Why This Blog? Why Now? Why This title?

I am no longer blogging under duress. This part remains true: I had a blog once and I lost the password...and then, I gave up. I really am not a giver-upper, but there is a point of diminishing returns to anything that takes energy, passion, and vision and yet, doesn't work out. So, off I go again, wish me luck! AND knock on wood I have had luck. And it is sort of fun.

P.S. Why this title? I read this phrase today 6/16, don't remember where. I liked it. I'm using it. I might change it. It may or may not have relationship to the content.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I want to talk about the idea of process. Mr. Johnston starts chapter 3 by talking about process rather than performance.

"We get the most mileage out of turning their attention to change rather than stability, and process more than performance, and by changing the way they think about error." Pg 26

This seemingly simple shift is a powerful one with insidious roots. I say this because at least generally speaking, we and how we are judged in schools, society, and most if not all aspects of life--even those business that are dedicated to creativity and innovation--care, ultimately about performance and/or product--that is what matters. I am not saying that performance/product should not be important as ultimate ends. I am saying that a focus on process is the way to creative and innovative performances and products. Those creative and innovative products, no matter how small they might seem, are the hallmarks of people steeped in dynamic-learning frames. The two are not mutually exclusive, it is just that a dynamic-frame is the kindest, most honoring-of-the-individual, most direct, and well-rounded-person-building way to get "there".

 Mr. Johnston's idea of casual process (pg 31--Problem Solving and Casual Process), also lives in kind of "non-mainstream" thinking around developing thinking individuals (raising kids) outside of classrooms. This reminds me so much of some of Alfie Kohn's writing--the idea of recognizing and naming what someone (the kid) did or is doing rather than a praise comment (good job, you're smart....) I think Mr. Johnston takes it a step further by writing about attaching the idea of cause and effect to the process--"You did this, so this happened". 

"Causal process comments are the most effective way of promoting the belief that the important information is how someone did (or could do) something, because that's what we can learn from."

It IS the learning through the process along the way that is what is important. That old and worn saying about journey not the destination being the most important IS true.

"Observing or experiencing success (or not) is only usefully instructive when we see how it was accomplished."

This reminds me of the reason we read, write, think, and unpack our teaching points in a very visible way. Clearly exposing what is going on in our "proficient"heads out loud and in front of kids. Whether as part of a mini lesson or in individual or small group sessions. There should be no mystery about how the performances/products (reading, writing, science, art, music,...) occur....expose the process to learn from the process. AND the process includes mistakes or non-successes--they are there to be learned from.

Finally, Mr. Johnston offers some very simple and very powerful ways to take the focus off the performance/product and put the focus where it belongs--on the process.

"The simplest way into process conversations is to ask how questions: 'How did you do that?' 'How did you know that?" pg 31

"Asking 'What are you thinking?' is a simple way to expand this process thread in classroom talk. These 'How did you...' and 'What are you thinking?' conversations invite agentive narrative, increase the available strategic information, reduce the likelihood of fixed-performance theories, and, at the same time, invite dynamic-leaning theories." pg 32

Even though "simple" is not always so simple...I am going to bite my tongue while my brain goes through my old ways of responding and then start talking when I can ask some "process" kinds of questions.

Thank you Mr. Johnston!

**my apologies to all that are paying attention to the punctuation rules around quotes...I am sure I have been inconsistant and have violated quite a few:)


  1. Noreene,

    I enjoyed reading your post. One thing I really connected to was the idea of the importance of the journey rather than the destination. I believe this is so important because, especially in education, we never really get "there" (to the destination). There will always be more work to do and more ways to improve. I think we need to be sure that we help students understand that and help them get in the dynamic-learning frame that will support that.

    The other thing that this made me think of is that there are so many different paths to choose from while on the journey. I read a wonderful post yesterday by Tony Keefer that struck a chord with me. It was about how he planned by gathering and reading resources and then creating lists of focus lessons or ideas to use with his students and then he used these lessons/ideas as they came up naturally in his class. I commented on the post that this was how I plan also. The link to the post is: http://tonykeefer.tumblr.com/

    Thanks for writing and continuing the discussion. I am feeling very inspired and ready to get back to school.

    1. Thank Jill,
      I was reading what Tony Keefer wrote and thought about the role of motivation in dynamic-learning frame...if I don't care I'm not going to be very dynamic about it. Or maybe you could say that if I was totally steeped in dynamic-learning frame I would continue to move forward no matter the motivation level because learning---the process--- is the motivation. So is motivation a cart or a horse in terms of which comes first, or an embedded component if you have a dynamic-learning frame?

    2. Noreene,

      When I was reading your ideas/questions about motivation, it reminded me of the book Drive by Daniel Pink. I couldn't remember all of the big ideas of that book so I googled the RSA Animate of it and watched it again. The link is to that is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc&noredirect=1
      Daniel Pink says that the three things that really influence motivation are autonomy, mastery (which he defined as getting better at something) and a sense of purpose. It think those ideas blend really well with what Peter Johnston is saying. I think the dynamic-learning frame is very similar to "autonomy, mastery and purpose" - especially the mastery piece. So maybe motivation is an embedded component in a dymanic-learning frame. Great question and I am loving the direction it is taking my thinking. Thanks.

  2. I was struck by the same idea that Jill commented on! Your comparison to the old saying makes a lot of sense. Not only is this true for students, but I think we have to honor the teaching journey we all take. Quite often, I think of how different I am as a teacher now compared to when I started teaching 18 years ago. It really is about learning through the process along the way! Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation!

  3. Noreene,
    I enjoyed your connections between dynamic learning frames, process, innovation and creativity. Your point that, "Those creative and innovative products, no matter how small they might seem, are the hallmarks of people steeped in dynamic-learning frames," is a strong case for making the changes necessary in our classroom for students to take ownership of their learning.