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Accountable Talk Ain’t Just for Kids

Authored by Lucy West

How often and how deeply do teachers, coaches, principals or district supervisors explicate their reasoning and hold it out for scrutiny by the professional community? How often do we speak up, ask questions, challenge assumptions and dig deep when it comes to questioning our practice

and beliefs? How many of us avoid these behaviours for fear of offending someone or being seen as resistant or difficult? When people around us do question our beliefs or practice, how many of us receive these questions with an open mind and an inquiry stance?

According to the research of Kerry Patterson and his team at VitalSmarts (, the number one characteristic of a healthy learning organization is the willingness and ability of people at every level of the organization to speak up to anyone in the organization – no matter rank

or title – when they see or hear something that doesn’t sit right with the mission, espoused values or agreed upon behaviours of the organization. How many of us speak up and do so skillfully? Isn’t this what we are asking students to do? I wonder how educators who do not themselves engage in

these practices can teach students how to do so?


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