Marketer and entrepreneur, Seth Godin recently wrote a blog on pattern recognition versus pattern matching. Godin writes that “Some people have erroneously concluded that the way to succeed is to slavishly follow what’s come before. Pattern matching is for amateurs… pattern recognition is a priceless skill that comes with practice, with the experience of noticing. The art is to see patterns, [and] to use them to do something new.”
We spend a lot of time pattern matching in education when we could be pattern recognising. A case in point was last month when I co-presented at the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) in Scotland. ICSEI is a professional learning community of practitioners, policy makers and researchers who meet to share and spread best practice across education systems around the world.
As I listened to presentation after presentation at ICSEI, I realised that no-one was talking about educational transformation. This was a sophisticated exercise in pattern matching. While conferences like ICSEI are great opportunities for building collegiality, we have to move beyond the concept of school improvement.
School improvement limits our collective imaginations because we don’t have to do anything new. The industrial model continues to prevail because it is so easy to replicate what’s come before.
Education now needs game-changers not add-ons. This can’t happen if we are still engaged in discussions that are narrowly focussed on improvement and effectiveness. Let’s use conferences and professional learning networks to create something new rather than slavishly improve the old.