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Unprepared for What We Learned

Six Action Research Exercises That Challenge the Ends We Imagine for Education


Tim Kubik

Unprepared for What We Learned: Six Action Research Exercises that Challenge the Ends We Imagine for Education explores how twentieth century models of education are not delivering on their promises, or helping to deliver the promise of the next generation. We hear that our students are not prepared, and that our teachers must not be prepared to teach those students. Managing preparation has become an obsession for policy-makers who claim that national competitiveness is at stake. After more than one hundred years everything is well managed, yet no one is prepared.

This preparatory mindset presumes that learners must be prepared before they can participate in society, and that this preparation must be managed intentionally using models, an implementation plan, and a system for assessing and evaluating the impact of those models. It’s biggest failing is that those with the greatest stake, our young and adult learners, no longer recognize it as an effective model. Empowered by digital technologies, learners today are no longer willing to wait to be prepared. We seek experiences for which we are unprepared for what we’ll learn.

Unprepared for What We Learned: Six Action Research Exercises that Challenge the Ends We Imagine for Education shares six exercises drawn from students, teachers, and school communities wrestling with problems of practice for which they were unprepared. Readers will question standards, outcomes, and global competencies; negotiate personalized learning; and ultimately co-create innovative school communities that disrupt the preparatory mindset. Together, these young and adult learners participating in the authentic work of their school communities will challenge the ends we imagine for education.

“Education has begun to move into a new paradigm in which ‘process’—participation in the act of learning—becomes more critical than traditional ‘outcomes.’ In a field of thought as fresh as this one, it’s not easy to describe this shift in thinking, let alone offer teachers the tools to carry it out in the classroom. But this book does both. Drawing upon his deep experience with project based learning, inquiry, and coaching teachers, Tim Kubik provides the discrete steps that teachers can take to put the participator journey into action. This book helps pioneer what will ultimately be at the center of educational thought.”—Thom Markham, PBL pioneer and founder of PBL Global

“Today’s learners arrive at school ready to create, to connect, to contribute—to participate! We respond by implementing prescribed content and assessments at the expense of students’ meaningful participation. The same is true for today’s teachers! In this book you won’t find a blueprint for transitioning from a preparatory mindset to a participatory mindset. Instead, Tim Kubik invites you to participate in learning from stories from across the country that will help you think about what that transition might look like in your learning community. It’s an invitation you don’t want to miss!”—Mary Jo Scalzo, Executive Director of High AIMS, and 41-year career as a teacher, principal, curriculum director, and superintendent

“Educators rarely realize that the answers to their challenges are often inside their own building. Rarely do we give ourselves the permission to do so. The richest, most sustainable solutions I have experienced in schools have come from the experts inside them. This book provides the opportunity to look inside for answers.”—Tori Stephens-Shauger, Executive Director and Principal, ACE Leadership High School

“This book redefines education not as in preparation for standards or externally defined outcomes but, rather an engaging process of participation for students as full members of a community, co-owned, and co-designed by students and adults. With great stories and effective exercise, veteran educator Tim Kubik changes the discourse and practice in education away from standardization and testing toward more democratic, future-oriented, and human-centered.”—Yong Zhao, Foundation Distinguished Professor, School of Education, University of Kansas

“This timely and important work from Tim Kubik cuts through educational hype and delivers meaningful and actionable information for educators, administrators, trainers, and policy makers.”—Jared Polis, Member of Congress and Ranking Member of the Early Childhood Education and Kindergarten Through 12th Grade Subcommittee