Have you ever been at a dinner party when this scenario occurred?

And what do you do?

I’m a teacher.

Oh that’s nice…(turns to another person at the party)

Unfortunately many of us have had that experience.  In the US we have a pretty serious problem with respect for the teaching profession. The idea that teaching means summers off and free afternoons needs to change.  In reality the truth is:

Teaching is intellectually complex work.  


photo credit: ehomedesignideas.com

This is especially true for teaching that is aimed at developing innovative problem solvers who are ready to tackle the issues plaguing our world.  Developing students as fair-minded, collaborative, passionate innovators is no simple task.

When you are trying to make a big shift in an already complex discipline, things can get overwhelming really fast.

We assert, however, that just because we are trying to do something complex doesn’t mean it has to be overwhelming.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing how uncovering the big ideas of a discipline and their relationship to one another allows students to transfer their learning and unlock new situations.  The same works for education.  Understanding  the big ideas of education and how they relate helps educators process new information and strategies, apply their knowledge in the classrooms, and create innovative methods to improve learning.


If our goal is to re-imagine education to not only prepare students to contribute to building a healthy, sustainable, and just world, but provide them with opportunities to build that world today, then we need a framework for education to help us get there.

Without a way to organize all the parts involved, trying to achieve this goal can start to feel like this:


Without a way to prioritize the steps, we might try to do everything at once – a surefire recipe to meltdown.

So for the the last two months, we’ve been sharing our 5-stage framework for how to hold it all together in this complex and fast-paced world of re-inventing education.  It’s sort of like a filing cabinet for your brain that helps you connect all the parts to the big picture.  While there’s definitely other ways you could create a framework, this one has helped us.


The framework focuses on principles that are at the core of transforming education.    These principles organize many of the fads, trends, and strategies of education (preventing that overwhelmed feeling).  They also help us decide if what we are doing is really pushing us in the right direction – we can ask ourselves whether a given strategy, initiative, or plan aligns with a principle.  If not, we can throw it out without feeling guilty that we aren’t trying out everything possible to help our students.

Having a  framework also allows us to focus on one area at a time.  The stages build on each other.  Before you can really get into concepts in your class, you should have worked out active processing.  Of course, that doesn’t mean to improve your practice you have to march through the stages in order, but it’s organized to help you prioritize.

So far we’ve covered 3 of the 5 stages.  Each stage is an important part of developing students who will save the world.  Here’s a quick recap:

1) Learning & Leadership (for adults)

To transform education, adults need to be committed to continuous learning and willing to take risks, reflect on their practice, and question assumptions.  

To transform education, leaders should strive to be generative, cage-busting systems-thinkers.  

Think about it – How would you explain those principles in your own words?

2) Joyful, Efficient Learning & Active Processing

Learning happens best in an efficient and joyful environment.

Learning happens best when students are actively processing information.  

Think about it –   What’s an example of each principle?   

3) Concepts & Metacognition

 Learning happens best when students uncover the relationships between big ideas and transfer their understanding to novel situations.

Learning happens best when students become of aware of their thinking and systematically refine it and increase its sophistication.  

Think about it- What’s a non-example of each principle? 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about the final 2 stages: 

4) Disciplinary Thinking 

5) Innovative Problem Solvers

Ready to try the framework out?  Here’s the plan: use this chart to help you organize your knowledge about education.  Write down all the different strategies, techniques, and facts you use/know in the stage that they correspond to.

photo credit: theatlantic.com

photo credit: theatlantic.com

Hopefully you’ll see how all the those discrete actions and bits of knowledge connect with principles.  Organizing your knowledge in this way allows you to:

-more quickly integrate new learning

-use what you already know

-figure out what is the core and what is changeable allowing you to – yes you know it – innovation

So go ahead and take a few minutes to organize your knowledge in this framework and post it here!  We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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