Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

Positive Pressure and Support: Driving Your Initiative to a High Level of Implementation

June 14, 2012

Ok. It’s no secret.

Just having professional development doesn’t mean that your initiative is going to get implemented or implemented well. It doesn’t mean that your initiative will have it’s desired effect on your school.

Sure. PD is critical to getting where you’re going. But it isn’t sufficient.

Level of implementation matters.

A lot.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to get better at implementing your laptops, or you’re using Bright Futures to look at your middle level practice, or if you’re working on a literacy initiative, or implementing the Common Core, or on Customized Learning, if you want your initiative to have the impact you’re looking for, then you need to insure that you have a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity.

So, how do you get to a high level of implementation with a high level of fidelity?

The answer is possitive pressure and support.

Positive pressure and support has three easy pieces: expect, supervise, & support.

Expecting includes strategies like starting simple, participating yourself in trainings and meetings, having teachers set goals, and collaboratively setting expectations.

Supervising includes checking with teachers, talking about implementation at meetings, doing walk throughs, and talking about the walk through and level of implementation data.

Finally, support includes things like celebrating successes, facilitating the sharing of ideas, providing opportunities for PD (of course!), providing resources, and removing barriers and running interference.


How could positive pressure and support help your work at your school?


Remembering Gordon Vars, One of the Grandfathers of Middle Level Education

February 2, 2012

I’ve been lucky enough to work with a couple of the people I consider to be the modern founders of middle level education. One of those is Gordon Vars, professor emeritus at Kent State University.

How I knew him was through his decades long work on “Core Curriculum.” This isn’t the way we mean “core curriculum” now. In fact, the irony is that the “new” meaning of core curriculum is the four “core” subjects. But the historic meaning of Core Curriculum is something more akin to curriculum integration, teaching students through activities that blend content from the various subjects. (One of my favorite analogies is when you order a pizza, they don’t put just sauce on 2 slices, just cheese on 2 slices, just pepperoni on 2 slices and just mushrooms on 2 slices. They put it all on every slice.)

Core Curriculum was used quite a bit in the first half of the 20th Century. In fact, Core Curriculum was studied pretty closely in the 30s and early 40s and was found to be significantly more effective than the separate subject approach, including for things that we have always assumed separate subject approach was better at, such as college preparation. These results were published as The Eight Year Study.

I think of Gordon Vars as the shepherd of Core Curriculum. As others reinvented it as Integrative Curriculum (including James Beane and Maine’s own Gert Nesin), Gordon reminded us of the historical foundations on which that work was based. He was a gentle man who was always willing to share his expertise and empower others to succeed.

Gordon Vars died Tuesday night (1/31/12) after being hit by a car while walking home from choir practice. He was 88. I feel honored to have known him and to have had the opportunity to have collaborated with him in a couple small ways. Core Curriculum and Integrative Curriculum have contributed greatly to my interest in motivation and contributed to the kind of educator I try to be today. Gordon will be greatly missed for his contributions to Core Curriculum, and to the Association for Middle Level Education.

(Cross posted at the Bright Futures blog and the Multiple Pathways blog.)

It’s Your Turn:

How will you remember Gordon Vars?

Maine Leaders to Explore the Critical Connection Between Imagination, Creativity and Economic Development

March 28, 2011

Tuesday, April 5th – Imagination Conversation

Eric Hopkins

A collaboration of public and private organizations has come together to host a community-wide event so that Maine can lend its collective voice to a national conversation on how to foster the innovation and creativity needed to compete in the 21st-century global marketplace.

“From Imagination to Innovation: Maine Participates in the Lincoln Center Institute’s Imag’nation Conversation” will be held from 4 to 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 5, in USM’s Hannaford Lecture Hall, Bedford Street, Portland.
To register, go to Tickets are $20 for the public and $5 for students.

The Maine Center for Creativity and the University of Southern Maine are presenting the event. Collaborators include the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, the Maine Arts Commission, the Creative Portland Corporation, the Farnsworth Art Museum, the Maine Department of Education, Wright Express, the Maine Alliance for Arts Education, the Maine Humanities Council and Maine Public Broadcasting.

Through a keynote address and a series of discussions in concurrent workshops, the “Conversation” will provide opportunities for people from diverse sectors to consider how we can integrate imagination into our
schools, workplaces and communities in such a way that it advances creation of a vibrant economy and quality of life.  “We hope to bring people together from different walks of life to discover that imagination is essential not
only in the arts,” said Jean Maginnis, executive director of the Maine Center for Creativity, “but also in the success of all of us in the state of Maine.”

To help focus the discussions, participants will be asked to respond to the following three questions:

  • How does imagination function in your field/work/sector?
  • How do you cultivate and sustain imagination in your work?
  • What will it take for us to foster these practices in Maine?

Conversations from each of the 50 states are being documented and compiled for presentation at a national “Imagination Summit” in New York scheduled for July of this year. It’s expected that an action agenda will be developed to make the cultivation of imagination a key element in our schools and part of a national public policy agenda.

The Portland event will feature nationally known artist Eric Hopkins of North Haven, who will offer the keynote address. Other speakers include University of Maine Professor of Civil and Structural Engineering Habib
Dagher; mimedancer Karen Montanaro;  Aaron Frederick, entrepreneur and a founder of Rippleffect, the non-profit that exposes teens to the coastal Maine experience; and Carol Farrell, co-director of Figures of Speech
Theatre. Veteran Maine journalist and public affairs consultant Patsy Wiggins will serve as moderator.

“As part of our mission as a public university we provide a forum where people of diverse perspectives can come together and think creatively and provocatively about how to better understand and advance the important
issues of the day,” said USM President Selma Botman.

For more information on the Lincoln Center Institute (LCI) and the “Imag’nation Conversations,” visit

Editor’s Note: For More information, including contacts at the collaborating organizations, contact Jean Maginnis, executive director, Maine Center for Creativity, (207) 730-0694

%d bloggers like this: