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The Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC) is a place where educators can turn for assistance, inspiration and information about teaching and student achievement.

Our purpose is to help teachers and administrators develop the competence, commitment, and courage to do whatever it takes to improve student learning.

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Reflecting on "Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling"
August 27, 2014

by Cathy Gassenheimer

We live in a world that believes our role as professionals is to “fix and tell” rather than “listen and inquire.” This is one of the key premises in the book Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, by Edgar Schein.
Schein, a lifelong student of interpersonal dynamics and a professor of management emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management, begins the book by defining what he means by humble inquiry:
“Humble inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions, to which you do not already know the answers, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”(p. 2)
Schein suggests that even though this type of behavior “runs counter to some important aspects of U.S. culture,” he believes that to successfully interact with people with whom we are interdependent, we need to make the shift from mostly “telling” to becoming better at asking (p. 3). He reminds us that “the missing ingredients in most conversation are curiosity and willingness to ask questions to which we do not already know the answers.” (p. 4)

We all know how challenging interpersonal dynamics can be at times; we all need to “save face” and from time to time we expect deferential treatment. Combine those needs with the pace with which the world operates, and one can begin to see how challenging humble inquiry can be.Read More
How We Went About Revisiting Our 1-Page Instructional Target
August 21, 2014
Many schools who participate in the Instructional Partners Network develop a one-page instructional target through a powerful collaborative process proposed by Jim Knight. In this recent post in the IPN virtual community (at Ning), Courtney Horton highlighted the steps she and her colleagues took to revisit and revise their target three years after it was first created. We thought we'd share her report, and wonderful pictures, here! – Cathy Gassenheimer

by Courtney Horton

Instructional Partner
Liberty Middle School
Madison City (AL)

Last May, my principal and I decided it was time for a target re-visit. We had used our schoolwide instructional target for 3 years, and realized neither one of us were at the school when it was created. Not to mention, we have added quite a bit of new staff.  

I wanted to share with you our process. We didn't really know if there was a "correct" way to re-visit the target, so we did what worked for us! Hope this helps anyone who is thinking about this next step.  
1. We had our faculty create an affinity map of what good teaching and learning looks like during a faculty meeting. We of course discussed our results.

 Read More
We can help our students become 'lifeready' by teaching what is 'lifeworthy'
August 13, 2014
by Cathy Gassenheimer
As your students and you begin a new school year, here’s a question for you to ponder:

What’s worth learning?
Alabama’s College and Career-Ready Standards provide a road map to help you answer that question. The standards challenge teachers and students alike to focus on deeper learning. But, with so many topics, areas, concepts, themes, where should you focus? What are the most important things for children to learn?
This question – what’s worth learning? – lies at the heart of many of my favorite education books, including the just-published Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World (Jossey-Bass/Wiley), written by David Perkins, a senior research professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of Making Learning Whole (2010).
Perkins, who is senior co-director of Harvard's famous Project Zero, begins with an all too familiar story that many teachers experience regularly. A student raises his or her hand and asks: “Why do we need to know this?”
Perkins says the question is one of his least favorites – in fact, he calls it an “uppity question” – and acknowledges that it's often hard to come up with a good and pithy answer. “Because it’s part of the unit goals,” or “Because you’ll need it for the test,” or “Because you’ll need to know it next year” really aren’t satisfactory.
Perkins contends that the question, however uppity, is a good one. In fact, he argues that it is an “uppity version of one of the most important questions in education, a question with only three words: What’s worth learning in school.” (p. 2)Read More
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