Monday, July 25, 2016

Teaching Better: Real Time Systematic Ideas for Betterment

There are so many ways to better our teaching/learning systems--ways that don't necessarily have to cost a lot of money, but can result in a more vigorous, dynamic, and forward moving education organizations.

Timely, Inclusive, Transparent Share
A weekly newsletter that shares the main points of an organization's efforts and growth keeps everyone informed and prevents unnecessary and time consuming conjecture and confusion. This kind of a newsletter may also serve to positively coach the teaching/learning team including family members, students, educators, paraeducators, administrators, and community members forward in ways that matter.

Inclusive, Honest, Transparent, Full-Circle Committee Work
The new ESSA legislation points to the need for decision making and committee work to include representation from all stakeholders including students, family members, educators, paraeducators, administrators, and community members. This kind of inclusion leads to better, more targeted, and responsive decision making. It's also important that committee work serve a true purpose and represent honest voice and choice. Too many old committees have stayed around, but don't serve a purpose. Hence it's important that committees truly play an integral role when it comes to the positive, full-circle work that can be done to serve a teaching/learning organization well.

Holistic, Visionary Decision Making Rather than Short Term Fixes
Rather than lots of low cost, short term fixes, it's important that systems do the deep, inclusive thinking to make thoughtful long range plans that include multiple steps along the way. For example, when it comes to infrastructure change and improvement, it's important that one decision lead to another so that money is not wasted and decisions represent the best possible solutions. As noted above, when these decisions are made in inclusive ways representing the voice and choice of all stakeholders, it's likely that the decisions will be better.

Of course, information and times change which can alter decisions readily. I faced this with Smart Board technology. At first Smart Boards seemed wonderful, but right after the first inclusion of the boards, the research and technology changed making the Smart Board outdated due to its limited 24-7 use and share. When that happened, it was time to change directions quickly so as not to lose out by spending money on outdated tech. Rather than a Smart Board, it's best to have a giant surface computer in every classroom or simply a white board that a computer can be hooked up to with document cameras.

Deep, Holistic, Inclusive Vision and Goal Setting Processes, Tracking, and Evaluation.
The goal setting process is integral to successful individual and collective work. It's important, however, that the process is honest and inclusive. Too often goals are set, but the work behind the goals is not deep, inclusive, or holistic, and when that happens the goals are less potent, honest, or forward moving.

Of course, goal setting processes need to be loose-tight since the world of education is evolving at a very fast clip. What's true one day may be debunked the next. Yet, when goal setting processes are deep, thoughtful, and inclusive, it's likely that the goals set will well represent the needs, interests, and potential of all stakeholders.

Similar to a deep process of setting goals, there needs to be a deep process of tracking and evaluating those goals. Too often we set goals, but don't institute a success criteria or tracking process upfront. Hence, no one really knows for sure if a goal is met or not. That's why it's important that success criteria and tracking processes are set when making the goal. John Hattie discusses this a lot in his book, Making Learning Visible for Teachers, Maximizing Impact on Teachers. This is a fact I have to keep in mind with respect to my individual work as well.

Money Well Spent, Resources and Supports Well Identified and Utilized
It's also important to track and evaluate how money is spent and resources are identified and utilized in any teaching/learning organization. What money is well spent and what resources are well used when it comes to effective teaching and learning? Of course, once again, the evaluation process used to determine success has to be inclusive, transparent, and honest to be valuable. This kind of evaluation is integral to the good work possible for individual educators and for entire organization.

Professional Learning Decisions and Efforts
Well organized, targeted, and communicated professional learning efforts and outcomes also serve an organization well. How are professional learning events chosen, organized, advertised, and shared with the teaching/learning community? How is the potential of professional learning dollars and time maximized and evaluated with regard to moving systems forward in ways that truly impact success for every child?

Inclusive, Thoughtful Time, Role, Routine, and Structure Audits
How are time, roles, and structures used well to forward the best possible learning and teaching? How are these elements audited with an inclusive lens focused on an organization's overarching vision and goals? What changes can be made to affect better learning and teaching? How can these audits become a regular part of school culture so that systems continually evolve to do better and more targeted work with regard to teaching children well?

Macro to Micro Think and Action
It's important to take ideas for the broader system and apply that thinking to our individual work too. If we look at the ideas above, we can ask ourselves these questions to impact our own work as well:
  • How do you share your teaching and learning in respectful, accessible, pointed ways so that those who are interested in, or can benefit from, the information are able to find, read, and use the information in helpful ways?
  • How do you set vision and goals for your individual and committee work? Do you identify the success criteria and tracking systems up front so that that your work goes full circle and results in better teaching and learning?
  • How do you spend your teaching dollars? Do your purchases impact positive teaching and learning? How do you track and evaluate this?
  • What professional learning will you engage in to better your teaching and learning in the year ahead? How will you embed your learning into the teaching and learning program to better teach students?
  • How do you use time as an educator? Can you better use time to affect your teaching and learning efforts?
  • How do you define your role? What changes can you make in that definition and related work to better affect student learning?
  • What does your teaching/learning schedule and routine look like? How does this schedule and routine maximize what you can do with and for students?
  • What does your learning environment look like? How can you improve the learning environment to better promote optimal teaching and learning in your classroom or learning/teaching space?
As I've noted so often, I believe the next step of school reform lies at the system level as we move schools from old time industrial/corporate models to new age, living system, knowledge-age models. This is an exciting transition to come--one that I believe will not only impact teaching and learning, but one that will impact humanity, culture, and communities too. What do you think?