Reflections on The IThink Practicum

This winter/spring I have had the good fortune to be part of the Rotman IThink Practicum along with a small group of educators from TDSB, YRDSB, HWDSB and Bishop Strachan.  This practicum grew out of a project that took place last year, during which Rotman IThink was exploring how Tier 2 Integrative Thinking for educators might be designed. I also had the good fortune to be part of that experience, which – I must say – was like nothing else I’ve participated in. Because of it, I’ve completely changed how I engage students in problem exploration.

During the process, the IThink Team devised probing questions aimed at uncovering hidden thoughts and experiences of the educators present.  I can see now that tools for design and integrative thinking – particularly those aimed at empathy, were at work. From our conversations and the uncovering of patterns, the IThink team harvested ideas and experiences to gain insight.

At the end of that process, the IThink team’s key takeaways (as I understand them) were that:

1. In Tier 2, educators would need deeper understanding of integrative thinking theory as well as the tools for making thinking explicit.

2. Tier 2 would need to help educators make integrative thinking their own.

3. It’s about teacher identity.

Over the summer and fall of 2014, Rotman developed a prototype of Tier 2 training. This is what we’ve been participating in.  Beginning in January of 2015, each month a carload of educators from HWDSB has been driving from Dundas to Toronto for a lovely dinner and 3 amazing hours of Tier 2 training. As part of the process, we have had to learn, think deeply, explore tensions, test ideas and apply the processes and tools of integrative thinking to complex problem solving. It has been challenging and wonderful.  It has also taken us beyond superficial understanding.  We’ve taken some deep dives into theory and application which hasn’t been easy.

Since Wednesday’s session in which we explored what to do after the pathways to integration has produced a possible solution, I have been grappling with the ideas, stance and strategies presented.  I am in new territory and trying to make sense of what we experienced.  It seems, just as I thought I was getting a handle on integrative thinking, a whole new layer has been uncovered.  My mental model has been challenged and I am now in the process of constructing a better model. “You are only ever working with your current best idea.” a phrase we use in my classroom, comes to mind.

I do know, however, that as the evening unfolded I experienced a profound shift and sense of excitement about the possibilities.  Integrative thinking is vast and yet highly structured. Its processes move problem-solvers through a way of thinking about a problem and engaging with others that can’t help but allow interesting ideas to emerge.

One thing that I have come to value and understand at a deeper level because of this practicum, is collaboration.  There have been times when we had to work on our own and most of us realized as the months unfolded that silos are pretty useless.  Our thinking is better when the experiences, deep thinking and reflections are shared.

Thank you Josie, Nogah, Ellie,Christopher, Jennifer and the rest of the IThink team for creating such an interesting experience.  Thank you also to the participants who made this practicum such a rich and meaningful process.   I know the practicum is coming to an end and that Tier 2 will be reshaped based on what you discovered. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

… oh and about Tier 3 … ?

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  1. Nikki

    Heidi! I loved reading this post and the others. You are a thoughtful and introspective teacher. I really enjoyed our ‘interview’ on perhaps the last night of the practicum. And I think it will continue! I was part of the think tank at the end of the summer and we supported the proposal of a meet time with some general focuses but also very open-ended in nature. Love the idea of the camp and the blog – thanks for sharing!

    1. Heidi Siwak

      Hi Nikki,
      This is a late response. I took a hiatus from my blog this summer. Thank you for your feedback. The practicum was an incredible experience and it was a pleasure to participate with such interesting people. I look forward to more learning through Ithink

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