Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Navigating Complex Systems

In many ways, schools are complex systems.

Why complex?

The people-to-people time is intense. The expectations often outweigh time. The job is continually changing, and the need to revise structure and direction is a constant area of interest and concern. Also there are many ways to teach and learn well, so there's often debate about what's good and not so good with regard to teaching and learning.

There are constants, however, such as the need to respect each other, build positive relationships, understand the content and curriculum, and continue professional learning.

As I think of the complexity of schools, I wonder about how we might make that complexity less dense and cumbersome, and instead create more fluid, open, and distributive models of teaching and learning.

I believe this can happen in the following ways:
  • Streamline paperwork by utilizing technology and good processes well.
  • Use lead time and good communication to make processes efficient and profitable.
  • Rather than hierarchical models, in most cases, use team models of co-coaching/leading where education teams lead their efforts to teach well with ample time for planning and sufficient, quality time-on-task with students.
  • Look carefully and honestly at program efforts and expenses to determine what efforts do result in valuable learning, and what efforts could be revised for better effect.
  • Audit time, schedules, and roles to determine how time can be spent well to successfully teach.
  • Understand the priorities of what makes a quality education, and work as teams toward reaching those priorities. Evaluate efforts with open, honest assessment, and then work together to make positive change when needed. 
Good structure, open honest communication, reflection, revision, and teamwork foster quality systems of effect. 

To navigate what are often complex systems of education, it's important that one understands and attends to his/her role well and has the opportunity to freely speak up when questions, good ideas, or a need for change arises. It's similarly important that educators have the chance to work on teams in transparent, open, and collaborative ways as that teamwork supports good teaching and learning. And, it's optimal to have leaders who inspire and orchestrate systems in ways that promote the best that we can do in positive, collaborative, and inclusive ways.

Education systems are complex, and by breaking those complex systems down into manageable, transparent, streamlined, and targeted intersecting parts, we have the chance to do our jobs well individually and collectively.