Collaboration, Vision, and Learning Process

I found a useful powerpoint presentation on school turnaround challenges by a Dave Weaver at a regional SIG conference that focused on cultural and systems blockages to fostering collaboration in schools trying to turn around.  It references a book that clearly has some insight on building a school’s organizational culture in ways that foster collaboration and instructional improvement:   Instructional Rounds in Education, by City et al, 2009.  The authors argue for a medical intern learning model, where teachers observe each other regularly and discuss practices with the guidance of experienced mentors. We have found this kind of approach to be very effective in combination with teams engaged in inquiry into their current challenges.  Here are some useful summaries of the book’s points from the slides:

Challenge 1–Sanctioned Private Practice

  • “Most people in schools work in siloedcultures characterized by independence and autonomy.” (City, 2009, p 62)
  • Chronically failing schools “are organizations that support the private practice of teachers” 
  • “When you push hard on an essentially atomized culture with a strong set of external forces you too often get more atomized culture, not a more coherent one.”

Challenge 2–Lack of Vision & Purpose

  • “In most instances, principals, lead teachers, and system-level administrators are trying to improve the performance of their schools without knowing what the actual practice would have to look like to get the results they want at the classroom level.” (City, 2009, p 32)
  • There is often a “lack of an agreed-upon definition of what high-quality instruction looks like.” (City, 2009, p 37)

Challenge 3–Lack of Process 

  • “The problem is not that schools don’t have access to knowledge. Low performing schools are overwhelmed with people from multiple sectors and multiple levels of government telling them what to do.”
  • “Most educators are working at or very near the limit of their existing knowledge and skill.”
  • “The problem is that they don’t have a process for translating that knowledge systematically into practice.”

The Bottom Line:
Schools that…
– Sanction the private practice of teachers,
– Have no clear vision of what effective instruction looks like in practice, and
– No mechanism in place to put research into practice
have little chance of improving what goes on behind the classroom door

Many Most school improvement efforts do not address these challenges EXPLICITLY.

This entry was posted in Changing the Discourse, Coaching, education reform, Effective Teaching, school coaching, school improvement, school reform, Schools and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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