This blog follows closely on the back of my colleague’s recent blogpost (http://anneknock.com/2012/08/05/becoming-an-innovative-school-my-top-10-ideas/) as I consider her thoughts and some recent consultancy experience. What are five of the key considerations I can see in leading a learning community down fresh pathways?
1. Cast vision as clearly, concisely and strongly as you can
When it comes down to it, vision becomes the greatest unifier and direction-setter you can draw from. When ideas might be challenged, you can fall back to vision. The stronger you cast vision, share vision, grow vision, the more aligned everyone’s thinking will be under the ‘stardust’ of that vision.
2. Claim & reclaim conversations: be forward thinking & inspiration based, never reactive or defensive
In the sometimes battleground of change, look to the future as the rationale for thinking. What is the world these students will graduate into? Is it likely to be the same as ours? If in doubt, use a resource such as the NIC documents (see links). The world of 2025 / 2030 will require divergent, collaborative thinking and action. It will involve urgent conversations about food production, access to water, shifts in world economic and ideological power. The learning spaces of today must be preparing the leaders of tomorrow with the tools to address these issues. They will not be using current technologies. Those technologies are still only dreamt of at present. However they will need the thinking skills and challenge-based learning strategies immediately available to us.
3. Know the big picture of educational best practice – but resist resorting to empirical evidence of improved data to be the reason to justify change
I am often asked to provide the evidence that new learning spaces are better for learning or that changes from teacher-delivery or ‘industrial’ model teaching is no longer the best method. Yes, I could provide every evidence available to me that the data highlights that the learners for whom I am responsible have only gone forwards. Has any one single change created that? May be yes, may be no. Prof John Hattie’s effect size table suggests it is the combination of strategies that will have the most impact (see link). My experience? National data suggests our students are consistently moving ahead in a ‘value added’ way; staff and visitors to our learning community can clearly see that the learning culture is stronger than other cultures and owned by the individual learners; students are positive (and can articulate hope) about the future – but most importantly, they are being daily resourced in a relational environment to be the functional thought leaders and problem solvers the world and our communities will need.
4. Identify your team and grow people
This is a big one. Let’s face it. Education faculties and government policies worldwide have not taught teachers how to innately work collaboratively. Many colleagues are great at having conversations, sharing coffee – but when it comes down to the core skills of sharing a task, we often default to that which we have experienced: separation – trained to be separate teachers, working in separate rooms on separately created class programs. As education leaders, we have to tackle this one head on. Every teacher professional activity needs to involve teamwork at some level. Even better, make it the primary learning mode. How I can I justify taking up the collective time of 100+ professionals by talking for longer than 5 minutes. The lost productively is alarming. How much better to get those people into teams of their own choosing, working on relevant challenges linked directly to their core tasks and gradually learning the skills of collaborative problem solving? NASA did not get a vehicle on Mars through the efforts of one person. I’d love to know how many teams contributed to pulling that one off.
5. Be resolute – just do it
This one is a given. If you spend time working out a ‘safe’ way to introduce change, you will either waste months (probably years) on small scale trial programs, rather than taking the ‘risk’ of using your professional intuition, training and experience and allowing passion to direct the way. We have to accelerate change in education because traditional change processes will only ever see schools continually needing to catch up to society, business, technology – the world. What will the learning world of 2025 or 2030 look like? It will be the world that we will shape it to be! Take the lead and #justdoit.