BLOG - Beginning with the End in Mind

2021 blog school year Jul 30, 2021

Recently, with a mask securely fastened on my face, I looked through a shelf of different meats at a local deli. Tucked to one side were bags that were marked ‘ends’ – those final 4-5 cm of a larger piece of meat. They are most often sold at a fraction of the cost and, for reasons that I am not totally certain of, are considered less desirable. They are what is left…found at the end.

The notion of an ‘end’ is something that we talk a lot about in education. In particular, the  phrase ‘beginning with the end in mind’ is often used. However, it is usually in relation to the start of something –  an initiative, an inquiry cycle, the school year – rather than a cursory acknowledgement at the close of something.  

It also seems that when that phrase is heard, we collectively nod our heads in agreement. Yet those six words hold significance for our instructional and leadership planning and, therefore, learning.

As we consider this phrase at this time of year, here are some things to think about:

  • Learners who know where they are going are more likely to get there and are better able to self-monitor progress along the way.
  • The “end” should be co-owned between teacher or leader and learner. When the “end” is held by only a few, the learner can be confused about why the learning is happening to them.
  • The ‘end’ needs to allow all learners to see themselves and needs to respect that all learners are different; though the ‘end’ may be held in common, the pathways to that ‘end’ can be as diverse as the learner beside whom we stand.
  • The ‘end’ requires relevance. Teachers help learners to see that the learning that is to be done is far more important and powerful than being part of a checklist of outcomes, standards, or expectations to be ‘covered’. Making connections to life outside of the classroom can build a compelling purpose for the learning.
  • If the “end” are ideals like personalization, learner self-efficacy, or aware and engaged citizens, then instructional sequences will be characterized by flexibility, responsiveness, and differentiation.
  • Few teachers indicate that they have enough time to consider all of the learning outcomes and expectations outlined in curricular and jurisdictional documents. The old adage, ‘Time is of the essence’ comes immediately to mind. Therefore, when one is clear with the ‘end’, one can ensure that the instruction, the strategies and activities used, and the evidence gathered are in service to that end; the alignment is tight.  
  • When the ‘end’ is clear, then the evidence that will be gathered to determine the degree to which a student has achieved that ‘end’ also becomes clear. For example, students who are learning about being empathic citizens will need to be observed in the ‘act’ of being a citizen. No project or well-crafted paragraph can illuminate whether the student can actually be an empathic citizen.

In other words, the ‘end’ is a carefully crafted destination – not something that just extemporaneously happens. When we thoughtfully begin with the end in mind, we consider every aspect of our practice. This is a learning opportunity that focuses on the powerful role that deliberate planning has on learner success.

And so, as we stand at the start of another uncertain school year, we know that having a plan – beginning with the end in mind – will bring a degree of calm and assurance to whatever may lie ahead!