Recently I was honored to present alongside Dr. John Gardner at the statewide Student Success Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas, sponsored by the Arkansas State Department of Higher Education. During a fireside chat session, Dr. Gardner challenged all participants to identify their own “big ideas” and pursue them. Several people shared theirs, and their enthusiasm was contagious.

My big idea at this moment is to identify a community college that primarily serves a single school district and to work with the full spectrum of faculty, from kindergarten through college. We would identify the purpose, patterns, structures, and skills in each discipline, then develop consistent mental models for each. The mental models—visual instructional tools designed to help students understand and store abstract information—utilize story, metaphor, and analogy. Imagine how well prepared for college a student would be if her teachers used a consistent mental model for social studies, for example, throughout her K–12 career, and this same mental model was used as the guiding principle in her undergraduate work. And imagine how comfortable a first-year college student would feel if he were to hear his professors use key vocabulary with which he is familiar.

I plan to look for funding opportunities to pursue this big idea. If there are any community colleges or school districts interested, please let me know!