Monday, November 4, 2013

Not Just for Ecology- What is Your Carrying Capacity?

Recently I have been spending quite a bit of time trying to do some long range planning. In doing so a concept that I routinely taught in my Social Studies classes came into my head; carrying capacity.  The short definition that I am aligning my thoughts to is: The maximum population of a particular organism that a given environment can support without detrimental effects. (Taken from

In terms of long range planning for a school, I obviously need to swap some terms here.  My current endeavors have me thinking of carrying capacity in terms of:

  • "what is the current carrying capacity of X" vs.
  • "what is the potential carrying capacity of X without changes to an environment" vs. 
  • "what is the potential carrying capacity of X with changes to an environment"

Below are a few of my recent pondering using a carrying capacity reframe.

  • What is the maximum number of initiatives educators can support without detrimental effects to students
  • What is the maximum number of unique Ed-tech platforms/apps/workflows students & educators can support without detrimental effects to learning
  • What is the necessary amount of artifacts/data points/tests/etc. that a student should/can produce in order to demonstrate proficiency without detrimental effects to intrinsic motivation?
Granted this has more often than not, led me to more questions than answers. Such as:

  • What are we doing that is supporting something other than learning?
  • Are we being true to our core values? 
  • Is an issue rooted in the environment? If so do we have control of that environment?
  • Do I have an accurate picture of the current conditions effecting teaching and learning?
  • What can, and should, we STOP doing?
  • If our current reality indicates that we are at carrying capacity, is that Ok?
  • Is a change/program/initiative's focus really on learning, or is it something else? 
While by no means is this an exhaustive list of questions that emerge, nor is it a be-all end-all frame to guide all planning. However, I believe that framing issues in terms of carrying capacity has helped me plan and focus on what is important, sustainable and available to support the current and future success of our school.

Give it a shot and let me know what you come up with.

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