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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Looking for opportunities: Wide-open opportunities to invent or build (Part 1)

Sometimes things are serendipitous!

Innovation has been on my mind. Not that it is never too far away from my thinking; but recently I have been thinking about innovation in schooling and why it might exist in individual sites and pockets but not systemically.

I work with leaders in a networked learning community. It seems to me that intuitively these leaders of schools and the principals’ consultant know what it is that needs to happen to not only improve schools but to transform them. The strength is in leaders working together to solve the problems that they face together.

Traditionally we tend to isolate school sites, their leaders and their teachers and expect them to find solutions to the professional problems that face them. System level support is more often than not isolated to individuals working in individual schools. Efforts to de-privatise practice seem to not deliver the improvements and transformations we might have hoped for.

This got me to thinking: Perhaps it is the system that gets in the way of improvement and transformation.

Schools are expected to improve and even transform to deliver learning for today; and yet systems don’t look to themselves to radically change. There might be external reviews leading to restructuring, but somehow things don’t change. Maybe schooling systems are more resilient than schools.

Yesterday two things happened that fed into my thinking:

Firstly, I met with one of my former Directors from Sydney CEO, Seamus O’Grady. In the course of the discussion we got onto talking about strategic management and annual team achievement plans that consisted of lists of what individuals might do to contribute towards the year’s strategic plan for the system.

An alternative might be a more collaborative approach focused on projects and initiatives rather than individual contributions.

Secondly, I had dinner with a leadership team I worked with a couple of years ago. In discussions with the principal we talked about the inadequacies of system support being controlled by the system. We discussed the position I have arrived at in my thinking:
That systems should provide structures and scaffolds that allows for the leaders across the system – school leaders and system (office) leaders - to work together as system leadership with a focus on system improvement rather than school improvement.

One of the ideas I have been playing around with is the notion of schools being held accountable to each other through peer to peer accountability such as principals being accountable to each other for the educational opportunities and outcomes of their schools.

Coupled with this is a re-thinking of accountability as being not just achievement based and competitive, but rather a for schools, by schools approach where it is as much in my interest for you to be successful as is for you to be successful.

This is counter-intuitive to market forces thinking.

Imagine schools working together for the good of our kids and society rather than competing for enrolments, achievement levels and funding!

Part 2 tomorrow: Looking for opportunities: “Greenfield” schooling.

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