My career has allowed me to have one foot in the business world and another foot in the education world, which can at times seem like two very different places. But I’m often struck by how alike they actually are. Successful leadership is successful leadership, whether leading a corporation or a school. Creative problem solving is creative problem solving, whether in a business or a classroom.

Companies are divided into departments that specialize in specific functional areas (Content Development, Marketing, Sales, etc.). Too often classroom teachers bear the burden of trying to manage all functional areas on their own. What if you spread responsibilities out across your students and transferred the instructional cycle to them?

You identify the standard that needs to be mastered. Then divide students into the following functional groups.

Content Development Group: Ask this group to research information on the topic, to pull sources and data that would give the background information needed to understand the content of the standard.

Marketing Group: This group is responsible for taking the information and displaying it in a way that shows understanding, that tells a story, that communicates a meaningful mastery of the standard.

Sales Group: These students synthesize the information further, pitching the pros and cons of applying this knowledge in specific ways.

The entire class could rotate among these groups so all students have the opportunity to develop each skill set specifically.

4th grade Example

ELA Standard: Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third- person narrations.

Content Development Group: Identify narratives that have different points of view and select three first-person and three third-person narratives that you think would be good for comparing and contrasting points of view. Research information on points of view, including historic examples. Present the information you learned, explaining why you chose the narratives you chose. All students select one first-person and one third-person story to read.

Marketing Group: Create a survey for the class to collect data that compares and contrasts the point of views from the selected stories. Analyze the survey data and create a presentation that demonstrates understanding of the difference between first- and third- person narratives.

Sales Group: Brainstorm ways students can apply this knowledge (such as writing a selection of one of the narratives in a different point of view.) Select two or three options and present the options to the teacher for approval. Explain the merits of each option. Teacher offers approved options to the class, and all students choose one method to apply knowledge of the standard.

By collaborating, the students take responsibility for the lesson, and the teacher guides each group to remain focused on developing the skills and knowledge of the standard. This gives more ownership and engagement to the student and gives the teacher more time to differentiate instruction and provide meaningful feedback.

P.S. Administrators, this works at a school level as well. What if a High School principal tasked the Business class with finding grants for, say, an edible garden; the English class with writing the grants; the Physics class with developing an irrigation system; etc. What if?