Monday, April 9, 2018

HOW: Climbing the Mountain of Redesign

by Vicki Bechard
Secretary LFKS

This might feel like a broken record, but KESA in general, and redesign specifically, are on everyone’s mind these days in schools across Kansas.  Accreditation visits are in full swing as schools look to redesign learning experiences to give students the skill set that will help them be successful now and in the future.  Kansans Can is not just a slogan or a hashtag, but a way of thinking that promotes action toward our goals.  Kansas educators want to learn and implement best practices for the students they serve, but there are a lot of questions about what redesign looks like.  One often hears school officials say, “Just give me an exampleTell us what you want. Show me how to get there.”  We ask these questions because it’s hard to think differently.  It’s hard to take a risk on the unknown.  We want to do it right, but educators have much to learn and adapt as we change how we do business.  We might even look at redesign as a mountain that will be difficult to climb, rather than appreciating the beauty and challenge it provides and the reward it offers in the end.

I love the mountains.  It is where I want to be if I’m on vacation.  In fact if my kids/grandkids were nearby, it would be where I would want to live.  I think one reason I love the mountains is that I initially view them from the valleys.  I look up to the majestic peaks and am inspired by their beauty, and amazed at their presence.  The journey to be in the mountains is filled with anticipation, twists and turns, and obstacles that present challenges and rich experiences.  And the view from the top is worth it: inspiring and amazing, calling me to experience the sites and take it all in.  My journey into the mountains is shaped by my purpose, the current situation, and what I hope to accomplish. It is affected by the amount of time I have, resources I can access, and the team who accompanies me.  There are many mountains in this world to view and climb, with no two the same, and as a result, no journey will be the same.

Redesign is our educational mountain.  It means change is about to occur on a large scale.  This is systemic change which will affect every educator and impact every student.   Given the different knowledge and skill sets that students will use in a post-secondary world, we must redesign our instruction and learning environments so that they are more suited to provide those experiences.  What worked before was fine.  We did our best based on what we knew, but now as we increase our own understanding, we will do better work that is relevant and targeted for not just for success today, but for tomorrow’s successes as well.  What that looks like depends on the purpose and the situation, so no one solution will work for every school.  We often point out in LFKS resources and learning sessions that “One size doesn’t fit all” and that applies to redesign as well.  But while we might not know what the best redesign ideas will look like in your particular context, we do know there are some common actions that do apply to all and will ensure successful implementation.

HOW:  Climbing the Mountain of Redesign: 

1.   Clarify communication.  Address the why, how, what, when and who questions and concerns that everyone has.  The details not only have to be worked out, but communicated clearly and in a timely manner.  George Bernard Shaw said it best:  The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  Be intentional.  Clarify.  Listen.  Check for understanding.

2.      Empower and engage people in the process.  Avoid talking AT stakeholders, but rather talk WITH them.  Include them in the planning and discussions, convey what leaders are thinking, and encourage their participation in the feedback loop.  Listening to their ideas, concerns and feedback gives all stakeholders a voice and helps get everyone on board.

3.    Allow for mourning as they leave behind favorite practices and comfort zones.  Prepare them for and encourage them when their productivity temporarily drops (learning curve).  Change (redesign) requires people to work differently and many times that change can produce reactions similar to when people experience a significant loss like a death or divorce.  Resistance may simply be a part of the mourning process because change can make us fearful and unsure of ourselves.  Grief is real even when the “death” is only “the way we used to do it.”

4.     Allow for process time.  Just as one size doesn’t fit all for the kind of redesign efforts you seek, people and teams process at different rates.  Be patient. Nurture and guide while allowing people time to learn and practice so they can find acceptance and success with the new ideas and practices.

5.  Include engaging, supportive, and reflective professional learning throughout the planning and implementation process of every redesign or change initiative.  Deep understanding comes from deep conversations.  Collaboration targeted for improved educator effectiveness and student success will be time well spent.  The kind and quality of professional learning will impact the kind and quality of implementation and the ability to sustain the redesign efforts.

KASB’s Deputy Executive Director Doug Moeckel, shared this visual and noted on Twitter recently that “Kansas Redesign is driven by these Kansans Can Principles.”

THIS is our educational mountain.  
HOW will we (re)design our journey to the top?

For more information on effective professional learning or to receive support for your HOW journey, please check out the Learning Forward Kansas website or contact us directly via email at

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