Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Steve Denning on reforming K-12

Here is an interview with management expert Steve Denning by Anthony Cody. It is a fantastic read. Here are some of the smoking hot highlights:
  • The biggest problem that the education system faces today is a preoccupation with, and the application of, the factory model of management to education, where everything is arranged for the scalability and efficiency of "the system", to which the students, the teachers, the parents and the administrators have to adjust. "The system" grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency, dispiriting students, teachers and parents alike.
  • The factory model of management doesn't work in the factory world so why would we be surprised that it doesn't work in the education world.
  • When the problems have been caused in the first place by introducing the practices of "management", then a more rigorous pursuit of this type of "management" only makes things worse.
  • Today, apart from a few core skills like reading, writing, math, thinking, imagining and creating, we cannot know what knowledge or skills will be needed when Freddie or Janet grows up.
  • The goal of education needs to shift from one of making a system that teaches children a curriculum more efficiently to one of making the system more effective by inspiring lifelong learning in students, so they are able to have full and productive lives in a rapidly shifting economy.
  • In other words, we need to move from "You study what we tell you to study, when we tell you, and how we tell you, and at a pace that we determine" to a focus on the ultimate goal learning: "Our goal is to inspire our students to become life-long learners with a love of education, so that they will be able to learn whatever they have to."
  • Role of teachers and parents must move from imparting a static package of knowledge to a dynamic goal of enabling students to create knowledge and deploy skills to new situations.
  • Unless teachers are themselves inspired, they are unlikely to inspire their students.
  • The role of the administrator has to shift from being a controller to an enabler, so as to liberate the energies and talents of the teachers and remove impediments that are getting in the way of their work.
  • Education must abandon accountability through the use of detailed plans, rules, processes and reports, which specify both the goal and the means of achieving that goal.
  • At its heart, it's a shift from a focus on things to a focus on people, and the true goal of education.
  • We need children to be as good at deciding what are the right questions as they are at finding the right answers.
  • Bureaucratic management doesn't work in knowledge work.
  • an education system that focuses on learning, and encourages students to learn by exploring issues that are of interest to them, has a greater chance of overcoming some of the constraints of poverty than a top-down system that proceeds from a prescriptive approach such as "You study what we tell you to study, when we tell you, and how we tell you, and at a pace that we determine".
  • We need to stop asking "How do we improve education and start asking?" what does the world know about running knowledge organizations?"
You can find part II of Denning's ideas on reforming K-12 here.

1 comment:

  1. I'm reminded of a line in a recent The Atlantic column about the New York City Public Library system, about disaggregation and disintermediation. IT was something like, "Hey, we all get disintermediated eventually."

    The point the author was trying to make is that the systems of third-party middle-men that managed music, and movies, and books, and a lot of other collections of atoms and information, have been breaking down over the last two decades.

    Schools may be the next to go. We're in the right kind of business, and we're expensive in terms of highly-paid middlemen — principals, district supervisors and more. On the other hand, the teachers themselves are not well paid (like artists and musicians), and potentially capable of breaking free of the big box of schools. If we do that, the idea that we're going to function in new kinds of knowledge organizations makes sense...

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