Where is the starting point for restructuring school organizations for best effect?
I'm in favor of the "students-up" approach. This is an approach that begins with the questions:
- Who are our students?
- What are their needs, interests and passions?
- How can we meet those needs in effective, engaging and empowering ways?
New system organization has to be created with the future in mind.
Once the learning community decides what their students need, then it is time to build teams that circle those students with apt learning design and tools, optimal organizational and physical structure, and efficient communication systems.
The key in this design is to create systems so that most time and energy is spent on direct student service, and less time is spent on efforts that are inefficient and time consuming with little positive effect for students.
How can we begin to look at the effects of our collective work with respect to the impact on students' learning and engagement. One action I advocate for is a roles and responsibilities audit. That audit could be both macro and micro. The promise in this practice is that we could restructure so that more roles and efforts are directed with positive impact, yet the problem in this action could be that assessment without clear understanding and goals related to optimal learning design and cognition would cause misinterpretation.
The macro audit might look like this:
The evidence collected would have to be both qualitative and quantitative. For example, a leader in my building spends extensive time with families and students. He's created a happy, positive attitude throughout our building--an engaged learning community. This is difficult to quantify, yet the quality this affect provides is extraordinary.
A micro-audit might be a week in time for any educator, and could look like this:
For example if an academic professional's time is mainly spent on "secretarial-like" tasks, it might be better for a secretary to take over those responsibilities leaving time for that professional to engage in activities that better affect student learning in his/her professional expertise area.
Again, an audit would have to leave space for professionals to act with good judgement and response. For example, at the end of the day yesterday, I showed my students the wonderful film, "The Little Princess." I don't typically show full-length films in class, but it was the last day before vacation, and students and I were tired and disgruntled after a very busy week with many special learning events--events that demanded extra effort. The movie was the perfect choice as it opened their eyes to history and the human condition and provided a common positive experience for all students--a perfect way to end that leg of the school year. As students watched the film, I organized the classroom, caught up on last minute student questions and little problems, and prepared for the next leg of the year.
Most educators in most schools work tirelessly each day with their time and efforts directed towards optimal student learning, but in this time of change in education, I believe we can re-look at roles and responsibilities to better effect student learning. Do you agree?