Visionary Vagueness

Structures to "protect" us.

Structures to “protect” us.

Schools are overwhelmed with structures. Almost all of them are limiting. Don’t go off script. You have to implement this curriculum or policy. All students must… Bell schedule, hallway passes, class periods, subjects, graduation requirements, AYP, school improvement plans, … 

Most schools have layer upon layer of structures related to classroom management, behavior, standards, curriculum, assessment, and more. Almost everything structurally about school is designed to control either teacher, student or both.

My friend Kiffany Lychock uses the term “visionary vagueness.” This is the idea that there needs to be space in institutions for great change to happen. Leadership at all levels needs to give people the freedom to experiment with ideas, new and old. So how to “structure” visionary vagueness?

PBL is one of the few structures that allows for creativity, teacher judgment, and freedom for both teacher and student. It respects teachers as professional designers of student centered learning and students as agents of their own learning. Some people think student centered learning is a “free for all” but that is not the case. At the other extreme some people may think that all structure is limiting. PBL destroys both of these misnomers. It provides structure and freedom at the same time.

PBL is a structure that gives freedom for people to be innovative and student centered. PBL lets people think structurally about innovation and changing schools.

If you are interested in learning more about the PBL process, please drop me a note on my contact page about my PBL workshops.

2 thoughts on “Visionary Vagueness

  1. Craig

    I struggle with the balance of space for experimentation and systems-based structure. I see problems on both ends, but most research supports the implementation of consistent systems to improve student outcomes. That is based primarily on standardized test results, which I know you are highly skeptical of. I do think that even within the flexible structure of PBL, there needs to be consistent structures in place to ensure quality. I have certainly witnessed the “free-for-all” type of feel in several buildings where I have worked and observed. If the projected outcomes are vague, the end result will be mediocre at best.

    1. Michael Kaechele Post author


      My point is that PBL IS the structure that supports student-centered learning. I am not arguing for no structure, just appropriate structure which IMO PBL provides. PBL is the system and done right includes multiple levels of informative assessment and feedback protocols such as critical friends that leads to high quality results. Of course some people may bastardize PBL, like anything else, and have poor results.


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