Are We Seeing The Forest – Or the Trees?


The picture I am using is one I took in my yard. I think the scene represents a wonderful metaphor for the “Instructional Core”

As we know, one of the drivers for effective systemic reform is a tenacious focus on instruction as the fulcrum of change. Richard Elmore writes of the “Instructional Core” and says “you can’t change performance without changing the instructional core. The relationship of the teacher and the student in the presence of content must be at the centre of efforts to improve performance.”

At the center of this important relationship, is the task of learning in which a student is involved. A teacher must be able to observe a learner involved in the task of learning, ascertain the student’s interpretation of the task and the actual learning that is occurring, and adapt practice when learning objectives are not being met.

In this image, we see a student, being instructed by his teacher (in this case, a parent) in the presence of its content (So? What is our problem or challenge here, and how will we solve it?). Another student was on the ground taking the picture – me – recognizing that I was part of those bears’ content – and I had a little problem of my own!

With a focus on the instructional core, we are able to personalize the learning experience for our students, shaping and adapting practice according to each student’s context. We can identify a problem of practice, and work collegially to find solutions to perplexing challenges we face with students each day. It is essential that we work collaboratively to take the most powerful ideas and put them into a coherent form that is distinctive, and that redefines the leading edge of improvement strategies.

In a coherent system, all resources, strategies and systems are aligned with a focus on the instructional core – with a razor sharp focus on each student.

This enables us to see both the trees – and the forest.

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