Opening up thinking about education today for tomorrow - Imagining possibilities and solutions

Friday, November 02, 2007

From Knowing to Doing

Recently I was working with a group of teachers who had formed a learning network with a focus on assessment.

In the discussions around what they had learnt from their involvement a theme seemed to be emerging:

We know what the research is telling us about assessment
for learning, feedback, strategic questioning and teaching for deep understanding. We know we need to do something. However, the doing is hard.
This knowing-doing gap is hard to bridge. Pfeffer and Sutton address this issue from a corporate perspective in their book, The Knowing-Doing Gap. In the book they state that, “Knowledge that is implemented is much more likely to be acquired from learning by doing.” (p.6)

Underpinning the doing is the need to operate from a philosophical base that guides not only what is done but why it is done. The development of philosophical inquiry and a shift away from pragmatism in schools may assist in the doing and develop deeper professional understandings.

Some other key points for consideration in bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap in schools and school systems include:
  • Overcoming obstacles rather than identifying why it can’t be done – A can do approach;
  • Not substituting memory for thinking – there can be tendency to fall back on the default position of how things have been done in the past meaning that things often are not really thought through;
  • The need for cognitive closure (Pffefer and Sutton, p. 88) by bringing assumptions to the surface, challenging the sacred cows and providing opportunities to recreate;
  • Encouraging courageous behaviour (Pffefer and Sutton, p. 107) – what I would call responsible risk taking;
  • Recognising that there is no learning without error (Pfeffer and Sutton, 131) – my belief that it is possible to fail forward to success.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Enough of reviewing - let's put the energy into improving

I've had the opportunity to have spent 3 days working with leader colleagues from across the Parramatta system of schools facilitated by Michael Fullan.

It was refreshing to focus energies on possibilities of improvement by building capacity that is beyond formulaic reviewing and measuring school effectiveness. I love the phrase that I picked up in Scotland when visiting there in 2006: "Weighing the pig more often doesn't make it fatter!"

Achieving improvement
Michael presented a framework that focused on improvement through PRECISION and SPECIFICITY around what works in moving things forward with a clear focus on a small number of goals. To achieve improvement three things are needed:
Transparency of results and practice + Non-judgementalism + Good help.

I think that this is what Tim Brighouse did to bring about the change in Birmingham under his stewardship.

The challenge
The challenge for me, and for all interested in school improvement is to engage in authentic ways with schools communities, the teachers, their leaders, the students in exploring the issues that challenge the school.

A theory of action
The way forward inovolves developing a Theory of Action that has the dual effect of improving learning outcomes and life opportunities for students as well as building the capacity of the school. With this would come increased satisfaction in teaching.

An unrelenting focus on learning
What is required is an unrelenting focus on students and their learning, with a precision and specificity focused on Pedagogical Synergy - the alignment of curriculum, assessment and pedagogy(teaching/instruction).
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