Author’s note: In a previous blog I shared 45 options for Taking Informed Action. This post builds on those ideas.

I am happy to share with you two learning experiences I participated in this summer. Although not intentionally related (one happened in mid-June and the other at the end of July), the two events intersected at multiple points.   The result is a dynamic complementary relationship between two educational models which facilitates deeper inquiry and yields more purposeful informed action.

The first event one was a multi-day design workshop attended by teachers from multiple Virginia school districts. Our goal was to design multiple C3 Inquiries for elementary level students in the Virginia Studies course. Overall, the teams of educators generated roughly a dozen inquires, which will be field tested this upcoming school year and ultimately augment the Virginia Hub’s inquiry options.

The second experience was a five day institute on Harvard University’s Project Zero hosted by the Washington International School (checkout the twitter feed at #WISSIT19!). Roughly 200 educators engaged in selected breakout sessions and plenaries focusing on the use of “Visible Thinking” routines and the nurturing of “Cultures of Thinking” at our schools.

So, where does the C3 Inquiry Design Model (IDM) and Project Zero (PZ) intersect?   I think Neil Postman, in The End of Education, captures their relationship best stating,

“Everything we know has its origins in questions. Questions, we might, say, are the principal intellectual instruments available to human beings.”

In other words, where the IDM generates approaches to inquiry and taking informed action, PZ’s thinking routines nurture the dispositions students need to construct understanding throughout the inquiry which result in the design of meaningful action plans. In turn, it is essential teachers select routines that will guide and inspire student thinking.

To that end, I am highlighting thinking routines that are part of the Agency by Design (AbD) project housed under Project Zero. In their own words, AbD, empowers students to:

“…look closely and reflect on the design of objects and systems, explore the complexity of design, and understand themselves as designers of their worlds. Accordingly, the Agency by Design framework describes three interrelated capacities that help learners develop a sensitivity to design: Looking Closely, Exploring Complexity, and Finding Opportunity.”

Collectively, the three routines I have selected from AbD the “Systems Thinking” routines as they each ask students, in their first step, to identify the parts or components that comprise any system. From there, the routines focus on different relationships and agents in the system being explored. Take a look at the outline of the three routines below:

Links: Parts, People, Interactions;    Parts, Perspectives, Me;   Parts, Purposes, Complexities

By utilizing any of these routines during the inquiry, students will launch into a deeper understanding of the context and nuances of the questions they are investigating. How teachers implement each routine must be intentional and therefore suggestions to do are provided on the AbD website. In general, students should work with each other to examine the system and document their answers. The most effective way I’ve seen staging of these inquiries is using images that relate to the Compelling Question of the inquiry. I have included some samples below from the Virginia Hub.

Links: How Do Dictators Achieve and Maintain Power?;    What Rights Should the Accused Have?;    How Much is too Much? Government Involvement in the U.S. Economy

After students complete one of the “Systems Thinking” routines, a blueprint will be produced that informs their plan for taking informed action. Specifically, students will have identified multiple options (parts) for their audience, purpose, and potentially the action they wish to take.   By seeing the complexity of their inquiry’s context and the possibilities for engagement, students deepen their understanding of systems and individuals. Ultimately, this leads to the empowering of their own agency now and in the future.