Common Interest: Changing the Narrative

In our latest Leadership Engagement, Thoughtexchange partnered with leading education research organization, NCERT, to host a conversation with David Berliner, the author of 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools. The conversation was about pervasive public education myths and the factors that could correct these misperceptions.

This is a topic we have addressed before – looking at how small groups can change narratives. While a strategy for change is key, one of the most important aspects of changing a narrative is having a unified message. It is in looking at the results of our latest leadership Thoughtexchange that our interest analysis shows its value. Specifically, the common interest thoughts that emerge after the Star step.

Thoughts that we characterize as “common interest” are thoughts that all participants agree are important. They are thoughts that unify groups. In this engagement, education leaders across the US were unified around three key messages:

1) We need to celebrate:

“We need to celebrate the great work that is occurring in our public schools rather than letting media tell a story that does not represent our work. We need to be vocal.”

– Actual thought supported by 12 leaders and assigned 37 stars

2) We need to stop blaming teachers:

“We need to stop blaming teachers. The most important part of a quality education is an outstanding teacher. The rhetoric around low test scores being about poor teachers is simply not accurate. Education is far more complex than it is being portrayed and this rhetoric is discouraging great teachers from teaching altogether.”

– Actual thought supported by 15 leaders and 44 assigned stars

3) We need to evolve:

“Public schools need to evolve. Teaching and Learning will look very different in the next 10 years. We are a function of society and the “workplace” model that public education has had for 100 years is changing. The need for “go to school” is being eliminated. The need for good instruction will never end. Teachers are needed.”

– Actual thought supported by 12 leaders and 39 assigned stars

These common interest thoughts can be distilled further into two core messages: Celebrate and Evolve. Leaders in this conversation see the power of celebrating the work that happens every day in schools. They also see the power in creating a new vision for education, where outstanding teachers are celebrated and central. Returning to the role of minority influence theory, unifying around a simple message and then repeating, repeating, and repeating it has the potential to impact broader narratives.

This sentiment was also expressed in the top thought that came out of the conversation:

“If every educator in the country started telling only good stories about public schools, I believe we could change the narrative.”

– Actual thought supported by 17 leaders and assigned 58 stars

About the Author

Shonagh MacRae

Shonagh is our Director of Discover and describes herself as continually curious about people. This curiosity led her to a Master’s in Organizational Psychology where she learned a whole lot about how humans interact in groups and how to support them. Shonagh has also spent a lot of time in her community supporting at-risk populations. This work further honed her ability to connect with a broad range of personalities. When she’s not working with Thoughtexchange, Shonagh is most often found out in the garden with her hands in the soil.

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