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I spent the last year at home, each morning with my 6yrold son. Together we’ve had some great adventures, built some pretty amazing pillow forts, conquered lands, baked cookies and cakes and eaten many a bowl of chicken noodle soup. As I described earlier, it was through spending time together that I was able to rediscover my wonder.

During this time I’ve been reading, listening to podcasts and immersing myself in various literature. One of the authors I’ve been following is Todd Henry. His books The Accidental Creative and Die Empty offer many ideas and suggestions about creativity and being creative. One of the areas Todd focuses on is the whole area of being effective vs being efficient. In his podcast The Accidental Creative, Todd explores this during different episodes, examining how we often

“sacrifice being effective on the altar of efficiency”.

Learning isn’t Efficient

My 6yrold and I have spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen baking. We’ve also spent an equal amount of time gaming. In the kitchen, it would be much easier and much more efficient for me to do everything, showing and telling. However, it’s not as effective for his learning if all he does is watch and listen. So, when we make cookies, what would take me about 30 minutes takes a whole morning for the two of us. No, it’s not an efficient way to make cookies and if one looked at the expenditure of time versus the results, it’s neither cost-effective or the best use of the resource of time. I could use the time I saved doing it myself for other things like playing or reading or other ‘educational’ pursuits. At 6 he probably won’t be baking cookies, or anything else for that matter, by himself for a while so it’s not an immediately transferable effect.

Nope, this is definitely not efficient.

But is it effective?

The time put into these activities will bring so many other benefits later on in terms of self-esteem, memories, skills for life but, most importantly, it builds our relationship which is the foundation of all the rest. So, yes, it is effective but I can’t tell you right now how it will pay off other than I know that it will because it is building a stronger relationship.

It’s not quantity of the time I know, it the quality but having time to do different things adds to the quality.

Let’s tell a different story

So often I’ve been involved in initiatives and new programs that speak the language of effectiveness but are implemented and reduced to creating systems of efficiency. Often, programs and initiatives are brought in and in the name of efficiency all teachers or schools are required to follow the same timelines and processes. It’s the efficient use of time, money, resources. Eventually most of the schools have the same look with similar programs and initiatives.

But is it effective?

Some times. But not as effective as it could be.

Many times the program or initiative isn’t nearly as effective as it was described or proposed when first begun because the drive to be efficient overshadows allowing time to be effective. Too often initiatives start with a 3–5 year implementation period only to be efficiently implemented in 1 or 2. Decisions are centralized and distributed from the top, stages of implementation are mandated within particular time-frames and implementation effectiveness is done through comparison of who has and who has not successfully completed implementation. Standardization is the metric of success.

When the story is directed along the efficient timeline people are rewarded for bringing changes the quickest, competition is the norm for initiatives with data being used to demonstrate implementation successes. Data is used to tell the story of efficient implementation and use of resources. Success stories are framed around conformity and levels of implementation.

But is it effective?

In a recent article by Mother Jones entitled What if Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong? the work of Dr. Ross Greene is highlighted. I have read both his books The Explosive Child and Lost at School so was familiar with what was being discussed in the article and recommend you take a look. Too often, as is mentioned in the article, the most efficient process is selected instead of the most effective. In this case

They sacrifice long-term goals (student behavior improving for good) for short-term gain — momentary peace in the classroom.

We look for programs and systems that will bring “control and management” to the classroom. Implementation processes focus on system-wide metrics which allow schools to be compared to each other. The same way that standardized tests are used to measure and compare schools. No matter how it is spun, the comparisons happen as educational systems are closed with a finite amount of resources so competition is part of the distribution process.

But is it effective?

As an administrator, I’ve worked through a number of different school-wide initiatives that have involved parents, students and staff as co-creators. The process is not efficient and it takes a great deal of time. But it is very effective and the relationships that are created and develop add to the effectiveness. When timelines and artificial constraints and parameters are placed on this process, which has happened, then the effectiveness is diminished. Efficiently implementation will bring about some change but it may not be long lasting or effective but it will provide data for analysis. But, as in the case of behaviour, the methods that are used will provide different outcomes and some require a different story to be told about school.

I Wonder

As schools and teachers are going through a tremendous amount of change, with a new program, app, tool or strategy being introduced almost weekly and all of these competing for the finite resource of time, it would appear that efficiency is the only way to deal with the onslaught. And so teachers are busy trying this and that program, seeing how this or that app will augment their lessons, examining how this strategy or that will work and allow them time to still prepare for exams. Busy, busy, busy.

Summer is the time to ramp it up, go to conferences, read books, take in chats, get connected. Busy, busy, busy.

Is all this busyness productive? Are we sacrificing effectiveness again and again at the altar of efficiency?

What story of learning do we need to begin to tell in order that being effective becomes primary?

Why is being busy so important in education? Does the sound of quiet reflection scare people? Or is the noise of joy and fun while learning that offensive?

How can we make being more effective a priority in a efficiency dominated society?

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