I have taught all grade levels from 7-12 in Social Studies over the past 16 years. Most recently I taught at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, an inquiry-driven, project-based high school focused on modern learning. My practice has deep roots in experiential education, taking students from the classroom to the real world and back again. Before finding her way to Philadelphia, I was an active member of the teaching community in Flagstaff, AZ where I was named Technology Teacher of the Year for Arizona and a member of the Arizona Master Teacher Corps. I was also featured on TED.com for my “How to Learn? From Mistakes” talk and recognized for earning National Board Certification. My publications include a featured piece on the New York Times Learning blog, co-authoring a chapter in an educational leadership book, an article in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy and contributions to teachinghistory.org. Over the past two years, she has been invited to work with teachers throughout the United States and the world on project based learning, inquiry in the classroom, modern teaching methods, and structuring modern learning ecosystems. Her current endeavors have her serving as Lead Teacher and Managing Director of Inquiry Schools, a non-profit focused on creating schools that are authentic, vigorous and empowering for all members of the community.
Check out Media and Resume/CV for links and more information.
Hi…. hope this finds you well.
Found you via Bridging Differences.
Enjoy your voice over there.
Look forward to now seeing your blog.
Hi Diane, I am intrigued by your JJL posts on failure (YES) and your thinking about Richard Rothstein’s new book. What did you conclude?
The Rothstein book is, imho, a must read … along with Dan Koretz’s book as well. There are a number of troubling things going on in the world of accountability and assessment, at the national level, that seem to be ignoring much of the credible data. National standards, accountability and assessment movements seem to be striving for what is measurable instead of what is meaningful and this is a dangerous path to be on. Both aforementioned books expound upon this in a coherent and compelling fashion.
Regarding the issues of failure… the craze to be right seems to outweigh the need to be relevant. Failure is inevitable and welcomed in almost all circumstances for learning. Learning, real learning, is tough (and hard to measure).
Bruce Lynn said:
I saw your Tweet to @paulawhite which pointed to your great list of delicious bookmarks on the topic of embracing failure. I have been blogging myself specifically on this topic for years now.
You might find the following posts on the topic of education of interest…
Patience, Commitment and Plenty of Failure: http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!1013.entry
Tinkering and Decorating: http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!992.entry
Reunion Wizardry: http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!455.entry
Failing the Game to Win the Bigger Prize: http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!417.entry
Glorious Failure: http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!393.entry
Remaining an Artist: http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!266.entry
Conscious Competence: http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!194.entry
Lousy Teacher: http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!134.entry
Depriving Kids of Failure: http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!115.entry
Rise Each Time You Fall: http://brucelynnblog.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!B5C035B7809F740A!112.entry?wa=wsignin1.0&sa=529341022
Hi- saw you posted a link to our website (Timeplots) on Twitter- thanks! We can provide a small discount for educators who want to purchase the Supreme Court print for the classroom – email me at email@example.com for more info!
Hi Diane! I just saw your TED talk, it’s great! I’m so glad I came across it! I love the concept of embracing failure. I teach Chinese and I’m wondering how to implement the kind of ideas you mention for something as rigid as Chinese! Any suggestions are most welcome! Once again, great TED talk!
Thank you for the kind words. In my experience, you find out what works for the students in the different learning spaces. I think with something like Chinese, I would encourage you to welcome the students to ‘make mistakes’ with pronunciation … as I found that the most daunting thing when I was traveling in China – the correct pronunciations. There are so many ways to work with students to help them feel comfortable enough to take risks even it is as small as being willing to go out on a limb to pronounce a foreign language. Creating warm, encouraging spaces for learning is key.
Diane, I saw your TED talk. You gave me goosebumps. I think just writing that tells you how deeply you touched me and made me FEEL. What better commentary can you hear than that?
May I ask two things? I have young children and I know that I need to find environments like that for them. My community is very much about doing well on the bubble form tests and I need to be sure that I teach them and expose them to the “real” stuff (Irvine, California is that place) If you know of great schools that I should check out, I’m all ears, but I’ll also do my work there.
Then, if we do get stuck with leaders who aren’t “you”….what can I do as a parent to help along this process? I know that is huge…..
Thank you for inspiring me and validating me. Claudine
Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and leave those lovely words on my blog. For your questions, the truth is one that you already know… that much of what you will do to deal with this situation will happen at home. That being said…
1. I’ll ask around in my network to see if anyone in the Irvine area has suggestions…
2. I would look for programs in the area that support kids investigating their world… and help the school to bring those opportunities to the school – Ask the administration about their hiring priorities and see if the parents can voice support of teachers that are more progressive – Attend the school board meetings and listen for awhile, then start asking questions – Find your fellow travelers in the community and see if you guys can’t get some traction.
Good luck – I’ll get back to you with any information I can dig up on inquiry driven/PBL schools in the Irvine area.
I just watched your talk on TED.com. Excellent! I’m also from Wisconsin, born in Milwaukee, moved to Germantown, then Menomonee Falls, and then De Pere for college at St. Norbert. Then to Oshkosh for a year and then Waupaca and then I settled in Green Bay for almost 20 years where I raised a family.
After that, after I became a single mom, I moved to Clinton, Iowa, and now I’m in St. Paul back in school.
So, I wondered where in Wisconsin you are from. I read one of your blogs and I thought I read “Lawrence,” and if that’s the town, what I can say about it is the Lawrence Fire Station you always see on Hwy. 41. But I have friends who live there, too.
I love your ideas about creative education. My children went to Aldo Leopold School in Green Bay – an alternative school which was excellent. They taught them how to learn on their own.
well, I just wanted to touch base, being from the same neighborhood, and wish you all the best in your teaching.
Such a small, small world we all inhabit. I was born in Alma Center, Wi – which is in west central WI – off I94 between Madison and Minneapolis. I lived in Lawrence, KS for three years, then Flagstaff, AZ for 8 years and have been in Philadelphia for the past 2.5 years.
Thanks for your kind words and reminding me about the Also Leopold School – Knowing how to learn when no one is watching is such a gift. I’m glad your kids were able to have that wonderful experience.
I definitely know where Alma Center is. When I lived in Waupaca in 1973-74, one of my co-workers was from there. Now, if you’d ask me her name, I am not sure I could bring that back.
You have already taught me a valuable lesson about not always being right … it’s the way we learn. Imagine a toddler who falls down and then never gets up. They take it all in stride.
Thanks again for your inspiration.
Rajarshi Banerjee said:
I saw your presentation “How to learn from mistakes” in TED. Its an concept which really needs to be spread. I truly believe its possible to do so.
I am from India, the education system in here is 95% textual. Which of course works in here taking in consideration population. But the reason to study has become different. It has become like you take a bath to look fresh, not hygiene. Similar no to know how and why but just to get going in life. May be my example seems weired 🙂
I have some concepts which are similar as yours, to make a difference.
I would like to share my concept and have your opinion,see how can it be done.
As this is not a forum to discuss the ideas, found the only way to get in touch with you.
If it seems worth please provide your email or contact to explore more.
Great work keep it up.
I get your example. I think that some of the issue with the system is in regards to relying to heavily on a singular approach. Differentiation is good in the classroom, but it is also good within the system.
Look forward to talking further about your ideas…
Rajarshi Bannerjee said:
Appreciate your patient reading and interest to my idea. My ideas are not to by pass the system but mold the system in a manner where knowledge is shared not forced.
I don’t wana discuss it on this forum. If you can provide your email we can share the ideas and see if that makes any sense or change..
I sent an email on Dec. 23rd and just resent it. Check your spam, it may have gotten caught up in there.
pan papacosta said:
just watched your ted talks talk on education. as a father, i am passionate that children are encouraged to ask questions.
curiousity, passion and joy seem to be missing from school. i live in the uk and our kids need a better system then what is on offer through government educational curriculum.
if you have any insights to what might be available in london for kids here, as an alternative, id love to hear them
kind regards pan
I couldn’t agree more that “curiousity, passion and joy seem to be missing from school”. It is a problem. I am glad that you are both aware of it and looking to provide something more for your children.
I am not aware … right now of alternative programs in the London area, but will ask around in my network and see what I find out.
Watched your Ted Talk and was really amazed at your passion for teaching…. I have been reading your blog and have noticed so many things that were really interesting to me.. and could potentially solve some of my major issues a lot of my friends and I are dealing with… Would love to get your perspective on it and share it. Please do provide your email or contact to reach out to and we can discuss further.
Thanks for connecting. I look forward to connecting with more conversation on teaching and learning. I can be reached by email here. http://scr.im/dlaufenberg
Just saw your video on TED….I Support you and your views… We need more of you and people like you to speak.
I wish for you to even more prominent. I will spread your word as far as I can.
Gods |speed and may your words of sanity wash this land and redeem it from homogenization and the defence of a old system too scared to allow change for the change will be like the wall of Jericho and the sacred halls of established educational edifices will tremble with fear as the philosophers of our time hold session on the street corners of the urban center will finally be heard, and the knowledge and wisdom born in reality will prevail where the stodgy stalemate of academia hold on to the precious relic of the past dominions. This is their last bastion and unless we allow a new open source approach we will be moth balled into oblivion.
YOU MUST continue to speak… For our futures sake..
I have a story for you….
I was at an event last night and was speaking to an Asian mother of a 17 year old and in this discussion she noted that her daughter was afraid of making mistakes and it worried her. Her daughter was going to University next year and she said ..”My daughter always needs our advice on almost all her decisions she makes… I worry that she will not have the coping ability when she is away from us..”
I asked her “is your daughter a bright and accomplished student?” The mother said YES top marks of the school!..I asked…”was your daughter allowed to make mistakes and was the idea of making a mistake celebrated or penalized in your home?” She replied..” Mistakes were not allowed and or celebrated, we ,or rather my husband was very very strict and harsh”…
I responded with some advice I had to help the mother perhaps bridge a gap. I offered that in the months ahead that she and her daughter set about doing something new that they have never done before and then learn from the experience without prior preparation. .I said ” go do it, go try, go attempt, go fail, go debrief and go celebrate the effort and the wisdom gained after”. She almost cried and said ok… then i finished by saying… Pat yourself on the shoulder for a job well attempted. You will do it better the next time..or maybe not…it my just be a different route to the same result.. it will in the end still be an education!”
We both smiled and she departed….
Thanks for your encouragement. There is much work to do in helping students become the best versions of themselves. Best of luck in all you do toward that goal.
Rachel Torgersen said:
I just watched your video on teaching and learning for today’s student. I LOVE IT!!! I am a teacher in Ohio and I too like to get the kids involved in REAL learning. I am curious though about your grading of student work. When you talked about the students failing, but learning from their failures, what grade did they actually receive? Would love to know more…
Grading is such an evolving thing for me. The shifts I’ve made over the past 14 years… in the manner in which I grade are readily apparent. I plan on actually writing about this in the near future as it is a question I am asked frequently. Check back in for a post later in the break and hopefully I will have crafted something by then.
Kareema Martinez said:
I am the founder of ESTEEM Publishing, a d.b.a. of KST Family, Inc. Our focus is building self esteem in children through publishing books and providing parents and teachers with resources.
I watched your video this morning about children learning from mistakes. It was posted on my company’s Facebook wall at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Building-Self-Esteem-in-Children/135711776472833. I must say…it was awesome! I am very impressed by you and your message.
I’d love to interview you for my website’s Expert Corner. Would you be interested? Please contact me if so and I’ll fill you in on the details.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for your time,
Thanks for stopping by Kareema and thanks for the kind words. I look forward to working with you on this.
Just saw your TED Talk and it warmed me up a bit on this icy winter morning 🙂
I co-run a discussion-based blog (Polytricks – polytrickal.tumblr.com) and we’re starting our next topic: Education Innovation. Would you be interested in participating, per your experiences and hopes, via phone or email interview?
Most of the contributors and myself are recent college graduates and we are passionate about education innovation, based on our own experiences in the public education systems of the south.
We are currently reaching out to teachers, administrators, students and educational innovators to include in our panel.
Thank you for your time.
Doug Lawrie said:
I just watched your 10 minute video on TED speaking about educating children by allowing them to fail! This couldn’t be more profound, amazing and true!
I have been a proponent of “Failing Forward” (thank you John Maxwell) for over 3 years and in my line of work (Golf Professional) I see failure first hand all the time…it’s golf you are going to make mistakes. I instruct lessons, coach teams of College kids and also teach at the College Level in a Golf Management Program. It has always been a MAJOR idea of mine that as an instructor you have to realize that similarly to golf everyone learns differently (golf everyone swings it differently) so you have to adapt, change and challenge you “charges” continuously.
My daughter is a 13 year old grade 8 student who “goes at her own pace”. I know she is very much like her father; sociable, all about friends, wants to be involved with everything at once, but does the work at the last minute. Your video just opened my eyes into how she is learning and that “standardizing” my expectations is the incorrect way to make her feel valued.
Thank you Diana, teaching is NOT what is used to be. The students have all changed because of technology, information access and if we don’t embrace this as instructors and influencing leaders then we will fail to do our job.
Thanks for your kind words. The golf connection and all sports offer much in the area of valuing and processing ‘failure’ as a part of learning.
Regarding your daughter, I taught middle school for 8 years and there is almost no other group that I enjoy teaching more than 8th grade girls. I am sadly in the minority on that one, but find them fascinating, challenging and so ready to learn… but it may not work just like the other kids or in the exact same way. I try so hard to accept the individuality of the student walking through the classroom door, so as to appreciate those differences.
See you on twitter!
Hi Diana –
I saw your talk on TED. I’m not sure what’s the best way to contact you, so I started with Twitter, then found this. I sent you a follow request (I think – not the best with Twitter yet).
I’m working toward obtaining a teacher’s certificate to teach middle/high school science and am interested in 21st century education. I really agree with your talk about mistakes and I admire your unconventional and engaging teaching methods. It validates personal conclusions I have formed about education, based on self-evaluations of my own learning as it relates to the current system. I love technology and believe that it has incredible potential for the future of education.
The field is still emerging and it is difficult to make connections with people who care as much as you do. I am enthusiastic about new ideas, innovation, and change, and I also want to be a focused, effective teacher. I wonder if you would be willing to answer a few questions. I would appreciate any information or guidance you could provide.
Thank you for your time,
Mark Salata said:
Thanks for the TED talk. I have tweeted it to my followers. It resonates with my philosophy that comes from the quote “Regard Man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.” – Baha’u’llah
I noticed that your school has a one-to-one (laptop) program. My background is as a science educator who has been working as a consultant for inquiry-based learning. Do the students use any digital books for science on them? If so, what do they use?
Brady Peters said:
It looks like a lot of people have watched your TED talk! I, too, am one of those people. Thanks for sharing. I grew up and went to school in a small town in Kansas, and I experienced first-hand the incredibly empowering experience of a teacher that encouraged discussion, questions, and mistakes. Simulations, debates, and thought-provoking questions gave me a fresh perspective on the ways the world can work together.
Thanks for teaching.
I am writing to you from a library at the University of Washington as I study for a final that I have lost the motivation to succeed on. I have had a lot of success in school due to learning the rules of the game, but I have always been disillusioned with the way it is done, especially at the collegiate level. I am extremely passionate about this topic and I would love to get more involved in education reform somehow. I feel like I am experiencing two issues, one with people so used to the status quo of the current education system that they feel like new ideas are just idealistic and unnecessary. Secondly, people make me feel like the crazy person because I’m fed up with the current status quo of education, when they can’t see how education is failing them. I see education alienate talented and capable people all the time and so my passion is to find a creative education solution at all levels where people can really grow and become better thinkers and learners. I just don’t know where to start… that being said my main inspiration was your video and Sir Ken Robinson’s video on TED so that is why I am coming to you.
Thank you so much for your time,
Ed Gragert said:
Thanks for following us on Twitter. Fascinatingly coincidental since I watched your TED talk only 10 minutes ago! Very impressed and totally in line with our global educational network that enables young people to learn collaboratively with peers worldwide in project-based learning activities–all online.
Look forward to further conversations.
J.A. Ginsburg said:
I enjoyed meeting you and your friends at TEDxNYED over the weekend. Loved the video, but next time, maybe a little Nat King Cole / Natalie Cole live interaction with the video? 😉
just fyi: http://www.stuartjmurphy.com/vizlearning/2011/03/07/tedxnyed-innovation-the-future-in-an-era-of-cutbacks/
(on twitter @vizlearning)
I watched your “learning through failure” video. I generally liked what you said, except for the stress on “information” in your schooling. Your idea of asking a class to come up with their own visual presentation to communicate some information was great. It fits right into a “mathematics fair” concept we (The SNAP Mathematics Foundation) promotes.
What we do is divide a class – any class, even at risk kids in jail – into groups of two or three students, and assign them a logical problem. You know the type of problem I mean – you have a goat, wolf, and cabbage and you have to get them across a river using a boat that holds one person and one other thing. How do you do it.
The kids go home and solve the problem on their own. Then they prepare booths to illustrate the problem. Next step is to set up displays in a shopping mall or some other gathering place and challenge those passing by the solve the problems. The kids are responsible for it all, and they help the adults to solve the problems. Check it out at mathfair.com.
One other thing – for the kids in jail were so violent that they could not work together in teams, so in that case each worked individually.
We get super enthusiastic 100% participation. There is no formal competition, but the kids can see with their own eyes if another booth has a lineup and theirs is being ignored, and think about why that might be the case.
I could imagine booths being set up in your example in which teams of students presented information in a creative, graphic, way, but I could not think of any interesting interaction between the students in such a booth and visitors. But your idea does have some of the flavor of our math fairs, in the sense that it is student centered.
The idea of learning through failure applies to everything. I have notes about the risks when it comes to teaching. I earlier wrote you about our math fairs. Teachers who plan to put one on can get scared with warnings from fellow teachers: the kids might not participate, they may not be interested, the visitors will not care, it will break down into a big spitball fight,… All of these are possibilities ( but none have ever happened, yet), so there is risk involved in doing something new. That risk has to be taken in teaching, and if one fails one has to learn so that the next idea or the refinement has more chance for success. Risk means that failure is very possible.
Avron Stoloff said:
Hi Diana. Just heard your great NJECC keynote yesterday and wanted to show some people the videos you showed us that answered the question “What is the biggest problem that America faces?” and also the one that had the whiteboard writing. Can you tell me where to go to find them? Thanks!
All of the links to my presentation examples can be found at NJECC links and for the afternoon session the links can be found at Embracing Failure
I heard you speak at ITSC in Portland and I have to tell you that you put into words what I feel in my heart and head. I am just finishing my administrative program and hope to find a school that will support this kind of change in thinking.
My question is, how do you find places where the administration supports this kind of shift. I feel like as a profession, we know what the research says and we’ve seen that it can be done but we’re still dragging our feet.
Thank you so much for reaching out and offering such kind words. Finding places that support this kind of shift is hard if you are limited in geography. Not impossible, just more limited. So, I offer two things… start looking at the work of Will Richardson and his Bold Schools reporting – see if any of those places/spaces seem to match the type of environment you are after – or approach local districts with stories of these bold schools and offer a plan to start/transition a school in that district. This is not always an easy path, but there are teachers, schools and districts that are clearing the way and look to them for advice.
Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to help along the way!
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Karen Blumhagen said:
I am wondering if you would be interested in presenting a session to teachers about authentic learning?
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A quick question: can your blog be followed by email?
There is a ‘follow’ button that will allow you to get an email with new posts!