This was a significant group project in my Applying Educational Technology to Issues of Practice course at Michigan State. My group took on the achievement gap. Our solution was an application called Bridging the Gap. I contributed the animation below, created in Adobe Captivate
Below is the original text from the final post on this topic.
In spite of numerous efforts to ensure educational equality, some groups of students achieve at a lower-levels than others. The first challenge in looking at the achievement gap, is narrowing down exactly what we mean by achievement gap. There are, in fact, a number of different achievement gaps. Students of color, students with disabilities, students from non-English speaking households, and students from low-income families demonstrate achievement gaps when compared with affluent white students. Additionally, disparities can be seen between male and female students throughout the average student’s academic career. There are a number of potential variables that could be the cause of the various gaps: underfunding of school districts, culturally non-responsive curriculums, lack of pre-school education, and home factors to name a few. All of this takes place against a shifting background of demographic changes and policy revisions at the federal, state, and local level.The achievement gap is truly a wicked problem.
This week I have been working hard with my colleagues to get our heads around this big, gangly issue. Throughout this process, it has been very hard to hold back judgment and ask open questions. I have an instinct to quickly analyze the problem and start brainstorming solutions. It actually takes a great deal of discipline to stay in the stage of asking ‘why’ questions. For me the greatest challenge of design thinking has been applying a beginner’s mindset to a field in which I have experience. When you see something every day, it can be hard to see it from a new perspective. I made this infographic to try to take a broad view of my understanding of the problems currently. In the last section, I ask the four questions my colleagues and I will be using as we go forward trying to solve this wicked problem.
Taking it to the Streets
Our wicked problem group is deep into our work solving the wicked problem of the achievement gap. We have established a clear, shared definition of the achievement gap. And we have looked at the many variables at work and the numerous solutions that have been tried in the past. We each made infographics to share our overview of the wicked problem and commented on one another’s work in hope of better understanding each other’s insights and perceptions.
Early in the week, we met and put together a set of “why” questions. In A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger (2014) says that “why” questions are questions of “seeing and understanding” (p. 75). After spending some time generating these thinking and understanding questions we started determining some possible areas of attack for our wicked problem. But instead of just jumping in and come up with solutions, we put together a survey to distribute to teachers in our professional networks. Why? Because we might be missing something. We might be assuming things that aren’t true. We want our solution to be useful to the end-user. We want it to help them attack this problem in a way that is comfortable and useful for them. Most importantly, we don’t want to come up with a solution that has no basis in what the end-user (in this case the teacher) would actually use. So we put together a survey and are asking for feedback from anyone who teaches in a K-12 setting. We hope to use the data from this survey to craft a more responsive and relevant solution to the wicked problem of the achievement gap.
You can take the survey here:
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While we know that wicked problems tend to be immune to perfect solutions, we know that with enough feedback from teachers and enough asking of big questions we will be able to put forward our “best bad solution”.
Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.