Phil Schlechty - His New Book

This week, I'm fortunate to be at a WOW (Working on the Work) Conference in Dallas, Texas. The WOW conferences are run by the excellent staff at the Schlechty Center, a private non-profit organization centered on helping schools transform classrooms. The basis of Phil Schlechty's ideas for school transformation centers on teachers designing work that will engage students - work that they will find interesting, challenging, and satisfying.

These concepts were first introduced in Schlechty's book, Working on the Work. In the book he outlines ten design qualities that will help ensure that the work teachers provide students is engaging. Phil's new book, coming out soon will be Engaging Students: The Next Level of Working on the Work. In his opening address at this week's conference, he told the audience that he re-wrote his WOW book for several reasons. Primarily, when talking about WOW he found he was constantly pointing out what WOW was not. It is not a lesson plan format or an evaluation measure. In a humorous quote, Phil said he thought he was clear on that point, but discovered that, "you never know what you said until somebody tells you."

In his opening keynote, he also highlighted several key differences between designing and  planning. Currently, most teachers plan, not design. It's the current nature of the beast. Schlechty pointed out that...

  • Planning begins with objectives, goals, and activities. Designing begins with customers and their needs. 
  • Planning is " precise" while design is "romantic."
  • Planning is "Yes, but..." while design is "What if...". 
  • Design is expressive and embraces values and emotions. Planning is instrumental and embraces logic and rational analysis. 
  • Design is controlled by principles, product specifications, client values, and client response. Planning is controlled by rules, procedure, goals, and predetermined results. 
  • Design thinking emphasizes divergent thinking. Planning emphasizes convergent thinking. 
  • Design seeks alternatives and invites invention. Planning limits alternatives and invites conformity. Design synthesizes and unifies. Planning analyses and divides
Are we planning or designing? How do we move to more deliberate and thoughtful design in teaching. How can technology help teachers design? Lots of questions!

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k-ro said…
so where planning has become the most important skill, perhaps we should "design" classrooms based on the student demographics, supplimenting their learning with planning.

So perhaps by finding out through testing, what kind of learners the majority of students are, the classroom can be morphed into "experimenting studios" so that students become the leaders of their education. getting students out of their desks and moving and creating would not only benefit the student, but completely change the way classrooms are used. where planning would need to be most crutial is in the beginning phases where students must learn how to begin and end the process established by the teacher. the little things like "bell work" and formalities on writing to grading to behavior. Once this is established, letting go of strict tie-down methods might be a way to transform the classroom.

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