Inquiry, innovation, and impact are the three tenets of The Mount Vernon School. Our goal is to prepare students to become engaged citizen leaders who are eager to make their impact on the world. Using human-centered design thinking as a guide, Mount Vernon fosters a learner-centered culture where students are encouraged to ask questions, find unique solutions to problems, and take agency over their learning.
Provoking a paradigm shift in school culture and teaching practices is no easy feat: it’s an uphill journey with many obstacles along the way. Leading a team of dedicated educators up the path towards innovative, sustainable change places significant demand on teachers, students, and parents. As leaders, how might we remove the barriers, remnants of an older paradigm, to make competency-based education (CBE) a successful practice where students’ learning is empowering, personalized, and accurately measured?
A provocation, such as this, recalls for me Gleicher’s formula for change: there has to be dissatisfaction with the status quo, along with a clearly communicated vision, followed by actionable, accessible steps for getting there. Otherwise, the resistance will always be greater than the momentum. We must do more than communicate the vision. We must do more than train teachers and other stakeholders. To make the path forward accessible, we must ask the question: Do our resources and tools (like our LMS) support and make possible such a transformation, or do they make it more difficult because the design was meant for a different kind of outcome?
In my neighborhood in north Atlanta, there was a problem with one of the main thoroughfares. Despite the presence of parks and kids riding bikes, drivers proceeded with great speed because the road was designed to connect various enclaves and serve longer transits. City designers attempted to curb speeding with clear, obvious signals, such as stop signs and speed bumps, but it didn’t work. Forced to rethink their entire approach, city planners eventually removed obvious markers, like stop signs and speed bumps, and replaced them with roundabouts. Although the roundabouts were less obvious indicators, the design successfully forced people to slow down. Although the messaging was clear in the initial design, it wasn’t enough. A design that would reshape behavioral output was needed, and roundabouts were the key. No longer able to charge forward in a linear path, drivers had to slow down, redirect focus, and drive with a heightened sense of awareness. Similarly,…