Design Inc., Part 2

In my last blog post, Design Inc., Part 1, I mentioned Dr. Sharon Friesen’s visit to our school division. She presented the Dimensions of Inquiry as a model for creating a culture of excellence. Later that day, we met in table groups for further discussion.  The topic of vulnerability and risk taking came up.

It got me thinking back to the claymation videos my students created last year.  Because they were learning the technical aspects of claymation, the finished products were far from perfect. But I decided to share some of them in a school assembly anyway. I was proud of their work.

Then something uncomfortable happened. A small group of students sitting behind us laughed at our work. They made snide comments. One of the students in my class cried. I spoke strongly to some of the students about their hurtful comments. To top it off, a parent spoke to me later about her child’s video. Some of the photos were blurry. She was not happy.

Questions swirled around in my head: It was their first attempt at making claymation videos. Should I have even presented them? Maybe we were not ready for a wider audience. Was I fostering a culture of excellence by showing work that was not perfect? What about risktaking? Would the students want to try again when their work had been ridiculed? This led to a bigger question. Is it possible to create a culture of excellence and vulnerability?

Last Friday afternoon, our staff spent the afternoon painting under the tutelage of a gifted art teacher on our staff. As we cleaned up, the discussion centred around what we should do with our pieces. Should we display them, or not? Finally, it was decided that we should put them up in the hallway, but without our names attached to them.

Sadly, inherent in the teaching profession is a distinct lack of risktaking. The system, I believe, is partly to blame for this. The expectation of results on standardized tests and provincial exams makes people stick to what they consider to be tried and true methods. Teachers working in isolated classrooms means they do not often receive feedback or see exemplary models of teaching.

So how will we overcome this systemic aversion to risktaking? I think we could use the Dimensions of Inquiry for our own professional learning.


Used with permission. Dr. Sharon Friesen, University of Calgary, 2012.

But, I am wondering do we need to add one more spoke to the wheel? Should one of the dimensions of inquiry be vulnerability? And if so, how do we build vulnerability into our designs for learning?


About sandralbecker

An educator who is passionate about the creation of a school Learning Commons, which supports inquiry, critical thinking, and collaboration.
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One Response to Design Inc., Part 2

  1. Sharon says:

    Hi Sandra
    An discipline-based inquiry design operates within a knowledge building classroom (community-centered). This means that it is governed by the principles and values of community knowledge advancement. An implicit assumption is that knowledge in the field does not merely accumulate, rather it is advanced Students and teachers working in discipline-based knowledge building classrooms regard all ideas as improvable.

    I believe the point you are raising here also relates to knowledge building discourse. Discourse within a discipline-based knowledge building community means that there is a commitment: to progress, to seek common understanding rather than merely agreement, and to expand the base of accepted facts.

    A teacher who witnesses the actions and reactions of students, as the ones you recounted in your post, is seeing the artifacts created by a 20th century education system. It is not that another dimension is required. It is rather, now the real work of changing the culture of a classroom and the nature of learning for the 21st century really begins.

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