Predicting the future

Recently I have cause to review the schools 5 year plan for IT with a view to updating it however in doing so I have come to question the process.

Part of the reason for questioning the process lies with my recent reading of Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and also The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb which I am currently reading.    In both books the author examines our ability to predict the future, with both authors arriving at the same conclusion, being that human beings track record in relation to future predictions is generally poor.    Both authors cite a variety of projects, where predictions in relation to costs and timescale in particular are required.   In each of the examples the project either ends up taking significantly longer or costing significantly more than anticipated.

Thinking about my own context, I oversaw an IT overhaul in a school back in 2007.   This was very much focused around updating the existing server and client PC infrastructure and developing a long term, 5 year plan for maintaining and renewing the equipment.   Had I been able to predict the iPad and its potential applications in education, which was only 3 years away and therefore well within the scope of my 5 year plan, my plan and also some of my actions may have been significantly different.

Given the above I have taken a different approach to my new 5 year plan.   I now accept that the further away from today, the more variable and unpredictable the future is.    Reflecting, this should not have been a surprise as unpredictability is compounded, like financial interest over time.   If you look at your mortgage bill and the total repayment amount you can see how a few percentile points compounded over a period of time can result in a significant increase on the original figure.   So a small percentage of unpredictability played out across a number of years would result in a significant level of unpredictability.

My new 5 year plan has a lot of detail in terms of what is planned for the coming 12 months.    Planning for the 2nd 12 months contains less items as this period is more difficult to predict, with planning for the 3rd year and beyond being progressively less detailed in line with the increasing level of unpredictability.

Now my thinking thus far has been focused on longer term planning in the magnitude of around 5 years with quite clear implications for periods extending beyond 5 years however is a similar issue applicable to short periods?    Can we accurately predict things within a single academic year?  If the answer to this is no then what implications might this have for planning within schools?    I also wonder about lesson planning however that may be for another posting.

How often do you engage in long term planning and in doing so have you considered quite how unpredictable the world is?




bulbThe other day I was reintroduced to something I had seen a while back but forgotten about; the five minute lesson plan (   An excellent resource for planning lessons that is quick, focussed and clear yet effective.    I then came across a mention of the 5 minute lesson review (, which is equally quick and focussed.

This reminded me of De Bono’s book, simplicity.   As a fan of some of De Bono’s books, I can’t say I found simplicity to be one of his better works however in this case it got me thinking. I remember starting teaching with lessons plans listing the objectives, time, student activities and teacher activities.   Not long later I remember being told to add differentiation as a section to my plan.  This was to improve my plan by making sure I referenced how my lesson was to include differentiation.   A little bit further into my teaching career and SEN students and G&T students were added as boxes to fill in.   The lesson plan was 2 pages by this point.   Again, a little further on in my career and yet more columns, rows and boxes were added in order to further “improve” the lesson planning process.  References to blooms taxonomy, learning styles, etc. had to be included.   The process of planning a lesson by writing a plan now took time I didn’t have plus was a complex process, having become so in the quest for improvement.

But what is the core point of planning?   To me its the quest for outstanding lessons where learning takes place for all students.   Does the filling in of 100 different boxes help?   I don’t think so and those adopting the 5 minutes lesson plan seem to agree.

If we can over complicate something as simple as the lesson plan,  what else have we overcomplicated in the sphere of education?

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