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Creativity, Education, Teaching

Beginning with NO end in mind

the end

flickr photo by -= Bruce Berrien =-

A confession: as a classroom science teacher, I was a planner.   I prepared, scripted, modeled and even practiced lab activities to ensure that I met desired objectives–hopeful that what I was doing would be meaningful to my students.   Planning was generally a process that began with what I visualized as the desired outcome and involved working backward to develop an appropriate learning sequence.

I was walking a fine line.

Planning and preparation can be about effectiveness, efficiency and relevance.  Or, it can be about control. The former can obviously have a positive impact on student performance, while the latter can decimate student engagement, creativity and enthusiasm.   As I reflect on my time as a teacher, I sometimes cringe when I think about the constraints I may have unknowingly placed on my students by over planning.

Being prepared is a good thing and as educators we have an obligation to plan the instructional time we have with our students.   However, it is also very easy for us to impose our desired outcomes for projects, discussions or activities on students–thus limiting their freedom to explore concepts and utilize innovation and creativity to solve problems. Our teaching should encourage divergent thinking.  Our planning shouldn’t restrict students to a narrow set of results.

Maybe we should begin more classroom activities with no end in mind–allowing students to guide the learning process and determine appropriate outcomes.


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


6 thoughts on “Beginning with NO end in mind

  1. This is such a great advice for a perpetual planner and someone who likes to be in control aka me. I’ve been feeling the affects of it recently in my classroom, though and have not been liking it. Thanks so much for another great post!

    Posted by sarah | February 24, 2011, 6:49 am
    • Sometimes as an administrator I have to reign myself in when planning — allowing others to drive the problem solving and decision making process. Certainly, there are times when our students might need more structure and guidance, but we do need to be cognizant of how our plans impact the learning freedom and creativity of our students.

      Thanks for the comment Sarah!

      Posted by azjd | February 25, 2011, 2:09 am
  2. Paraphrased from a military commander in Made to Stick: Plans are useful, in the sense that they are proof that planning has taken place. The process forces people to think through the right issues. As for the plans themselves, they just don’t work in the “battlefield.”

    Planning often helps us as educators to check for alignment of intent & outcome, to ensure relevance, to connect with the core idea. Like so many things, it seems to come back to recognizing purpose. Personally, I tend to overplan much like you describe, if for no other reason than to take the time to imagine the lesson/learning through the student’s eyes. If I’m not getting that core idea when I have my ‘participant’ hat on, something’s wrong with the instructional activity, and I’m back to the drawing board. Not sure that it’s THE way to do it, but it’s how I feel comfortable.

    Thanks for the post.

    Posted by Tony | February 25, 2011, 4:30 am
  3. One of the greatest experiences of my life was attending an improvisation class for a couple of months. Talk about beginning with no idea of what the end will be! Sometimes we failed miserably, mainly from trying to hard. But, other times, the result was truly amazing. It was possible, by staying focused and in the moment, to create great stories on the fly. This type of focus is also essential if teachers are to truly help students reach their potential.
    Best regards,
    RJ Johnson

    Posted by RJ Johnson - 21st Century Appreciative Inquiry | March 3, 2011, 7:04 am
  4. Good insight for parents too!

    Posted by Bruce Berrien | March 14, 2011, 3:29 am


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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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