Greetings families, students, and Shabazz community members,
In a recent podcast, I heard a researcher in the science of complexity describe intelligence as the process of reducing the uncertainty of reaching a specific outcome or goal. According to the researcher, when we act intelligently, we reduce the uncertainty of reaching a goal. From this perspective, nothing is assured or guaranteed. We cannot be sure we will reach our goal or our desired outcome--outcomes are never a given, they are probabilities. However, we can reduce the uncertainty, or make it more likely that we will reach our goal through intelligent action. In fact, we know we are acting intelligently when we increase the likelihood that we reach our goal.
Of course, reducing uncertainty can be fraught with challenges. For one, if we are unclear of what our goal is, it will be a real challenge to act intelligently. Finding the proverbial needle in a haystack is not so challenging as long as you know which haystack and that you are looking for a needle. For example, we can burn the haystack and use a magnet to find the needle in the ashes. However, if we are unclear about what we are trying to find and where, then it becomes an impossible task. In this context, clarity of a goal, is not just helpful, it is a necessity.
Another challenge in reducing uncertainty is in the very nature of determining if we are taking actions that increase the likelihood of reaching our goal. Sometimes it is really hard to determine if the actions we are taking are having the desired impact and are moving us toward our goal. It is really helpful if there is clear feedback to guide our progress. For example, a compass can guide us in maintaining a specific direction, we know when we are moving off course. Without this guidance, it is easy to wander in the wilderness, never reaching a destination. If we are to reduce uncertainty, it is helpful to have evidence and data that can guide us in knowing if we are taking the right action.
At Shabazz, we are constantly in the process of clarifying our goal--what do we want our students to know and be able to do when they leave Shabazz. In this process, we are continually determining what we need to do in order to reach that goal. What actions can we take, what systems can we develop, that will reduce the uncertainty that we will reach our goal? How will we know if we are on the right track? What evidence will we look for that can indicate if we are moving toward our goal?
To act intelligently, clarity around purpose and evidence of progress are necessary prerequisites. For years, we have worked to bring clarity to our purpose at Shabazz. We defined our purpose around critical thinking, leadership, and communication. We created rubrics to describe what high quality discussions, argumentative essays, presentations, and collaborations look like in the classroom. We worked on setting more specific learning targets in classrooms. We collected data on students growth and change in these areas. All in an effort to clearly define our goal and collect evidence so we can act intelligently in creating a safe, engaging, and authentic learning experience for all students.
Although there is no certainty, we can work to reduce uncertainty in meeting our goals. When we take actions that reduce this uncertainty, we act intelligently. Good luck in your endeavors and in reducing uncertainty around the goals that are important to you. Take care of yourself, take care of others, and take care of the community.
Aric Soderbloom, Principal