April 25, 2008

From Reliance To Alliance

After reading ed4wb's post on April 10, I have been engulfed in thinking about his statement,
If we are to make progress that actually helps lead us toward well-being, then schools will have to move away from fragmentation and independence as ways of thinking and instead, redirect educational efforts toward system thinking, connectivity and cooperation. Even though connective pedagogy is never going to be as easy as the highly formulaic and devised-for-convenience model of today, it’s what is sorely needed to help overcome the major challenges of the day...
Wow. Now match this up with DuFour's work regarding Professional Learning Communities and Wiggins' and McTighe's UbD work and you have a quite a potent cocktail to sip and savor.

So it's been over 14 days since the ed4wb posting. Every spare thinking moment and has lead me back to the concept of Interdependence in schools. I took some time to create this crude visual:

Seems to me that education, in general, is stuck in the Independence model. Evidence? Mission statements, school beliefs, practices (like ranking and "student of the month"), and even the much loathed supervision methods. You know how it goes, I come into your class, watch you teach, observe student interaction and participation, then give you some feedback. It's very much about the individual, not the culture or the community. This is exactly why I prefer alternate assessments for teachers. More on that in a future post.

Some thoughts on leading/coaching/moving to a culture of Interdependence in a school:

  1. Acknowledge. What state are we in? Are we dependent upon the chain of command to get things done? Are our students and faculty happy just being left alone to do their thing? Identify the present to get to the future.
  2. Speak. Dependent cultures begin to move toward Independence (and you can't get to Interdependence without first being Independent) by establishing a sub-culture of healthy dissent. Much like a child, the dependent organization needs to break free from the control and begin to move toward Independence. Stifled Dependents can begin with the most powerful tool educators have - the art of speaking out and persuading.
  3. Persuade. A building or district leader can't expect or demand Interdependence until the culture sees and experiences benefits from collaboration, sharing, and team-designing. I start small by building coalitions and small PLCs just to wet their appetites and allow them the "aha!" moment.
  4. Model. Why would anyone follow or believe in some one's message when their practice is unconvincing? Thus creating a culture of Interdependence calls for leading as an Interdependent. Ask faculty for ideas, request points-of-view, dialogue, delegate, and celebrate the small acts of collaboration and teaming.
There has been a lot of talk recently about teacher's being treated and seen as professionals. I can think of now better way to remedy this than to allow teachers to pool their knowledge, abilities, talents, research, and information, fostering collective and collaborative designs, to create and develop curriculum, spurn initiatives, and implement projects. PLCs, PLNs, and UbD are excellent ways to begin to move from a culture of Independence to Interdependence.

Now, if we could only take this concept one step further... from the faculty room, to the classroom. That's an interesting thought.