Educational Change: Questioning the Iconic Images of Teaching


The next time you schedule a professional learning opportunity, why not start with an exploration of the iconic images that “define” teaching. We know that these images are outdated and don’t represent the best of what we do, so why not lead the charge to re-imagine how the public “sees” our profession.

First, provide time for your peers to think about the images most often used whenever school, teaching, or education is mentioned. Needless to say, an apple, a notebook, a ruler, a globe, a red “X”, a green check mark, a teacher in front of a class of students seated in rows, a chalkboard, a pile of textbooks (often held together with a leather strap), and students seated at desks or tables are among the most common representations of our profession, but we’re sure you’ll find many more.

Next, assign an image to each person or each group in the professional learning community and provide time for participants to explore:

  • the history behind the image and
  • the intended and unintended messages the image provokes.

Then, begin an exploration of change. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Once you uncover the history of the apple as an icon of education, create a new icon and explain the rationale behind your choice
  • Once you uncover the history of an X meaning incorrect, create a new icon re-imagines the notion of “incorrectness” to include the thinking that went into making the error
  • Once you uncover the history of a check mark meaning correct, create a new icon that represents where correctness leads
  • Once you uncover the social implications of how the countries of the world  are often portrayed on a globe, create an icon that represents the study of the world and its cultures in an equitable way
  • Once you uncover the rationale behind using textbooks, create an icon that represents the use of text as one way of gathering information about a topic

Finally, make a concerted effort to change the images of education you use. Redesign your letterhead, your messages home, and your black line masters to include your new icons. To spread this notion of re-thinking the iconic images of our profession, share the new icons and the reasons for the changes with the school community and the press. Challenge them to use these new images and to shift away from images of apple, textbooks, and students seated in rows.

So, to sum up . . . educational change begins with moving Beyond the Apple.

For more professional conversations about education, please visit:Beyond the Apple . . . Reframing Conversations in Education or contact us at

About Beyond The Apple

Beyond the Apple provides everything a Professional Learning Community needs! Designed to follow Beyond the Apple's Tenets of Adult Education, our videos re-ignite the excitement of professional conversations among educators in the classroom, university, colleges and professional training. Our free teaching and learning resources provide a follow up with more information that is current, research based and practical.
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