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Thoughts and Rambles

I was involved in a text message conversation with a colleague of mine about what good leadership looks like.  It all started when my auto correct on my phone turned motivated into demotivated and my following texts made little sense to my colleague.  His argument on leadership was that by having teacher engagement and motivated teachers that it would lead to student engagement and ultimately better success in the classroom.  I argued the other way.  I said that engagement wasn’t the key to success but rather, after reading George Couros’s Innovator’s Mindset, that it was about innovation.  An innovator mindset is defined by Couros as,

the belief that the abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas.

To achieve this we must empower students rather than engage.  Therefore I argued to my colleague that Innovation = Empowerment = Motivation = Engagement.  To empower, according to Couros means giving students the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests and future.  There are numerous things I have taken from Innovator’s Mindset but one thing that really has stuck in my mind is the idea of making things SIMPLER for students….not easier but SIMPLER.  I took this idea and tried it in my Criminology 12 class at Walnut Grove.

As we discuss theories of Criminology in my class I teach my Grade 12’s about Feminism.  The simple word often scared both genders and often many tuned out due to their own ignorance.  To try to combat this I have done an engaging powerpoint with pictures, video and embedded class discussion.  It takes the entire class (68mins) to complete.  Their homework was to answer an exit slip type question – how has feminism influenced criminology.  Answers varied and I was not 100% sure if my students truly understood Feminism and Feminism’s importance today.  This year, I took the simpler message and an idea from Couros’ book.  I took the three learning outcomes from my course around Feminism and wrote them on the board.  In groups they had the ability to choose 1 of the learning outcomes and in their own way, show their understanding of the outcome.  They could use the textbook, twitter, google searches and whatever else they needed/wanted to support their learning.  They had one and one half classes to do this (approx 90mins).  They then had to “teach” the other groups what they learned by showing their understanding of the outcome for the next thirty minutes.  We finished the lesson with an in-depth class discussion facilitated by the students and in some cases moderated by me as some personal opinions about the topic got a bit heated.  So what used to take 1 class and written homework, has now become 2-3 classes of empowerment, inquiry, choice, problem solvers, and networked learners.  We then, after discussion ended, reflected on the style of the lesson/learning and I can say that this simpler method (again, not easier for the students nor me) engaged the students more than any powerpoint I could create ever could.

I am an engaged teacher, love my subject and the topics I teach, but my engagement could not have made my class more engaged in the Feminism topic in past years.  Instead, innovation did and now I can say with certainty that everyone in my class understands what Feminism is, understands how it applies to Criminology and understands Feminism’s limitations in its application in Criminology and Society generally (the three outcomes for the topic).

This example in my mind proves that innovation = empowerment = motivation = engagement.  What do you think?


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