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

Saturday, May 10, 2008

All at sea in possibilities

The last few weeks have been intense with learning for me. Being a person who likes to explore connections and possibilities as threads emerge means that my mind has been and remains all over the place. All of a sudden "being lost in my own thoughts" makes sense!!

So what has been pre-occupying my thinking?

Students and their learning
  • The importance of knowing the learner and expecting all to learn at a deep level
  • The possibilities that exist for schools as we understand more of the nature of the learner and learning
  • Shifting from the atomised pieces of teaching (ritualised teaching) to opening up possibilities for the learner through deep learning, thinking and creativity.

Teachers and their teaching

  • Why finding excuses in the kids for why kids can't learn is so ingrained in teaching
  • Depersonalising the teaching from the teacher as a person and linking teaching with learning.

Designing learning spaces

  • Understanding the learning environment as the "third teacher
  • The need to have principles of learning to shape and inform the design of learning spaces
  • Does the space shape the practice?

Teaching as the learning profession

  • Building the learning within professional teams to deal with the complexities of teaching, not just training for delivery to achieve results
  • Teachers' agency and teachers leading learning across the school
  • Teacher inquiry and knowledge building and the place and nature of networks
  • Learning conversation that capture new learning and how to further develop and share the learning
  • Identifying what's worth sharing with others in the profession.

Transforming schools for 21st century

  • The tension between developing goals for schools and keeping an open-mind for unforeseen possibilities
  • The invitation to engage the imagination to reconceptualise schooling
  • Moving beyond best practice leading the rest to developing next practice.

Over the next little while I'll muse more publicly here about these, but would welcome any thoughts.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Enabling factors for robust frameworks to develop teacher agency, creativity and innovation

Recently Greg Whitby had a reflection on his blog Bluyonder titled Bogged down by accountabilities. This caused me to revisit my thinking from my Churchill Fellowship. A strong motivation for the trip was a concern that I had that accountabilities were stiffling creativity, innovation and the profession.

I share Greg's view that too often accountability is about blame rather than responsibility. I believe that teaching needs to become the learning profession. This means that teachers need to be the key decision-makers, but that decisions need to be made from a position of informed professionalism. Elsewhere in this blog I have expressed a concern with an emphasis on measuring and reviewing schools, and less of a focus on improvement.

Greg indictates that schools need robust frameworks from which good decisions about learning and teaching are made. I believe that these frameworks require teacher agency, creativity and innovation.

These enabling factors are not always recognisable in large scale reforms of schools and public accountability agendas. Further information on each of these enabling factors can be found in the ACSA paper I presented in 2007 and in my Churchill Report (see links).

What might be some enabling factors that allow for the creation of these robust frameworks?
  1. Trust the professionals.
  2. Build flexibility and adaptive capacity within and between schools.
  3. Create a culture of professional authority.
  4. Develop teacher agency and leadership.
  5. Develop informed professionalism.
  6. Strengthen collaboration across the profession.
  7. Foster networks for learning.
  8. Evolve communities of learning.
  9. Promote disciplined innovation.
  10. Harvest intellect and capture new knowledge.
  11. Build professional knowledge.
  12. Build capacity across the profession.
  13. Develop next practice.

A number of factors were identified that appeared to limit the development of robust frameworks that promote teacher agency, creativity and innovation . These include:

  • A political cycle and motivation that is focused on short-term reforms and lacks authentic engagement of the profession as well as the community;
  • An absence of incentives, rewards and acknowledgements for teachers engaging in improving the profession;
  • Focusing on the tools and processes of school improvement rather than the profession and people;
  • Over-emphasising the importance of positional leadership to bring about school improvement and under-valuing teacher leadership;
  • Emerging managerialism at the expense of leadership;
  • Focusing on reforming schools rather than transforming systems of learning;
  • Bureaucratic inertia and linear policy thinking that prevents the evolution of systems of learning;
  • Assumptions that education systems do have a strong focus on learning and have a learning culture;
  • Innovation fatigue with a few involved in doing the work.
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