Who’s Missing?

One of my friends recently remarked at how much I’m reading lately.  I’d like to credit my boss, Jan Murphy, for really sticking to her guns and carving out time for our SWST team (and friends from the ELL and French departments in our board) to meet and talk books.  We’ve read some awesome stuff this year.  If it wasn’t for her leadership, this probably wouldn’t happen.

Currently we’re reading To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink.  One of the greatest nuggets to come out of the book so far is the idea of conversation mapping:


Xs indicate each time a speaker has spoken.  Arrows show if the person has addressed someone while speaking.  According to Pink, the map gives a “visual representation of who’s talking the most, who’s sitting out, and who’s the target of people’s criticisms or blandishments.”  

I kept thinking about how this would compliment Natural Curiosity’s Knowledge Building Circle (KBC):


At the end of the circle, the teacher has an archive of student voice.  Ideas have been recorded (as accurately as possible to preserve student voice).  If the KBC transcript is then mapped out, the teacher can also see any conversational bias that might be taking place.  Using this information, the teacher can take deliberate steps to hear from the students whose voices are missing.  Maybe those students don’t do well in a large group setting.  Maybe they need more time to think out what was said.  Maybe they need a different medium to express themselves.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Pink’s mapping exercise also makes me think of a diagnostic assessment that happens in the Developmental Assets program.  In the assessment, individual photos of all of the students in the school are posted on a large wall.  Each staff member is given a pack of stickers.  When they see a student that they have a relationship with, they mark the photo with a sticker.  Through the process of marking photos, the school gets a visual representation of who is missing from conversations.  They get a very real idea of which students aren’t connected to their school.  They can then make steps to include them.  

None of this ensures that students voices will be heard; however, if we don’t mindfully look at the conversations that are happening in our classrooms, it’s pretty hard to maximize their educational impact.


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