Decade 2020

by Dr. Peter M. Toscano

Decade 2020: An Exploration of Transformative Education on the Verge of a New Decade

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The Power (and Passion) of the Senior Capstone Project

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                           Photo by Ian Schneider

Overview

Last year I posted on the impact of connecting a school’s mission with the IB’s Extended Essay (see: Decade2020.com - The IB Diploma and a School’s Mission: How to Closely Join the Extended Essay to a School’s Priorities (While Building a Culture of Literacy). In it I argued that an extraordinary opportunity exists for IBD schools to provide students with options to choose topics that reflect a school’s mission, beliefs, and values, thus connecting the essay to a school’s pedagogical goals and ideological spirit.

Now I’d like to revisit that idea, but this time tying it to the Senior Capstone Project, a program that’s becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. and is beginning to pick up steam overseas. To my mind this project, when properly executed, connects to more than just a school’s vision. It also highlights the role

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The IB Diploma and a School’s Mission: How to Closely Join the Extended Essay to a School’s Priorities (While Building a Culture of Literacy)

4744866167_33d45dd27e_b.jpgAs an international school leader for the past 7 years, I’ve been at the center of frequent discussions concerning how to align mission and vision with real academics. To this end, many educators work closely with accreditation organizations to develop plans of action or strategic plans focused on school improvement.

These organizational examinations tend to bring up areas of concern or “disconnection” that expose potential shortcomings in the coherence of programs and their ability to forward desired outcomes. All in all, these are healthy discussions, which usually involve a full representation of stakeholders: board members, owner(s), administrators, teachers, parents, students, and staff, and can help to unite constituent parts.

However, the real challenge of a school review is to get past the talk and create plans that are truly actionable, that have achievable, measurable

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Research Part 1: Action Oriented Research

22953501472_f710566e2c_k.jpgAction Oriented Research: Grounded Theory and Grounded Action

Commonalities and Differences: Four Types of Action Research

In order to discuss the differences and commonalities between classical action research, participatory action research, applied research, and grounded action we first need to settle on specific definitions for each. Of course, this isn’t easy as a wide range of terminologies exist which endeavor to explain these designs and this makes for a crowded, and often confused, field of knowledge.

Action Research

The major emphasis on action research is to provide concrete solutions to issues that affect social and educational systems in a localized setting. Action research was devised to examine the “…immediate and day to day problems of practitioners” (McKernan, 1998). It uses qualitative methods in natural settings to develop theories for teaching and learning. Halsey

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Leadership Part 5: The Study of Global Solutions

22579292859_362e110364_k.jpgHere’s a link to an article I penned that appeared in “World Futures: The Journal of Global Education” in 2008.

It offers a Grounded Theory/Systems Thinking model of educational reform designed to help those in underdeveloped countries:

[http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02604020600912848]

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Leadership Part 4: Systems Thinking

22952901862_2028c5f8d9_k.jpgSystems Thinking

Systems thinking is an approach to systems’ analysis that is concerned with understanding how systemic factors work together to achieve a balance, or in this case, a successful learning environment. Unlike traditional forms of systems’ examination, it investigates the interrelation of potentially problematic parts and how they might be re-integrated or re-systematized.

The systems approach does not place an overemphasis on the analysis of the mechanistic aspects of a system. In fact learning systems that focus heavily on activities, rather than human interactivity, form the basis of a fundamental criticism of online education. As Noble (2002) asserts in his critique of online learning, “…it is most likely to entail the familiar patterns of command, control, and precisely specified performance….in short, a model of education as a machine, with standardized products and

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Leadership Part 3: A Theory of Order

8732209204_4ef389004b_b.jpgConcerning the Grounded Theory Method

Hierarchies of Purpose is based on the theory of maintaining order, which is the foundation of my dissertation. It is a grounded theory study. To develop it, I utilized the grounded theory method of research to discover a core variable in my substantive area of study, which was the country of Laos. I followed the process of data collection and analysis outlined by the method’s founders: Glaser and Strauss. (Later in its development these two split into separate camps: Glaserian and Strausian grounded methodologies emerged. I follow the Glaserian model.)

Glaser and Strauss developed grounded theory in the early 1960s. To some extent, it was a response to the prevailing research ideology of the day that was driven by validation studies of existing “grand theories” (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Glaser and Strauss thought that these verification studies

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Leadership Part 2: The Essence of Order

16253843174_e4c4895dce_b.jpgIn a world that is increasingly interconnected and where complex problems breed confusion, order is the fabric that binds social organizations. Without systems of order, conflict and chaos would rein and progress halted. But what is social order? How can social systems attain and maintain it? Why is it important to understand its functions? How does conflict impact the quality of social order?

Social order is the nexus of human interaction. It is what keeps organizations running and controlling conflict is at the heart of the maintaining order. So let’s begin by examining the essentials of existing social theory by placing it in a historical context and uniting it with two critical dimensions, power and culture.

Social Order

Let’s examine two prominent theoretical viewpoints that attempt to account for the existence of social order. One posits that order emanates from rational

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Social Justice Part 1: Problems and Solutions in Thailand

file0001748424783.jpgSummary

Issue: Low Access to Quality Instruction in Northeast Thailand

Over the past 25 years Thailand has made major increases in all areas related to economic development (CIA World Factbook, 2011). However, these giant strides have been focused mostly on central Thailand and the metropolis of Bangkok, while in most instances rural areas have not kept pace, especially those in the Northeast region.

Consequently, this economic disparity has led to inequities in access to education and discrepancies in its quality between Bangkok and regions in its vicinity and the northeastern provinces, which trail them by a wide margin:

Access to education, and its equality, is still variable across the country. Bangkok outperforms the rest of the country, followed by Bangkok Vicinity, the Centre, the East and the South. Northeastern provinces lag behind. (Thailand Human Development Report, 2007

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Technology Part 1: Some Background

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The term technology is derived form the Greek word “techne,” which means to construct. Technology refers to the application of scientific knowledge to any practical art and does not necessarily imply the use of machines. Although technology was first “conceived as a process related to science, art, and philosophy, the popular meaning of the word “technology” has changed considerably” (Januszewski, 2001, p. 151).

Over the last 70 years technology has become associated with electronic machines and more recently with computers and the internet. However, exact definitions of educational technology are hard to find and educators who see it solely as the application of some electronic device as a tool to enhance learning are limited in their perspective. It is more about using science to define learning, machines are simply an element (albeit, an important one) of the tools available for

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Leadership Part 1: Building and Sustaining Success

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Superior leadership can be the greatest single factor in an organization’s success. Leaders help to produce the stability and focus that organizations require to achieve and to maintain goals - the difference between mediocrity and greatness. Successful leaders create organizations that are dynamic, yet continuous. They understand complex systems of order and their fundamental components: hierarchy, structure, and stability. They endeavor to engage balance in these essential areas to help to ensure success and sustainability. Consequently, those leaders that develop an explicit system of hierarchy and a clear purpose infused with shared beliefs are better able to maintain success in the face of ongoing challenges.

Strarrat (1993) remarked that, “For better or worse, leaders seem to ‘make’ history. The understanding of social institutions and social movements, indeed, of whole

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