Think Both-And, not Either-Or

So many education discussions end in “either-or” decisions.  Do we use digital technology or rely on teacher created instruction.  Do we do project-based instruction or direct instruction?  Do we have site-based management or central control? 

What if we chose to make these sorts of question into statements of options.  Instead of “either-or” we go with “both-and” thinking.  Depending on student needs we will use both digital technology and teacher created experiences!  We will provide both direct instruction and project-based experiences so we build on the strengths of each approach!  We will both use central leadership key results and values expectations and professional judgement in the use of instructional innovations!  Suddenly, the options are endless.  All options can then be focused on the non-negotiable question “How can we assure all students learn at high levels on a full range of educational outcomes?”  By the way, for a great set of educational outcomes, check out NGLC MyWays. 

We’ve lived through decades of one-size-fits-all programs and solutions.  None of them resulted in breakthrough, systemwide improvements in student success.  Now its time to bring the best innovations to play through empowered students and teachers, both-and thinking, and an expectation that we can do better.

CF Educational Solutions is constantly looking for high quality options for district leaders to use in their both-and discussions.  For example, MindPlay (reading), Ascend Math (mathematics), and SmartScience® (science) provide faculty with incredible digital tech tools that extend and enhance their efforts to achieve high levels of student performance in the core academic subjects.  These programs can accomplish instructional methodology heretofore unavailable to faculty in the classroom setting.  These tools don’t replace teachers, they make them more powerful and, in most cases, relieve them of mundane work that detracts them from high level student engagement, relationship building, and exploration of better teaching options. 

So, what stands in the way of both-and thinking?  Two powerful mindsets block the innovation of both-and thinking.  First, believing we are doing the best we can do.  Blaming student failure on poverty, parents, and the students themselves.  Second, getting focused on a specific approach or reform instead of keeping our focus on student success.

How do we encourage both-and thinking?  Believe that all students, regardless of circumstance, can learn.  Instead of saying, “Those kids can’t learn.” Say “We don’t know how to teach those kids, yet!”  Then be more in love with student success than your favorite reform.  Be sure “celebrating bad news” is always an agenda item whenever you meet with colleagues.  Celebrate the failure of any program or reform that isn’t getting to 100% success.  Be glad you learned from the experience and start searching for better options! 

Practice both-and thinking every day.  Call us to learn more about many great products, people, and programs designed to stretch your both-and thinking.  You will experience increasing levels of student success!

Robert Sommers