Process Drives Content and Content Drives Process. Decision Making

In keeping with the premise-flags I’ve raised the past few weeks I want to reinforce one above all at the risk of alienating a fair chunk of you too. And that is that process is more important than content. The systems of thought I highlighted in the previous post indeed give the learner the reason to learn and acquire content in the first place.

To use the trial-as-teaching-strategy yet one more time, the creative, futures-based; process-based teacher would use such a strategy to help learners engage information, not for information’s sake, but in order to solve a problem. In this case, to weigh evidence to come to a reasoned conclusion.

If students wish to be successful at the targeted process, of necessity, they’d be obliged to  find the right facts and information to prove or to disprove their case. Thus working from the top of Bloom’s pyramid, assessment / evaluation, down to the LOTS, the Lower Order Thinking Skills actually have a reason to be learned in the first place!

The first process we will explore thoroughly and again through the P21 lenses as appropriate, will be Decision Making.

The Decision Making process, as they all are, is not nearly so straightforward as it is sometimes considered. If we took it on a flat and linear basis, and I throw a cautionary red flag up here, let’s think about what a decision might look like:

1. It begins with Facts or  data.

2. These suggest a goal.

3. The goal suggests several alternatives.

4. The decision – maker must apply futuring skills to consider the if-thens of each choice.

5. Based on the decision-maker’s values and feelings, (s)he chooses and acts on a decision most aligned and most considered to likely meet the decision maker’s goal.

6. If the choice does not achieve the goal, the decision maker might reconsider and try a new option.

Let’s flesh that out:

1. The king has imprisoned the fair maiden and instructed her to turn straw into gold. She cannot and fears terrible punishment. Rumplestiltskin shows up and says that he will do it for her if she will promise him her first born child.

2. Her goal is to survive.

3. Her choices are to say yes, to say no, or to lie and not intend to keep her promise.

4. She reasons, if she says yes she will need to keep her promise. If she says no she will fear punishment from the king. If she lies she might survive and manage to keep her first born.

5. She wishes to survive. She chooses “yes”.

6. She not only survives, she marries the king’s son and has a child. Now Rumplestiltskin shows up and demands what she promises!

The good teacher, now seizes the moment and involves her class in her decision , her values, the extent to which she had considered the consequences of her choices.

So now the fairy tale, goes beyond its considerable fairy tale elements and is elevated above the fable’s “facts” and becomes an opportunity for helping her students recognize how decisions may and often are —- made.

And the value for Edufuturing I think it pretty obvious. Tomorrow’s students will need to make reasoned, futures-oriented, consequence-calculated, choices that must be grounded in clear, moral, and healthy values not only for their good but also for that of the societies they will be leading.

But ah, if decision making were only as simple as I have depicted above. Next post.

What Does the EduFuture Want? What Does it Demand?

I had intended to explore each of the process skills I had cited in the previous post but was fortunate enough to run across a blog post that was made for the points I have been emphasizing here.

The blog is http://www.angelamaiers.com/. This professional has reviewed The World Future Society’s ( a group I will increasingly refer to) http://www.thefutureofwork.net/assets_70_for2030.pdf

They envision jobs like,

– Bio-botic Physician

– Chef-farmer (agri restauranteur)

– exozooloogist

and others that obviously do not yet exist.

Where are the college degrees? Where are the “teaching certifications” to prepare youngsters yet unborn to be able to successfully succeed at occupations of the the century’s fourth decade?

For sure such jobs have “content” perhaps yet codified or identified. However if one looks deeper you can recognize how such specialized occupations will require individuals who have also been taught how to think decisively, creatively, and authoritatively.

Can we look at the present education-mirror and assure ourselves that the present educational system, P-21, has the capacity to systematically expect this of our future graduates or will we rely on the roll of the dice for this to happen?

Does the Process Drive the Content or does the Content Drive the Process?

Here, we will deviate for a post or two before we return to the P21 framework because I feel it’s important that you get a baseline for what P21’s literacies and competencies are about.

I can cite lots of things you already know about the future at this juncture. One of them goes something like this; that X per cent of the jobs your children will have haven’t been invented yet.

Maybe it’s easier to work backwards say twenty years. What jobs have emerged over that time period that probably didn’t exist twenty years ago? All you have to do is think things technology and realize that a host of industries and jobs have emerged that didn’t exist in anyone’s eye-gleam two decades back. On the flip side, what jobs that existed twenty years ago no longer exist?

Be careful, it would be easy to say “Ok, that means that we have to teach content-based; facts-laden information about technology to prepare our citizens to be competent and qualified for these jobs.”

On one level that is certainly true. But there are so many other levels. Consider the oft quoted futures forecast that workers will change jobs eight times over their working lives or  that folks will move three to five times over their lifetimes. Assuming that these trends persist across the perfidies of economic cycles, uncertain politics, and a restless world what do these patterns suggest of the really appropriate kinds of educational futures we owe our children?

I would argue for process based education, even at the expense of some treasured content-silos that we currently persevere about in spite of their irrelevance and non-utility.

By process, I echo a Bruner, quoted in a previous post, that is, ways of, kinds of thinking. The umbrella term would be Critical Thinking but I’ve come to believe that the term’s elasticity has stretched it beyond recognition of a common understanding.

So I choose to offer that we should break down the term into subsets, or kinds of thinking that are important, no, critical to have our children practice and master. Some of these processes are;

– Critical Thinking (as it was originally intended)

– Decision Making

– Inquiry thinking

– Logic

– Creative Problem Solving

There are others that I don’t want to overload!

What they have in common is obvious, that each emphasizes thinking, reasoning, analyzing, forming conclusions, identifying actions. How they are different is pretty obvious too. Each honors thinking but each more specifically honors an emphasis of a particular kind of “thinking-muscle” directed toward particular kind of skills need.

I’ll do at least one post per. But my overall purpose in this post is what is important here: Of course content and facts and data and information, all kinds of information always have value for our very individual and collective existence; especially if you mean to go on Jeopardy or win the local Trivial Pursuit tournament. Ah, but the content’s real value lies in the thinker’s ability to harness their sum and give the person the ability to apply the right kind of process to the right kind of situation or job expectation.

How else could anyone keep their sanity if they are switching jobs and moving so often? Individuals with abilities to think in process will not suffer the stress of future shock that affects us all.

Silly Silos Sustains Silly Singular Thinking

The previous post began the conversation re the P21 framework.

I endorse their efforts and their prodigious thinking about the model they have developed.

But I feel constrained to throw up a caution flag for the casual reader both here in this blog forum and in their review of the P21 framework. If you look at their framework too quickly you may see the trees but not the forest.

I’d pose that the content areas I spoke to previously can easily become silos. Remember silos are merely holding tubes, CONTAINERS / Restrictors of their own nature so what they hold does not spill out where one doesn’t want it

While the formal object of each content area validly has facts and skills that are properly the “domain” of the subject for sure, you have to be careful to limit your mindset through those tubes.

The real value for the 21st century student may be both in receiving instruction in and in mastering some basics appropriate to that subject, but the deeper value lies in the interdisciplinary cross-hatch between and among subjects.

In the old days we called this interdisciplinary instruction and learning. However and I will produce research research to support this, so much of this noble experiment has gone by the boards as the practices and the organizational structures put in place to effect interdisciplinary instruction have withered and eroded for at least two reasons, maybe more;

– teacher designers didn’t teach teacher candidates and teachers how to develop effective interdisciplinary lessons;

– the structure of an ordinary day in elementary or in secondary schools just doesn’t support this kind of teaching. Sometimes you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole;

– the structures weren’t put in place because administrators either didn’t have the expertise to make the premise work or did not feel that it was important in the first place;

– and of course, of course, we throw in the age old mantra of ” I / we have to get kids ready for examinations and assessments that don’t lend themselves to this kind of learning.

This last point is real but less real if there is such a thing as less-real, because both the test makers and the test-givers are missing the P21 point in the first place.

Today’s and tomorrow’s learners can’t afford to think in terms of single subject areas (unless of course they become teachers of single subjects themselves:) ). They will need to be thinkers; critical thinkers; creative thinkers; thoughtful decision-makers.

That kind of learning requires the literacies that P21 advocate and it requires us to think like Bruner thinks; i.e. how or to what extent content promotes process learning and how and to what extent process learning promotes content mastery.

Next post will elaborate.

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