Are you ready to innovate?

Dear educational leader,

You don’t have to be an IB educator to embrace the universal attributes of the IB Learner Profile...

1. Are you a thinker?

Do you think critically about everything that happens in your classroom, your team, your educational institution? Have you thought about the ways the world has changed and whether your school reflects this? Are you thinking, right now, about why innovation is critical in education?

2. Are you open-minded?

Are you open to new ideas and different ways of doing things? Do you seek and evaluate different perspectives and grow from the experience? Are you rattled by change agents or do you seek them out?

3. Are you knowledgeable?

Do you constantly explore and question educational concepts, ideas and issues? Are you keeping abreast of new ideas and approaches to learning? Do you make it your business to learn from the people you lead?

4. Are you reflective?

Do you  constantly reflect on your own practice? Do you thoughtfully consider and evaluate every aspect of life and learning in your school? Do you invite your team to reflect collaboratively with you? Are you willing to take action as a result of your reflection?

5. Are you an inquirer?

Are you curious about new possibilities and other ways of doing things? Are you constantly researching, exploring, discovering and encouraging your teachers and students to do the same? Are you willing to take an inquiry stance and see how things unfold?

6. Are you principled?

Do you have strong beliefs about how learning takes place and what education should look like today?  Do you consider the alignment of practice with beliefs? Do you stand by your principles and fight for the change you believe in? Are you honest with yourself and others about why you might prefer to maintain the status quo?

7. Are you a communicator?

Do you communicate effectively with your entire learning community? Are you aware of the unintentional messages you deliver?  Do you invite dialogue and discourse? Do you listen more than you talk?

8. Are you a risk taker?

Are you willing to experiment even if the outcome isn’t clear? Are you willing to explore emerging practice, rather than find solutions in the known? Are you comfortable in the zone of confusion?

9. Are you caring?

Do you work at making a positive difference to the lives of others in your learning community and beyond? Do you have the capacity to place yourself in the positions of others and understand their feelings? Do you go out of your way to be kind and supportive towards others and encourage them to grow?

10. Are you balanced?

Do you understand the value of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve well-being for yourself, your teachers and your students? Do you embrace the necessary changes to achieve  this?

‘Why is innovation critical in education?‘ George Couros asks us to consider in Episode 1 of the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC. Just observe the changing world around you and you’ll have your answer. I’ve chosen, instead, to ask the above questions of educational leaders everywhere. And this one…

Are you ready to innovate?

 

Reference: International Baccalaureate Learner Profile. 

What if collaborative meetings always led to action?

What if collaborative meetings always led to action?

Starting with the end in mind, our team leaders considered what they would like participants to FEEL, THINK, BE, HAVE, SAY and DO after their collaborative meetings…

The consensus was for people to come out feeling motivated, empowered and challenged, with a sense of purpose and shared vision, eager to move forward with the implementation of new ideas. (Meeting Wise!)

So…

How might we create a culture of productive collaboration?

Team leaders reflected on the culture of their teams by using match sticks to represent their team dynamics, which proved to be both an interesting exercise in visualisation and a powerful reality check. (Thanks, @kjinquiry!)

The next step was to consider the conditions that might contribute towards a productive collaborative culture. Which of these are most important for all team members? How would you prioritise these and what would you add?

  • having a positive image of the child
  • being comfortable with cognitive dissonance
  • having autonomy/ a sense of agency
  • feeling safe
  • assuming positive intentions of other team members
  • having a clear purpose
  • contributing actively and equitably
  • being willing to grow, see things in new ways and open to change
  • having knowledge and understanding of pedagogy

And then…

How do we develop  a culture of productive collaboration within our teams?

Some of the ideas that were shared:

  • Create an essential agreement and agree on meeting norms
  • Acknowledge mistakes and share insecurities
  • Celebrate successes
  • Constantly reflect – individually and as a group
  • Listen to and acknowledge all perspectives
  • Ensure agenda is available in advance and input is open to everyone
  • Celebrate the zone of discomfort and ask people to try things
  • Be non judgemental
  • Develop trust and respect so tensions are easily talked through
  • Listen to each other
  • Always focus on the child
  • Ensure everyone has a voice
  • Compromise, affirm, reassure and encourage
  • Allow time. Be creative in finding time!
  • Keep asking questions  – Why? What if? How might we?
  • Be flexible
  • Try to understand where everyone is coming from
  • Take turns to plan and facilitate meetings
  • Bring others/ experts into the planning and reflection process
  • Be available as much as possible
  • Know when to lead and when to follow

And also…

How do we ensure our meetings are valuable?

Team leaders jotted down things they currently do in meetings and then evaluated those against a list of criteria that make meetings really valuable…

Collaborative planning and reflection meetings should: (adapted from IB PYP standards and practices)

  • take place regularly and systematically.
  • address all the essential elements of the PYP 
  • be based on agreed expectations for student learning.
  • consider the different learning needs of students.
  • address horizontal and vertical articulation.
  • include analysing and responding to student learning eg looking for misconceptions and patterns
  • involve teachers modelling the attributes of the learner profile.
  • ensure that our practice aligns with our learning principles.
  • take an inquiry stance, eg through framing inquiry questions.
  • consider the development of conceptual understandings.
  • include planning provocations, addressing our agreed purpose and criteria

These are some of the wonderings that came up as a result:

  • Who needs to be at meetings and how often should they take place?
  • Are there other ways to deal with administrative matters, outside of meeting time? 
  • If we spent time setting the tone for our collaborative meetings, would they be more productive?
  • How can we support teams which are not functioning productively?
  • How can we work around timetable constraints?
  • How can we share what we value about culture and content with our teams?
  • How might we address challenges in a solution focussed manner?
  • How can we get people to step up to facilitate a meeting?
  • What kinds of student data should we bring to meetings?

And coming full circle to where we started…

What action will this collaborative meeting lead to?

What will our team leaders (and you, the reader)  FEEL, THINK, BE, HAVE, SAY and DO as a result?

Cultural forces that define leadership…

What if Ron Ritchhart’s  cultural forces were applied  to the concept of leadership?

How might a leader, in any context, ensure that he or she provides time, sets expectations, engages in interactions, uses language, models actions, creates an environment and ensures opportunities that empower the community to flourish?

As a leader, irrespective of your context, what kind of culture do you create?

1. Expectations

Do you convey clear expectations and ensure shared understanding?

2. Modeling

Do you model the attitudes and dispositions you hope to see in others?

3. Time

Is there adequate time for in-depth exploration, planning, collaboration and reflection?

4. Interactions

Do you build positive relationships, respect the contributions of others and value diverse perspectives?

5. Routines

Are processes in place for  identifying problems, exploring solutions, reflecting and giving feedback?

6. Language

Does your language reflect shared beliefs, demonstrate support, reveal vulnerability and invite constructive questioning?

7. Opportunities

Do you encourage learning and growth, experimentation and innovation? Are there opportunities for new leaders to develop?

8. Environment

Does the physical, emotional and cultural environment facilitate autonomy, mastery and purpose. (Dan Pink)

10 ways for leaders to encourage agency…

My school’s focus this year, more than ever, is on student ownership and many teachers have set themselves the goal of increasingly letting go.  It’s been six years since I wrote 10 ways to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning and it’s still the post with the most hits on this blog, on a daily basis.  

Looking back at this surprisingly popular post about student ownership, I realise that most of the tips identified are the behaviours that effective modern leaders exhibit, leaders who wish to encourage autonomy and to shift from a hierarchical model of leadership to a distributed one.

And once again I note that what works with kids, works as much with adults!

What kind of leader are you? Ask yourself these questions… (not just if you’re a manager.)

1. Who makes the decisions?

How often do you ask your teachers, parents and students what they think? How do you ensure shared ownership of decision making? Do you work collaboratively to define problems and develop solutions?

2. Are you open to other perspectives?

Do you come with preconceived ideas, ask others’ opinions, then do what you wanted to do anyway? Or are you open to the ideas and perspectives of others, especially if supported by knowledge, experience and evidence?

3. Do you listen more than you talk?

Do you really listen to the people above, below and beside you? Do you listen to the changing world around you…? 

4. Do you model behaviors and attitudes that promote learning?

Do you talk about your own learning? Are you an inquirer? Are you an active participant in the learning community? Do you model and encourage enthusiasm, open-mindedness, curiosity and reflection?

5. Do you take an inquiry stance?

You don’t need to be the expert. Do you explore, experiment, reflect, learn from failures, try again… collaboratively? 

6.  How do you get your people involved?

How do you ‘invite participants in’ and get them excited to explore an issue further? Do you plan every detail or do you leave space for your people to make their mark?

7.  Do you value initiative above compliance?

Do your teachers know the reason for everything you ask them do? Do you implement one-size-fits-all rules that ensure compliance? Or do you encourage your people to use common sense and rely on professional judgment? Do you celebrate initiative?

8.  Do you focus on growth rather than accountability?

What kind of performance reviews do your teachers have? Are they evaluated against a list of preset criteria? Or do they have opportunities to set their own goals and have support and encouragement to grow?

9. Do you encourage reflection and seek feedback?

Do you get your teachers and leaders to reflect on experiences and initiatives and think about how they might be improved? Can you take notice of what they say and plan ahead based on their feedback?

10.  Do you display an innovator’s mindset?

Do you constantly look at things through fresh lenses? Do you ask yourself, and those around you, what you could change and how you could improve things? Are you willing to seek solutions that lie beyond the known, in the realm of emergent practice?

And remember… You can lead from anywhere.

An essential agreement for change agents…

Our Teaching and Learning Team has an ‘essential agreement’, inspired by this clip:

The Teaching and Learning Team agrees to…

  • encourage creativity and innovation
  • view everything through a lens of curiosity
  • embrace new possibilities and actively instigate change
  • create joy in new ways of doing things
  • foster a sense of ownership and empowerment
  • work hard to plan for and achieve success
  • work collaboratively and value teamwork
  • ensure learning is positive, engaging and fun
  • model positivity and optimism

… and encourage the above in everyone with whom we work.

In a PYP school, every class, every team, even the whole school has an essential agreement which sets the tone for collaboration and teamwork. How else would we know what the shared norms and expectations are? There are endless ways to develop such agreements and, since it’s the start of a new school year in Australia, all our teams and classes have been working on theirs.

It didn’t take long for our Teaching and Learning Team – Director of Teaching and Learning (Literacy) , Early Years Learning Coordinator, Head of Learning Support, Teaching Coach, Maths Coordinator and me – to come up with ours, since we already have common passions and a shared vision.

We watched the Piano Stairs clip, noted and shared how it relates to our roles and goals and.. voila! All we had to do was compile them into a list and we are ready to take on the new school year… and the world 🙂

 

 

Meeting Wise

Is every meeting at your school about learning?

Does every meeting connect to ongoing work and goals?

Do you come out of every meeting with a plan for action or a sense of where to go next?

To be honest, we often used to go round in circles in our meetings, talk at the same time, interrupt each other… We are a passionate bunch, and it was never through disrespect, rather a result of caring a great deal, having lots of ideas, wanting our opinions heard..

Since introducing Meeting Wise agendas, our meetings have become much more focused.

The Meeting Wise authors highlight four aspects for careful consideration when planning successful meetings:

  • Purpose
  • Process
  • Preparation
  • Pacing

Today in our meetings: 

  • The objectives are clear
  • Participants come prepared
  • Everyone has a voice
  • We have clear, expected norms
  • The content of the meeting relates directly to the stated objectives
  • Participants have turns to take on roles of facilitator, timekeeper, note taker, so…
  • Everyone has a sense of ownership
  • There is a sense of true collaboration within groups
  • Distributive leadership is fostered
  • We usually have fun!
  • We use effective protocols to ensure all the above
  • Participants leave with a clear sense of the next steps

I took most of these statements from the plus /delta we do at the end of meetings, in which participants share what went well and what could be improved. This is usually addressed at the start of the next meeting of the particular group.

Learning Team Leaders have received a copy of Meeting Wise and all teams are gradually improving their meetings by implementing the suggested procedures and protocols and adapting them to our needs.

Highly recommended!

(See my earlier post in which I applied the Meeting Wise questions to classroom learning.)

Effective School Teams

There are hoops on the floor and cards with each staff member’s name on them. The task is to silently place the cards into the hoops indicating existing teams in the school.

In the first round we are not permitted to move cards placed by others. It’s an interesting, yet frustrating process! How can I place some of the cards assigned to me if others have already created teams with which I don’t agree?

Once everyone has had a turn to explain their placements, we move on to the second round, silently again, now with the freedom to move and replace names in different configurations.

By the third round, there are overlapping hoops, string has been added to demonstrate connections across hoops and some names have been written on more than one card…

IMG_8792

The process reveals that:

  • Hoops are restrictive in exploring teams because they are closed circles and teams overlap.
  • We have many teams within our three campus school, some cross campus, some within. No-one works in isolation.
  • Everyone belongs to more than one team, some to many.
  • There are different perspectives on which teams people belong to.
  • Where you see yourself might be different from where others see you.
  • Some teams exist because of circumstance, some teams are imposed, some teams are chosen.
  • There are possibilities for new teams, which have not yet been considered.

The process is part of a discussion by our leadership team and the next steps will include all teachers examining the existing teams, defining their purpose, identifying the teams they belong to and would like to join…

Are all our teams effective?

  • Does every meeting of every team relate to learning?
  • Does every team have a shared sense of purpose?
  • Does every team have an essential agreement or shared norms?
  • Who steers the ship? Does every team have a leader or rotate leadership?
  • Does belonging to several teams give members broader knowledge and understanding?
  • Does belonging to too many teams mean you attend too many meetings and are spread to thinly?
  • What about informal teams? Unofficial groups who choose to collaborate?
  • Are all teams built on trust?
  • Do participants in every team learn from each other?
  • Does every team include healthy conflict and welcome different voices?
  • Are meetings well planned with clear learning related objectives?

and another question…

  • What teams do you belong to beyond the walls of the school?

Reflections:

  • One of the best teams to which I belong is an unofficial alliance, where ideas and thoughts are safely shared, analysed, criticised and developed.
  • Some of my most valuable learning comes from beyond the school walls – my global PLN.

10 ways to make meetings (and lessons) meaningful…

Does every meeting in your school relate to or result in learning?
If not, is the meeting worth having?

Does every lesson in your classroom contribute to meaningful learning, rather than completion of work?
If not, is the lesson worth having?

So far, I’ve read Chapter 1 of ‘Meeting Wise’ by Kathryn Parker Boudett and Elizabeth City, and I’m taken with it, right from the first two questions, with which I totally identify…

‘Have you ever had to sit through a whole hour when you felt like the substance of the meeting could have been handled in five minutes?’

and

‘Have you planned a thoughtful meeting only to have it derailed by a couple of rogues participants who have their own agendas?’

The authors highlight four aspects for careful consideration when planning successful meetings:

Purpose
Process
Preparation
Pacing

The meeting checklist they suggest includes twelve probing questions relating to the above, of which I have selected ten. The questions are theirs, the applications to the classroom are mine:

1. Have we identified clear and important meeting objectives that contribute to the goal of improving learning?
Do we know the purpose of every learning engagement in our classroom? Do the students? Is every single thing that happens in your learning space thoughtful and international?

2. Have we established the connection between the work of this and other meetings in the series?
Is it clear how today’s learning relates to other learning that has and will take place? Do students have opportunities to make connections with prior learning, construct meaning and apply learning in different contexts?

3 Have we incorporated feedback from previous meetings?
Do you seek feedback from your students about what they got out of learning experiences? Do you observe and listen to the learning and plan responsively?

4. Have we chosen challenging activities that advance the meeting objectives and engage all participants?
Are the learning engagements challenging, purposeful and engaging? Will they advance not just knowledge, but the growth of skills and attitudes that will matter in future learning?

5. Have we built in time to identify and commit to next steps?
Have we provided learners with time for thoughtful reflection and consideration of how to take their learning forward? Have we offered meaningful feedback, or rather feed forward that might guide them?

6. Have we built in time for assessment of what worked and what didn’t in the meeting?
I’m fond of the saying ‘everything is an assessment’. Have we observed and listened thoughtfully to what the learners say (and don’t say) as evidence of the development of skills and understanding? Have we identified misconceptions and highlighted further needs?

7. Have we gathered or developed materials that will help to focus and advance the meeting objectives?
Have we planned and developed provocations that will provoke thinking and engage learners with the intended issues, concepts and beyond? Have we carefully thought about the desired understandings then encouraged creative ways for students to embark on their own journeys to get to them?

8. Have we put time allocations to each activity on the agenda?
If you plan what will happen throughout your lessons, this one will make sense to you. As an inquiry teacher, it doesn’t apply in my context! We need to be ready to abandon the plan, if the learning takes us in a new direction. We need to plan in response to the learning.

9. Have we ensured that we will address the primary objective early in the meeting? 
Do we ensure we don’t waste time on activities that won’t lead to learning, but get right into the learning from the start? Can we take the role, hand out the books etc in a more efficient manner that doesn’t waste prime learning time? Have you read ‘The 5 Minute Teacher’ in which Mark Barnes highlights the idea of talking less and letting the learning happen?

10. Is it realistic that we could get through our agenda in the time allocated?
Have we filled a lesson plan with activities or have we allowed time to let the learning unfold? Will students be so busy competing tasks, they don’t have time to construct meaning? Have we ensured there will be time for depth of understanding?

Questions about curriculum…

 

Letter to an imaginary educator…

Dear Anon,

As an educational leader, do you think your decisions should be based on beliefs about how learning best takes place?

Here are my school’s articulated learning principles:

  •      We learn in different ways, depending on abilities, learning styles, preferences and interests.
  •      Learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving.
  •      Learning includes acquisition of skills and knowledge, constructing meaning and transferring to different contexts.
  •      Learning is active and social and is enhanced by collaboration and interaction.
  •      Learners need to feel secure, valued and able to take risks.
  •      Learning needs to be challenging, meaningful, purposeful and engaging.
  •      Learning includes meta-cognition and reflection, which support learners taking ownership of their learning.

I have a few questions for you to consider:

What are your beliefs about learning? Do they coincide with ours?

Did you know that a curriculum should not be static, but constantly revisited and updated  to be current, relevant and promote authentic learning?

Do you think a curriculum has to be a set of books with prescriptive instructions for teachers?

Are you aware that workbooks do not usually foster meaningful learning?

Do you realize that teachers are capable, thinking human beings and don’t need prescribed programs in order to teach?

Do you know that prescriptive programs tend to stifle creativity and discourage teachers from pursuing new ideas and experimenting with different options?

Have you considered investing the money you currently spend on pre-packaged programs in freeing up teachers to think, learn and construct meaningful learning experiences for their students?

Have you ever asked students about what engages them and how they learn best?

Have you spent much time in a student centred classroom seeing how inquiry fosters a love of learning ?

Have you entertained the possibility that administrative matters can be dealt with via email and conversations in meetings should be about teaching and learning?

Have you considered that people with experience and a track record in successful teaching and learning might have something worthwhile to contribute?

Did you notice that education has changed and is constantly changing and that classrooms should not look the same as they did five, ten, or fifteen years ago?

Watch this video,  it might help…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Do you believe all educators should be learners first and foremost?

Do you lead by example?

Kind Regards,

Edna