The Fourth Word

Written by Matt Drewette-Card (@DrewetteCard)

If you follow me here or on Twitter, you know I am a passionate advocate of design thinking in education.   I’ve seen the power of empathy-fueled, people-centered problem-solving in action, and as a district-wide leader in a realm and community that is built on people and is 100% dependent upon people, I am finding that authentic and meaningful changes and improvements happen when those people are included meaningfully.  It shouldn’t surprise me, because it all makes sense.

If you follow me here or on Twitter, you know I am a passionate advocate of proficiency-based and personalized learning in education.  I’ve seen the power of learner-centered and personalized instruction, curriculum, and assessment in action, and as a district-wide leader in the world of proficiency-based diplomas and competency-based learning, I am finding that authentic and meaningful learning happens when the learners themselves are included in meaningful ways.  It shouldn’t surprise me, because it all makes sense.

There’s a distinct and obvious connection between design thinking in education and proficiency-based learning.  And that connection is in the fourth word.

To bring you up to speed, the first three words are, “How Might We.”

“How might we” is language that challenges the old hierarchical and boss-based paradigm of “do it because I told you.”  It changes that approach from a “hands off” to a “all hands on” approach.  It changes the leadership perspective from one of management and delegation to shared ownership and collaboration.  The “How Might We” is a necessary connection to make in authentic and relevant problem solving, because it takes the power away from one person and puts it onto a collective.  It’s democratic in nature.  It’s communal in nature.  It’s the beginnings of a social contract.  And we are naturally social creatures.  That’s why it works so well.

The “How Might We” may begin the connection, but it’s the fourth word in this statement that really drives the connection between design thinking and proficiency-based and personalized learning.

The fourth word is an action verb.  Plain and simple.  And action verbs come in varied levels of depth of knowledge and complexity.  Proficiency-based learning is about understanding not only the content of what it to be learned, but also the level of complexity to which the learned content is to be applied.  Words like “predict”, “empower“,  “adapt“, “symbolize“, “connect“, “solve,” “engage,” and more are the cornerstones of effective design thinking processes AND personalized and proficiency-based learning environments.  Whereas the first three words in the “How Might We” statement may create the culture, it’s the fourth word that dictates the depths of the problem that is to be solved.  

How deep are the fourth words in your classroom? school? district?

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