20 September 2022

Maciej Winiarek: “We need to flip the classroom relationship and put the student in the center of the education system”

Interviews

“I think we should increase the potential of children now, which will enable them to take responsibility for their own learning. A teacher and a parent are just supportive persons”, says Maciej Winiarek, an expert in critical thinking, former director of the TOCFE (TOC for Education) Foundation in the USA for Poland.

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a methodology for identifying the most important limiting factor (i.e., constraint) that stands in the way of achieving a goal and then systematically improving that constraint until it is no longer the limiting factor.

In this theory the limitation is understood here as a factor slowing down our achievements or achieving the set goal. This theory is used in many fields, we will concentrate on education. Today we are joined by Maciej Winiarek, an expert in critical thinking, former director of the TOCFE (TOC for Education) Foundation in the USA for Poland, co-founder of the Non-public Thinking Zone school in Gdańsk, a Family Lab trainer, educator, publisher, blogger, presenter and certified tutor.

20 years ago, after leaving the corporate world, he decided to introduce a number of changes into the Polish school education system. Now Maciej is publishing and bringing to Poland innovative solutions for parents and schools involving the Theory of Constraints for Education. The program was created in the late 1970s and its creator was Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt, a physicist, business leader and best-selling author in the field of business. Having used his principles with great success to solve a range of problems in some of the world’s largest international corporations, Dr. Goldratt decided to apply them to the field of education as well.

Maciej Winiarek brought to Poland the most interesting materials, programmes and methods that he was able to introduce into the Polish school system, which, he claims, is rather poor when it comes to innovative ways of teaching focused more on the child than on the teacher. “In Poland the majority of methods are concerned with increasing the teaching potential of teachers. I don’t agree with that, I think that now we should be increasing the potential of children, which will enable them to take responsibility for their own learning. A teacher and a parent are just supportive persons”, says Maciej. In his opinion the most common constraint that children usually have, one which disturbs the educational process, is the teacher.

“I don’t want to say that the teacher is a bad person. What we are saying in TOC is that teachers are not constraints because they are bad people, they are constraints because of their lack of attention. It’s impossible while teaching to focus on 25 brains in your class. We are not talking just about focus, awareness, but also knowledge. Every brain in the class works differently, so a system in which the teacher is responsible for teaching and the children’s success is just an illusion. The teacher who is in the center is just a constraint on the process of learning. When you flip it and put the student in the center, then it’s completely different – the student becomes responsible and acquires the proper tools. There is a lot of research all over the world that shows that the old Prussian system is not effective. Every different method that engages students is more efficient than the teacher centered one. Of course a system which creates a teacher-center as a constraint is also a constraint. The whole centralized education system is a constraint. It was good when it was invented, it was a revolution, but now that we are know much more about how we learn, about how our brain works, we should slowly but officially change the way we do our education”, says Maciej, and underlines that children don’t need a provider, they need a moderator.

“You have content, you have knowledge – via the internet, via a telephone with access to the content – and in such a situation the teacher is not necessary. The teacher’s role has to be changed from teaching to moderating. The new role of the teacher is to know how to start the class, how to introduce the subject and theme, what kind of interesting and triggering exercises should be done. The teacher gives the thinking tools to their students, they allow them to work in teams of three to five people, so we have three to four teams in the class, and during this process the role of the teacher is that of a moderator. The teacher steps back and gives space to the students. They learn, analise, search for material, they come to conclusions, and the teacher is a person who moderates the process. What we have started with the Theory of Constraints, this process of improvement in the classroom, will never stop, because we now have the chance that next time we will do something different to make the whole process more efficient – you will give students different thinking tools, teams, questions, you always can make some improvement and achieve the most efficient process, and this whole process will never end”, claims Maciej Winiarek.

Originally the Theory of Constraints as applied to the business world involved nine thinking tools. Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt gave three thinking tools to his foundation TOC for Education:

What is the biggest constraint in school? (Episode 5)

The Theory of Constraints is a methodology for identifying the most important limiting factor (i.e., constraint) that stands in the way of achieving a goal and then systematically improving that constraint until it is no longer the limiting factor. This theory is used in many fields, we will concentrate on education. Today we are joined by Maciej Winiarek, an expert in critical thinking, former director of the TOCFE (TOC for Education) Foundation in the USA for Poland, co-founder of the non-public Thinking Zone school in Gdańsk, a Family Lab trainer, educator, publisher, blogger, presenter and certified tutor.

1)The logic branch – this tool allows you to identify cause and effect, to see and to understand the causality of the process.
“The problem is that we don’t see the process, we don’t see the connections”, says Maciej. “Visual graphics and other visual tools allow children to see cause and effect clearly. That is important in our life, because all science subjects – math, physics, ect. – are about processes. The more the students use this tool the better they will be at finding causality in all subjects”.

2)The cloud – this is a tool to understand and solve conflicts.
“It’s the most powerful tool in TOC for Education in the world”, Maciej believes. “I am familiar with more then 100 thinking tools, but still the cloud is the most powerful tool for me, because it allows one to see, understand conflicts, to see all the underlying needs, assumptions and beliefs behind any given conflict, and to do this in a non-violent way, without assigning blame. You need a lot of self-analysis, and the ability to see and emphasize the other side of a conflict because you understand the person who is against you.”

3)The ambitious target tree – this is a tool which verifies your vision and then, in a very simple but very powerful process, allows you to achieve the goal.
“This tool for me is a tool about «my dream come true»”, Maciej claims. “Because we often wait for our dreams to come true, but you have to do something to make your dream come true. You take the tool, you make your strategy plan, and it is so easy that we teach this tool in kindergartens to four and five year olds, and I teach the same tool in corporations. And it is a sign of Eli Goldratt’s genius that all his tools are so simple and yet so powerful”.

Theory of constraints is focused on competence development. “We are much more specific than when I started 20 years ago. Now we are developing our four C’s: critical thinking, cooperation, communication and creativity. With thinking tools you develop your critical thinking, you work in teams, you develop communication and cooperation, and always the goal of the team is to come up with a new idea with an original conclusion and original solution. You have to make an environment where children can have fun. Because while they have fun they learn most efficiently. The four C’s is our goal”, Maciej concludes.

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