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. 

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.

Change…

We started the new school year after the summer break, with a focus on ownership of learning for teachers and students alike.  A couple of months later, our exciting Unleashing Learning conference provoked further thinking and action, followed by a week of learning and sharing with Sam Sherratt. And now, as the seasons change and we settle into the year, it’s exciting to observe bright spots of colour and evidence of new growth…

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One team is exploring a new project based approach to maths. Another is experimenting with unleashing writing through play. Year 6 is investigating a year-long approach to the PYP exhibition, allowing students time to discover what they really care about, with a greater focus on sharing the learning journey. Two different groups are reading and discussing The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.

Teacher A has let go of control and seen what happens when students have agency. Teacher B is well on the way and feeling the exhilaration of learning unleashed. C wants to rethink the school musical and find a way to give students more ownership. D has realised that authentic, meaningful learning experiences trump delivering curriculum… and noticed that much more of the curriculum is addressed incidentally via this approach! E is rethinking the way she used to do things and collaborating with others to reimagine her role. F and G are changing the way they reflect with their teams and refining the process as they go. H is breathing imagination and creativity into everything she touches… And I? 

I hear the steady drumbeat of hope for real and meaningful change.

Once unleashed, there’s no stopping the learning… 

The provoker…

Everyone needs a provoker. Someone who questions everything, is never content with the status quo, is impatient to see action…

Image by Kevin Richardson

‘Have you seen the article about…?’

‘What do you think about this idea?’

‘I think there is a better way to…’

‘Are you free to talk about something?’

‘Could we change the way we do this?’

‘How do we make this happen?’

I receive these sorts of messages from my provoker at all hours of the day, sometimes when she’s in meetings with other people, sometimes while she’s out for a walk. She has what George Couros calls an innovator’s mindset

‘Innovation is a way of thinking . It is a way of considering concepts, processes, and potential outcomes.’ That’s how my provoker functions. She looks at everything through a fresh lens and asks ‘Is there a better way?’ (She sometimes upsets those less eager to question and be questioned).

She never lets me rest. And I love that.

Who’s your provoker?