunities and new challenges as we look to a future that is linked with our "digital companions".  Here's a great quote from the introduction:
The next decade represents a critical window of choice.  Exponential advances in digital technologies and new social norms, organizational approaches and economic models are ushering in new ways of living, working and learning that could look dramatically different from today's realities.  As the pace of change accelerates, education stakeholders need to explore how best to harness emerging trends to create and foster future learning environments and ecosystems that prepare all learners to thrive amid rapid change and increasing complexity.
This report highlights 5 foundational issues facing education and asks the following questions:

  1. 360 Degree Learners - how can we educate the whole person and enable lifelong learning that supports academic and social-emotional growth?
  2. The Whole and the Sum of its Parts - how can we personalise learning in the community, reorienting education around learners while strengthening society?  Learners' interests and needs should play a larger role in what is taught and how learning is organised.
  3. Elastic Structures - how can we create flexible approaches to learning that respond to learners' needs?  Current funding, administration and governance are a barrier to meaningful change.
  4. Innovation with Intent - how can we ground systems change in equity, including and supporting underserved learners?  We need to be aware that changes on the horizon may actually exacerbate inequity.
  5. The new A+ - how can we renegotiate definitions of success?  We need to question what the fundamental purpose of education is and move away from success being defined in the form of scores and rankings.
Here are some strategies for K-12 schools for responding to the above issues:
  • Educate the whole person:  identify learner-centred approaches and consider the learners' point of view when evaluating potential changes.  Support learners' social and emotional growth and personal development.  Give learners the opportunity to practice both academic and non-academic skills to help them develop adaptability and self confidence and ownership for their own learning.
  • Personalise learning: connect learning to community needs so that it is both personally and publicly relevant.  Get away from the idea that personalisation means leaning in isolation and focus on collaborative learning.  Move away from giving feedback only through grades and tests, and find opportunities to participate in authentic and meaningful work beyond the school walls to encourage a greater sense of responsibility.
  • Create flexible approaches to learning:  find manageable small-scale ways to prototype ideas and pursue R&D.  Effective use of technology can enable schools to be in contact with families, communities and experts.
  • Equity:  consider how changes impact traditionally underserved learners.  Plan for future challenges in advance so that you can adapt to emerging trends and be proactive in forming solutions that respond to the changing environment.  Innovation need to be grounded in learning science and not motivated by politics or profit.
  • Redefine success:  identify what success looks like.  Many schools consider themselves successful if they have set learners up for the next stage of life, but consideration needs to be given to the more distant future.
At our visioning meeting last week some people said they were excited by this, others that it was a bit scary.  It's a huge responsibility to make changes for the future - what if the changes we make are wrong ones?  My concern, however, was more immediate.  What if we are wrong with the things we are doing now?  At the end of our meeting we had to write ideas on 3 different coloured sticky notes:  what we are doing now that we want to continue, what we are doing now that we want to stop, and what we are not doing now that we need to start doing.  I'm excited to look at these and what trends and ideas are emerging at our next meeting.

Photo Credit: april-mo Flickr via Compfight cc

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thriving in ambiguous and uncertain times

If you are a regular reader to my blog you will know that I've made several posts this week about the future of learning based on reading I've downloaded from the KnowledgeWorks website.  Previous posts have speculated on what the future of work might look like, so for this post I want to dig a little deeper into what education might look like in order to prepare students for these possible futures.

  • More emphasis on teaching social and emotional skills - these will be vital for success in the emerging workplace.
  • The nurturing of visions and passions - K-12 education should support self-discovery.
  • Bringing ambiguity and uncertainty to the classroom - to prepare students for work tasks that will likely be vague and approachable through multiple solution pathways.  Students will need to strengthen their abilities to ask questions and to seek help.  Learning activities need to become less prescriptive so that students will build their skills to navigate ambiguity.
  • More cognitive diversity and flexible thinking - future work will involve decision-making and problem-solving, creativity and innovation.  Students will need to recognize and appreciate diverse perspectives in order to be successful collaborators.
  • Using technology to enhance human capacity and facilitate deeper thinking - as people will increasingly need to use technology that augments human strengths, teachers should design learning engagements that use technology to push higher-order analysis, synthesis and generative thinking.
  • Redefining success - there will need to be a move away from traditional notions of success that are linked to mastering specific skills and knowledge, and a move towards new kinds of context-dependent skills and knowledge.  Educators need to focus on assessing how students combine continual learning and reskilling with social-emotional development.
  • More emphasis on reflection - which also implies that students also need more agency in setting goals.
  • Teacher training that has social-emotional intelligence at its centre - research shows that social-emotional skills are more predictive of success and adaptation than intellectual skills.  Teachers need to be trained in how to ask meaningful, respectful questions that help students' curiosity to unfold and confidence to grow.
  • Partnerships that engage students in experiential and project-based learning, possibly bringing on-board out-of-school learning providers.
The report states, "In many K-12 environments, responding to these opportunities will mean rethinking how learning is structured and organized; how resources such as time, technology and people are allocated to create meaningful learning opportunities; how learning is assessed and progress tracked; how space is used; and how educators are supported in modelling reflective learning and aspirational personal development."

This year I'm part of the Visioning Task Force at ASB.  Our big question this week was: Based on who we are, where we are, and what we know about the future of education and the future of work places, what do we need to and want to become?  This is a year-long task force and I'll be blogging about my thinking and about our ideas regularly.

Photo Credit:  image found via CC Search - Hall Art Foundation

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The impact of praise on a growth mindset

Today I'm helping to facilitate Day 2 of ASB's Teacher Training Programme.  We started today with a session on growth mindsets.  Our Head of Elementary shared the following video, which prompted a great discussion among the participants.  In a nutshell the language we use to praise students can help encourage or discourage a growth mindset and has broad implications for how students persevere in the face of challenges.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Partnering with machines: 4 scenarios for the future

Following on from yesterday's post about the impact technological innovation and change will have on the workforce, this post is about 4 possible scenarios for the future of work as jobs become increasingly automated.  Yesterday's post was about the 2 trends evident today:  the rise of smart machines and the decline of full-time employment.  This post projects into the future, to 2040, and looks at how these trends might play out and how education will need to change in order to adapt to these futures.  There may be either low or high technological displacement, and governments may take an active or passive role in these changes.  I have adapted the graphic in Redefining Readiness for the Era of Partners in Code from KnowledgeWorks.

Scenario 1 - Partnering for Mobility
In this future automation has eliminated some jobs and changed others, however at the same time new jobs have emerged.  While manual tasks are mostly being done by machines, there is still the need for high-value services.  The most common employment is "mosaic careers" and jobs are those that rely on completing short-term projects lasting several months to a year.  Companies use predictive analytics to project their workforce needs, and provide skill development to meet their needs, so reskilling and upskilling are constant.  The defining characteristics of this future are:

  • partnerships between people and machines
  • data-driven feedback to help people develop mosaic careers
  • workforce analytics that support the design of adaptive career pathways
  • more emphasis on micro-credential and certificates
  • lifelong learning
Impact on education:  schools and universities need to help students develop human-machine partnerships in ways that augment and leverage their uniquely human capabilities.

Scenario 2 - Checking for Upgrades
In this future workers are seen as "professional nomads", charting their own paths, juggling multiple contracts and moving from one short-term project to another, where they build their own capacity and professional networks. Jobs are tied to the emerging needs of organizations that are reconfiguring work processes by using AI and smart devices, as in general employers concentrate on doing more with less people.  Full-time positions, if they can be found, are likely to average 1-3 years.  Keeping current with digital tools will be necessary in these integrated environments, along with building a solid reputation and strong support networks.  In this scenario low-skill workers are likely to scramble to keep up with the rapid pace of change.  The defining characteristics of this future are:
  • extensive human-machine partnerships leading to fewer full-time employees
  • individuals must take responsibility for staying relevant
  • a mixed response to the new automation infrastructure
Impact on education:  educators will need to learn about AI and schools need to foster flexibility to prepare students for ongoing learning in uncertain environments.

Scenario 3 - Finding New Meaning
In this future AI and automation enable a new social infrastructure in which paid work is just one of several options (which implies some sort of universal basic income to buffer people against changing economic conditions).  In turn this may lead to more opportunities for meaningful work with social purpose, such as relationship-intensive caring roles.  Such roles as nurses, educators and care providers will combine AI with human expertise.  In this future with mass production of cheap products, more value may be placed on unique artisanal products.  Community infrastructure projects may be compensated in the form of vouchers or credits for goods and services.  With less traditional careers, education will need to reevaluate its purpose.  The defining characteristics of this future are:
  • a human-centred economy that drives growth in the arts and civic projects and in the caring professions
  • education shifting to more emphasis on personal growth rather than skills needed for the job market
Impact on education:  schools will need to prepare students for a world in which paid work may not be the primary organizing principle and will need to promote lifelong learning.

Scenario 4 - Working the Platforms
In this (dystopian) future there will be intensive automation and extreme taskification with workers being involved in fragmented short-term work.  Low-skilled workers will need to compete for jobs locally, whereas middle-skilled workers will be competing globally for professional and knowledge work.  University degrees will be regarded as luxuries, and most people will find jobs through work-life logs that give evidence of quantifiable performance metrics.  There will be chronic unemployment and under-employment, and a shrinking tax base will lead to strained public infrastructure and services.  The defining characteristics of this future are:
  • extreme taskification
  • quantified workers heavily monitored and evaluated through data capture and analytics
  • traditional certificates and degrees replaced by work-life logs showing proof of experience
Impact on education:  the focus will be on helping students cultivate their personal brands and on reputation management.

Personally I find this final scenario very difficult to contemplate!  The final 5 pages or so of the report deal with opportunities for education.  This is where I'm going to be focused for my next blog post.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Partnering with machines: 2 trends for the future

Although I write about a lot of different things in this blog, my real focus is looking at technology and how this impacts education.  As such, I was interested to read the Future of Learning forecast from KnowledgeWorks.  I was hooked from the first paragraph when I read "our lives will become inextricably linked to the code in our digital devices as we increasingly use them to navigate, make sense of and contribute to the world around us".  The focus of this forecast is to look at how we as educators can help to prepare our students for their futures, especially in an era where machines are becoming capable of cognition.  The report states:
Education at all levels will prepare learners continually to reskill and upskill and to know how to partner constructively with machines.
As someone who is passionate about curriculum (and tech integration into the curriculum) I'm also hoping to see a shift away from content acquisition towards more higher order thinking skills.  We know the future of work is going to be more project-based and that there will be greater emphasis on inquiry, analytical thinking and problem solving.  The report from KnowledgeWorks Redefining Readiness for the Era of Partners in Code looks ahead to the year 2040, and what work will look like.  It identifies 2 main trends:

  • The rise of smart machines - that will eliminate many routine tasks and will also impact professional and knowledge work.  This could go either way:  possibly new jobs could be created, jobs could become safer, easier and more interesting.  However there is also the possibility of displacing significant numbers of human workers as factories, transportation and so on become fully automated.  Artificial intelligence is already starting to impact the insurance and news industries, as well as medicine and the arts.  Certainly new jobs that are created will demand new skills, especially those connected with computer use.  However studies from the University of Oxford and the OECD show that around 50% of middle-class jobs will disappear and that even today in countries where GDP is growing, this is mostly attributed to technological efficiency and not to human output.  This leads to the second trend.
  • The decline of full-time work - already there is a trend to employ people with specialist skills as and when needed, and often these people can be located anywhere in the world.  As this increases, tenure is shortening and there has been a rise in "taskification" which is the breaking down of jobs into discrete tasks (often at low wages and with informal job structures).  As this trend continues these tasks will be managed algorithmically.  By 2040 it's likely there will be a decline in full-time employment and an increase in "career mosaics" that include different types of work both spread out over time and also taking place concurrently.  The report also indicates that employees are likely to move through their workplaces horizontally rather than vertically, with the average person having a new job around every 4 years.
As these changes begin to impact the workforce, the nature of education will need to change.  The report states, "the act of working will become learning, so people adopt new skill sets to align with employment opportunities".

The report continues looking at 4 different scenarios that may emerge as a result of these trends: there may be high or low technological displacement of human workers, and in addition there may be a systematic and intentional societal response, or it may be market driven.

As I read on through the report I'll be blogging about how these 4 scenarios might impact the future of education.