Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Emblazoned on a banner that greets students as they enter our shared learning environment are the words, “How is the evolution of thought transformative?” Embedded in this question are the attributes that build the capacity to shift paradigms. While this banner frames the tenets of learning, the inquiry encapsulates the perceiving, understanding, and reasoning that serves as the basis for strategic thinking. As a foundational element within our culture of thinkers, this inquiry demands the jettisoning of the restrictive mindsets that have been cultivated along the prescribed approach of a linear educational system. As expressed by Wells (1998), and reflected in the students we have been privileged to learn with, strategic thinking offers the freedom to explore opportunities that inspire a vision for the future.
Purpose Fostering Values
When the fluidity of thought defines a pedagogical approach, purpose and meaning become the vehicle for generating goals and establishing individualized learning paths. During this valuable process, the benefits of questioning, collaboration, and feedback assist in positioning a learner towards a depth of understanding. The art of questioning is the mechanism that facilitates the flow necessary for the emergence of new ideas. However, this requires an authentic feedback loop that Bryson (2018) suggests provides for effective, direct, and immediate action. When the learning process is predicated on a collaborative model, the elements of questioning and feedback arise organically, as learners attempt to navigate challenges that demand divergent thinking. The learning opportunities we cultivate promote collaboration amongst learners who synthesize and analyze ideas, as they attempt to define problems and develop solutions. To that end, it is incumbent to remove the notion of a hierarchy of ideas in order to create space for possibilities. Each day learners engage in Socratic discussions regarding a philosophical question, in which every idea shared is embraced regardless of perceived importance or agreement. Wells (1998) insists that the greatest value to understanding alternative views is in the power to expand possibility. As such, we would contend that aspiring leaders can garner some remarkable insight from ten and eleven year olds.
Collaboration and the Flow of Questioning and Feedback
As learners in the midst of young minds, we have found that these three invaluable tools have fostered the flow that is critical to ensuring continuity across the diverse spectrum of thinkers that grace our learning space. Central to this assertion is a collective quest to explore perceptions, formulate understanding, and cultivate reasoning for further investigation. As Wells (1998) indicates, collaboration is an essential element of strategic thinking. While learners certainly carve their own path, their interaction with peers is paramount to their growth. Challenging, building upon ideas, and offering actionable feedback are the elements that Wells (1998) suggests keeps individuals awake and on track. Moreover, collaborative efforts serve as a unifying component for the fluidity of thought, and the essence of symmetry within a learning environment.
Positioning for the Future
Learners have the capacity to respond to evidence and reflection as a means to modify understanding (Elmore, 2020). When introspection is the mechanism to assess position, a learner opens themselves to tremendous opportunities. In this glimpse of a classroom environment, we offer an approach that aligns with the strategies for breaking patterns that lead to assumptions. As our school year comes to a close, the greatest lesson the thinkers of Room 219 will carry with them is the power of their own thought, and the great capacity they have to dictate their position for the future. For us, it is a lesson we must live in order to reflect the authentic buy-in essential to shifting institutional paradigms. Strategic thinking is the thread that allows life-long learners to be transformative by expanding their potential.
Bryson, J. M. (2018). Strategic planning for public and nonprofit organizations (5th ed.).Wiley
Elmore, R. (2019). The Future of Learning and the Future of Assessment. ECNU Review of Education, 2(3), 328-341.
Wells, S. (1998). Choosing the future: The power of strategic thinking. (1st ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann.