Educators from throughout the region joined Westminster faculty in Armour Academic Center March 29 for this year’s Westminster Teaching Symposium titled “21st-Century Schools: Embracing and Mastering Change.”
The half-day symposium featured keynote speaker Grant Lichtman, an internationally recognized thought leader in the drive to transform K-12 education, as well presentations by faculty members from numerous schools on a variety of topics during two breakout sessions.
Grant works with schools and community teams in both public and independent school settings, helping them to develop their understanding of emerging trends in education and the futures of their schools. He speaks to, writes about and works with educators to build capacity and comfort with innovation in response to a rapidly changing world.
He is the author of three books: “Moving the Rock: Seven Levers We Can Press to Transform Education,” “#EdJourney: A Roadmap for the Future of Education,” and “The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School.” For nearly 15 years, he was a trustee and senior administrator at one of the largest independent schools in the United States. Since 2012, he has visited about 200 schools and districts, and worked with thousands of school and community stakeholders to develop unique and powerful visions and strategies for transforming education away from the Industrial Age and toward future-focused models of deeper learning.
In his keynote address, Grant touched on four questions: why should schools change, what will that change look like, how do we change schools, and are schools on a trajectory to intersect a future that is less knowable than it ever has been in the past?
He spoke about fundamental societal transformations and dramatic changes in the education market since 1990. He projected that in 25 years, schools will fall into one of three categories: insulated, highly differentiated by program or brand, or struggling and failing. He pointed to the need for deeper learning and how classrooms are becoming more student-centric and dynamic. “Why don’t we let students co-create with teachers?” he asked. He discussed the value of learning that combines content with students being out in the community.
He described how adoption of technology can start with feelings of magic, lead to manic behavior and become toxic. He outlined some of the challenges of finding the balance of technology and humanity in education.
“We are all on this trajectory whether we like it or not,” he concluded. “I urge you to have these discussions and start moving that rock.”
During the breakout sessions that followed, the presenters included Liz Perry and Emily Walsh ’09 of St. Luke’s School, who discussed “White Teachers Teaching About Race: Blind Spots, Approaches and Strategies”; Tom Sturtevant ’80 of Hyde Leadership Charter School, who spoke about “Charter Schools and the Future of Education”; Stephanie Hoos of King School, who addressed “Reading Comprehension in the 21st-Century Student”; Dr. Davis Smith, Westminster’s director of health services and medical director, who gave a presentation about “Understanding, Preparing for and Responding to the Needs of Transgender Students”; Jennifer Pelletier of The Ethel Walker School, who talked about “Alternative History: Students as Detectives”; and Tim Quinn ’96 of Miss Porter’s School, who discussed “Innovating All at Once: Changing Schedule, Curriculum and Transcript to Help Prepare Today’s Students to Solve Tomorrow’s Problems.”
Following the morning’s presentations, participants continued their conversations during lunch in Armstrong Dining Hall.
The symposium was sponsored by the Westminster Teaching Initiative (WTI), which was formed in 2010 to enhance teaching and learning at Westminster by encouraging collaboration and dialogue among faculty members and departments about curriculum and pedagogy. The purpose of the symposium is to widen the circle of sharing and allow teachers from area schools to come together, converse and learn from one another. Longtime Westminster faculty member Charlie Griffith P’11, ’14, ’17 serves as director of WTI and planned the symposium.