Week 6: Raveling the Gordian knot of education… or starting to at least…

patrick_corriganillustration.jpeg.size.custom.crop.777x650Corrigan (2010)

Greek legend relates the tale of Alexander the Great and the Gordian knot.  The story goes that, when he arrived in Phrygia, Alexander saw an elaborate, intricate knot.  An oracle had predicted that anyone who could ravel the knot would rule over Asia.  After trying in vain for some time to untie the knot, Alexander the Great ultimately solved the conundrum by drawing his sword and slicing the knot in half.  Thus, the Gordian knot has come to represent intractable, or as we call them in this course, wicked problem.

My research partner, Noelle, and I soon discovered that education is a Gordian knot.  We had originally tasked ourselves with researching how to rethink or re-imagine teaching to meet the demands of 21st century society. We first grounded our views into the skilss and dispositions 21st century teacher “should” possess in Koehler and Mishra’s TPACK model (see the image below). In our view, teachers globally must be prepared to and ultimately inhabit the nexus of where their pedagogical knowledge, content knowledge, and technological knowledge intersect in order to embody and evince the qualities of an effective, savvy 21st century educator.  We then tackled our problem through brainstorming questions based on the questioning processes outlined in Berger’s (2014) book A More Beautiful Question to begin untangling and raveling or wicked problem of rethinking teaching.  We asked questions like, “What should a teacher be able to do in the 21st century?  What dispositions should s/he have?  Why isn’t the profession widely respected in the United States?  How would we change teaching?”


However, we soon realized that we could not rethink teaching without rethinking education as a whole.  No job exists in a vacuum (well, maybe astronauts, but that’s being a bit literal), and this is doubly true of teaching.  Teaching and learning are embedded in an intricate web of actors, policies, curricula, procedures, expectations, etc.  As a result, we quickly realized that we must take a step back and rethink education from multiple perspectives.  We asked ourselves, “What if we could rethink education from the ground up?”  To accomplish this, we utilized design thinking and a strategy known as a the circle of viewpoints.  We then revisited our questions and engaged in further brainstorming. The results of this fruitful process produced more focused set of questions and potential solutions that would serve as a springboard for our research into rethinking education (presented below in my infographic from Week 4).


We then crafted a survey to augment our own academic research in which we asked primarly fellow educators, staff, and administrators (due to timing and their accessibility) for their views on education and our proposed solutions (A clickable link to our survey is included here.  You are welcome to click on it and check out our survey questions!). Our Wicked Problem Survey!

As one might expect from a wicked Gordian knot of an issue like education, we discovered that reaching consensus proved elusive.  Nevertheless, our results from both our reading of research and our own data analysis indicate that our stance on the need to rethink education fro 21st century demands and our proposed solutions are on target.  Yet, they are only the tip of the iceberg.  Each solution only poses more questions. Therein lies the start of a fascinating, difficult journey through educational innovation grounded in the needs and expectations of those so intimately involved with teaching and learning (parents, students, teachers, administrators, policy makers, etc.). Streamlining curricula and standards to facilitate collaboration, flipping instruction, and infusing technology are only a few of our proposed solutions.  Please, clink on the following link to see what I believe is a truly interesting and inspiring presentation of all of our diligence and research!  Remember, this is the start of a larger foray into educational reform.  If it piques your intellectual curiosity and leaves you asking more questions, then we have been successful in our efforts.  As Berger would most likely say, take some time to live with those questions, wrestle with them, see what happens when you focus less on the answers and more on the questions…

Rethinking Education!



Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas (1st ed.). New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.


Corrigan, P. (2010, October 21). Untangling our Gordian knot [Digital image]. Retrieved June 24, 2017, from https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2010/10/21/untangling_our_gordian_knot.html


Harvard Project Zero. (n.d.). Visible Thinking: Circle of Viewpoints. Retrieved July 01, 2017, from http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/03_ThinkingRoutines/03e_FairnessRoutines/CircleViewpoints/CircleViewpoints_Routine.html


*Koehler, M. (2011, May 11). TPACK [Technological pedagogical content knowledge]. Retrieved June 28, 2017, from http://www.tpack.org/

*Please note that while Koehler and Mishra both developed the TPACK framework, Koehler is cited on the TPACK website as having posted the image that is utilized in this Blog post.


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