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🗣 The Dialogic Learning Weekly #210

The Dialogic Learning Weekly
🗣 The Dialogic Learning Weekly #210
By Tom Barrett • Issue #210 • View online
Welcome to issue 210 of our weekly look at innovation, leadership and learning. Today we explore one provocation in a little more depth and consider how a curriculum offers students texts and topics that contain mirrors, windows, and doors.

Education has the potential to be a powerful engine for disrupting structural inequities and fulfilling our nation’s promise of equal opportunity for all, but in reality, the system was built to maintain a status quo that perpetuates economic and racial inequality.
10 points if you recognise the city.
10 points if you recognise the city.
The image is attributed to Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash.
Mirrors, Windows and Doors
I thoroughly enjoyed the provocation from Scott Hartl and Christina Riley. The pair are part of the leadership team of EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning), a US K–12 nonprofit with a pedagogical model of teaching and learning that builds students’ academic achievement and character development.
An element of the article that struck a chord with me was how we might see our curriculum as a viewfinder, portal or lens.
A high-quality curriculum offers students texts and topics that contain mirrors, windows, and doors: mirrors that affirm and celebrate their own identities and cultures, windows that help them learn about and understand others, and doorways that present them with opportunities to be agents of change.
A simple metaphor like this allows any of us to question and challenge the learning experience we design. I used it during a teacher workshop this week as we explored ideas for Term 2.
Suppose I push myself to be more precise and more accurately respond to the author’s words. It is not curriculum as a mirror/window/door, but a curriculum that contains mirrors, windows, and doors.
The distinction is vital as the portals and lenses are tools we use and manipulate. There is a variety we can explore. It does not see curriculum as monolithic but polylithic. Am I mixing my stones and portals metaphors!
Why are these curriculum elements essential?
A curriculum with mirrors has the potential to appeal to students’ interests and also reflect their lives along various axes of identity so that they feel connected to the books they read and the topics they study.
What about windows?
It is equally important for students to see new worlds—these are the windows they look through that develop social-emotional skills like empathy and respect for others. Helping students look through those windows, particularly at events in the past, with a critical eye for how they are connected to life today is key to equity work.
Doors suggest movement or transition and how we can put our students in a position to learn through their actions.
When working for equity, perhaps the most impactful part of the mirrors, windows, and doors trifecta is ensuring that curriculum offers students doors to walk through. Scholar Shawn Ginwright argues that when students can meaningfully engage with the very problems in their communities that have caused them trauma, they become “agents in restoring their own well-being” (2018).
A Hall of Mirrors and Too Many Trapdoors
OK, so we have the trifecta of mirrors, windows, and doors established as a mental model. A model that can help us review the balance and equity of our curriculum.
Here are some further questions I am thinking about:
  • What is happening when there is an imbalance?
  • What might be the result of an inequitable curriculum?
  • What is lost when the curriculum has limited windows on the world?
  • What erodes when the experience of curriculum does not mirror the identity of its audience?
  • What do we value when we block the doorways to real action and experiences?
  • Do these (mirrors, windows, and doors) need to be in balance?
  • What if we currently emphasise one over another?
There is plenty to get your teeth into here. Keep returning to the trifecta to maintain focus. 🪞🪟🚪🤔
Share Your Big Questions and Challenges
Since starting this newsletter, I have always wondered about your experience of change and development and what you are spending your time figuring out in your schools and organisations.
Gaining a little snapshot of current development in leadership, learning and innovation, from the international readers of this newsletter offers some unique insight.
  • What are you attempting to figure out?
  • What are your active quests, mysteries, challenges or questions?
  • What are some of the enduring areas of development you are exploring?
Over the next few weeks, I will gather some reader responses, explore any emerging affinity and use them as provocations in future newsletters.
In return for sharing, I would be happy to offer you any support. If I have a reading, mental model or idea to share that might help, I will share back, and we can work it out together.
Just hit reply to this email and share, or you can use this link. I look forward to connecting.
Thanks for investing your time with the newsletter, have a lovely weekend.
In dialogue, we trust
~ Tom
Did you enjoy this issue?
Tom Barrett

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