The Push Classroom vs. The Pull Classroom | Steve Barkley

The Push Classroom Vs. The Pull Classroom

I was intrigued as I read Drew Perkins post, Are You Pushing Or Pulling Students In Your Classroom?

In the post, he provides a diagram illustrating a push system where factories produce at maximum efficiency and dealers sell the product (pushy salesperson) compared to a pull system where orders from the customers drive the manufacturing process pulling products from the factory to meet the demands.

The PUSH vs. PULL Classroom

In the PUSH classroom teachers feel like a ‘pushy’ salesperson working to convince students that the material they’re selling is worth buying. Often grades or points are offered as the incentive for learning. “You’ll need to know this for the test or for working at the next grade level.” Teachers and students can be frustrated by the lack of authenticity in this compliance approach.

In the PULL classroom, the dynamics of teaching and learning are to pull thinking from students. They are empowered as they learn how to identify what they need to learn and better understand in order to answer a challenge or question. As an example, in project-based learning, a teacher initiates a project with a quality driving question and facilitates in a way that helps students identify what they need to understand and remember.

Teenage Students With Teacher In IT Class

Perkins suggests that in a push approach, teachers tend to start with the remember and understand questions from Bloom and hopefully work to more critical thinking. With pull, students enter into creating, evaluating and analyzing that requires them to seek knowledge and understanding. In an earlier blog, I shared Ron Berger’s identification of the problem with teachers’ beliefs about Bloom.

Berger shares how the original and revised Bloom’s Taxonomy provided educators with an understanding of the importance of giving students opportunities to work with all the skills: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. The problem he identifies occurs when educators interpret Bloom’s Taxonomy as discrete steps starting from the bottom and working up: assuming students must be proficient in one level to move up to the next one.

This hierarchical vision of discrete, sequential steps in learning was not Bloom’s intent. Nevertheless, it is now widespread among teachers and is as deeply troubling as it is fundamentally wrong. Most of the time we do not first memorize, then understand, then apply. We build our understanding in part through application and creation.” (Berger)

Being able to analyze, synthesize, evaluate…think critically and ask beautiful questions with and about knowledge is what we need to focus on. ‘Push’ teaching at students is a low-yield way to build those abilities let alone produce great test results. Prepare your students for the modern world by asking beautiful questions of them that helps pull profound thinking and deeper learning. (Drew Perkins) 

Teamwork concept with the word team

School leaders need to examine how their approach to teacher learning for student learning involves a push or pull approach. To what degree do we want a professional learning climate that models the desired student experience?

Stephen Gill identifies the difference in Push Training vs. Pull Learning:

Push training is a siloed, top-down, management-driven approach that sends people to formal training events where they receive nice-to-know information—as in, it will be nice to know someday. In contrast, pull learning is a learner-driven, bottom-up approach that enables people to access the information they need when and where it is needed.

He describes push training (attending, participating, testing) as being transported from school to the workplace, “a static system created to control and manage.”  Pull learning is bottom up, learner driven. It encourages collaboration often supported with technology. “The focus is on performance (what you can do), sharing knowledge that leads to better performance (collaborating), and providing two-way feedback about the information that affects what others will learn (communicating).”

Andy Hargreaves adds another word to the push/pull conversation: nudge (Push, Pull and Nudge: The Future of Teaching and Educational Change). Looking at Professional Learning Communities, he describes that teachers sometimes have  to  be  drawn  or  pulled  into  professional  learning  communities,  and  sometimes  they  have  to  be  driven  or  pushed  by  them. “However, pulling should not be so weak that it permits no collaboration at all, and pushing should not be so excessive that it amounts to shoving or bullying. Instead, collaboration will often require the nudges of deliberate arrangements to enhance learning.”

PLCs are not and should not be professional data communities or professional test score communities.  They  are  not  and  should  not  be  places  for  administrators  to  shove  questionable  district  agendas  on  to  teachers  who  are  gathered  together  after  busy  days  in  class  to  pore  over  spreadsheets  simply  to  come up with quick interventions that will raise test scores in a few weeks or less. (Hargreaves)

Since force can cause people to “game the system,” (exhibiting the appearance of compliance),and unlimited choice (full autonomy) can allow people to avoid responsibility, leaders may best consider nudging people’s decisions. Hargreaves provides an example of nudging for PLCs: Arranged Collegiality.

Arranged collegiality is a way of putting teachers in contact with each other. It is evident in scheduling that releases the right people to have an opportunity to plan together, within a grade level or across departments. Principals or coaches can cover classes and facilitate this planning. As conversations about teaching and learning emerge elements of recognition, trust and support can form. These kinds of arrangements make it more likely (though not certain) that high-trust collaborative cultures will develop.

How does “nudging” fit into your plans for teaching and leading learning?

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