Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I was fortunate to attend the ICOT13 conference in Wellington recently.  This was a fascinating 5 day conference to expand global thinking around the themes of ‘future survival‘, ‘personal futures‘ and ‘future society‘. During the conference I attended a workshop presented by Ron Ritchhart on 'Enlisting Parents as Allies: Working Together to Develop Powerful Thinkers and Learners.'  As many of the teams I work with find it challenging to engage and enlist parents, this workshop seemed like an excellent choice and I wasn't disappointed.  

Ron spoke of creating  'Culture's of Thinking, creating place where thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted.'  With parents focus often being on their child 'being school ready', how do we as teachers broaden their view so that they think about "what do we want children to be like as adults?"  We need them to know that this is about thinking about all children not their specific child, all children in our community. He said that when he has asked parents this they tend to come up with a huge list of dispositions, not skills and knowledge.  

He also shared how parents often worry that when you focus on dispositions that something is missing out, left behind, but we need to share that we are not leaving anything behind, we are lifting the bar!  We need to find ways for parents to understand that dispositions can't be directly taught, they are learnt over time, children grow into the intellectual life around them, so they need to ask themselves "what life are we surrounding children with?"

How do we talk to parents?  How do you structure the talk to them?  Ron suggested that we make links to a research base, as it gives parents ideas of where these ideas come from enabling them to investigate it further if they want to.  That we need to provide a rational for change from the status quo.  We also need to help connect parents to familiar experiences or context to get parents to see where education is going, share that we are lifting the bar!  Unpack the core practices with rich examples and get parents to engage in conversations, don't talk too long before you engage them in discussion!  Finally he suggested that we need to provide specific things parents can do and actions they can take at home.  Talk with parents about working TOGETHER.  How together, we can develop powerful thinkers and learners.  It's taking it further than just saying “this is what we do here”, it also saying “here is what you too can do at home.”

I'll leave you with four shifts on the way we educate to actively promote thinking that Ron shared...

1, Shifting instruction from the delivery of content to engagement.
2, Shifting the focus of curriculum from skills and knowledge to develop understanding.
3, Shifting the approach to curriculum from superficial coverage to depth of exploration.
4, Shifting the process of learning from memorisation to thinking.
These are the shifts for parents to look out for as a setting is on this journey, when all are happening then their setting as managed the change!

Watch the video clip from the link below about the Race to Nowhere, it's a good clip to share with parents to get THEM thinking! 



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