Over the last year, I’ve been facilitating a departmental redesign with a small group of high school Business teachers. I blogged about it a bit just after we began this work, and last month, teachers sent the new outcomes for each endorsement and their course descriptions to press. As an instructional coach, I’ll be working with them throughout the rest of this year to design new courses and co-plan in ways that will help to make their vision a reality. Their new department will be open for business beginning next fall.

We’ve all been learners in this process. This began with an investigation of what it might mean to be a successful business person in the future and which skills might serve such people best. Then, we explored the programs and courses offered by some of the most highly regarded colleges and universities in the world and by those that exist in our own backyard and identified how they aligned to what we were discovering. Teachers took an honest audit of what they were currently offering learners in comparison to this and determined where they wanted to begin making some changes. They began thinking about the kids that they wanted to graduate—what did they want them to be capable of? What did they want them to know how to do? How would they gain this expertise?

Some of this work wasn’t as overwhelming as it sounds. Determining what was working and why it was working provided us a foundation to build upon. Our research helped us consider courses to add. Beginning next year, students will be engaging in course work devoted to social media marketing, innovation and creativity, leadership, networked learning, self-branding and social entrepreneurship. Exciting stuff. This was the easy part though.

The greater challenges lie ahead of us. Designing courses that are truly inquiry-based and that help students generate products that will be used by consumers and not just graded by teachers will requires some shifts in practice. At first, teachers felt uneasy about this reality: they don’t yet know all that they want to about the content of these new courses, and they don’t yet know how to help students develop the skills they identified as critical.

Relief came with the realization that this was not only okay……in many ways, this not knowing was a gift.

The greatest teachers don’t treat their students as empty vessels in need of filling. They don’t see themselves as all-knowing experts.

The greatest teachers create the conditions for learning to occur. They position themselves as learners too.

So this is what we’re planning to do: we’re planning to study inquiry-based learning together, and we’re planning to establish a framework for this that will live inside of each of the new course offerings. As learners move through the process of inquiry inside each course, they will help teachers uncover what the most critical curriculum components could be. They’ll use what they learn to produce work that is valuable to real audiences using tools that align to their purposes. They’ll begin to assess the value of these courses, where their strengths lie….how they could be improved.

When mapping happens, it could happen with kids at the table….we need to think about that more. Not sure what I think or how I feel about that.

In general though, I’m thinking this is good stuff, and I’ll keep sharing here as we move forward.

Would love some feedback. What makes sense? What else should we be considering?



  1. Theresa Murray Reply

    Oh my! It sounds like such a wonderful project. The idea of inquiry based learning will benefit the students in such an incredible way. I am finding that my most successful activities come from turning the students loose to discover key ideas. I am working to make this approach more prevalent in my classrooms here in Syracuse. Please let me know if you need any assistance or reviews etc. The topics for those classes sound so front and center…social media, self-branding, social entrepreneurship. It’s nice to see someone stepping forwarding and creating new classes that will be meaningful for students in this current climate.

  2. The group received a lot of support from administrators who encouraged them to take risks and provided time on the front end to do a lot of learning and plan well. Theresa, it would be nice if we could connect with you sometime. This is new to all, and the group is small. I know they’d like to have input from others who are trying to move in similar directions. I’ll email you and perhaps we can connect with you via more than this blog sometime soon.

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