Objective Oriented – 6 – Mental Models for Education

I’ve written about this before, so will only touch on it again briefly.

There are two modes of thought when doing something:

  1. Process oriented
  2. Objective oriented

The first asks ‘What must I do?’ then tries to do it.  The second asks ‘What must I achieve?’ and then tries to figure out how best to achieve it.

Most people are naturally process oriented, all the time, and it has two dangers.  The first is that it can make us feel we have ‘achieved’ simply be executing the process, whether results were realised or not.

In government, for example, having ‘distributed leaflets’ or ‘run x number of local information sessions’ might be given as measures of success to justify a programme’s spending, yet, the results (sometimes called outcomes) of those activities is never actually mentioned.  Did they change people’s behaviour in the way you hoped?

The second is that it can make it difficult for us to see ways of achieving better results.  We tend to focus on tweaking our existing process, rather than imagining an alternative way of reaching our objectives.

I give a clear example of this from the world of hand dryers in my original post, linked above.

In teaching, being process oriented would mean you see your job as turning up, doing some stuff that we’ll call teaching, and so long as you do that, you’ve discharged your responsibilities as a teacher.

Being objective oriented would mean you’re always asking yourself ‘But did the children learn what I intended them do?  How do I know?  If not, what am I going to do about that?’

In short, an objective oriented mindset leads naturally to the process of reflection.

What I find ironic in education rhetoric is that by asking teachers to be ‘reflective practitioners,’ we are focusing them on a process, rather than the objective…


About Kris Boulton

Teach First 2011 maths teacher, focussed on curriculum design.
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2 Responses to Objective Oriented – 6 – Mental Models for Education

  1. Pingback: Overview – 0 – Mental Models for Education | …to the real.

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