Backward, Ironically, is Pretty Forward
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Backward, Ironically, is Pretty Forward

Backward, Ironically, is Pretty Forward

Moving toward a goal seems quite intuitive. Toddlers demonstrate profound awareness of this concept daily.

“I want to pet (i.e. manhandle) that cat up there. With a chair, a box, and a bit of climbing, I can. Go-go Gadget Toddler-Ingenuity.”

Ideally, we move beyond this form of immediate gratification to a more complex, intentional set of actions. But, as I usually demonstrate whenever I go to the grocery store hungry, thinking strategically is not a skill we stumble upon. It takes effort.

Applying strategic thinking to individual actions can be challenging (and humbling) to say the least. Applying it to an organization requires leadership, vision, thick skin, and a willingness to let go of power a bit. (Applying it to schools also requires a bit of verve, because aligning and organizing teachers can sometimes be akin to corralling squirrels.)

Enter Jay McTighe, stage right. He and his colleague, Grant Wiggins, have grown beyond their initial publication, Understanding by Design, to expand their reach. Schooling by Design, aims to apply basic strategic thinking to cultivating a collaborative culture with a clear mission, sound learning principles, and effective instructional programs.

Like many of today’s educational leaders, he advocates for building the curriculum around big ideas with the mantra, “Facts don’t transfer, big ideas do.” He suggests using questions to offer a doorway into those big concepts. Big ideas act as “cognitive velcro,” and help students “connect the dots”. Because individual lessons and units collectively add up to the culture and curriculum of the school, we should map out our curriculum around concepts and big ideas for long term effect.

One hour only provided a sampler platter of the foundation and framework of his program, but it was enough to know that schools can grow forward by looking ahead in order to look back.

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