So here goes…I am putting our Superior-Greenstone DSB Conditions for Learning into practice. Moving the Monday Morning Memo (MMM), a communication tool that has been in place for the past six years, to an electronic format. Collectively the leadership team will reap the benefits; less clogging of our Inboxes and a format that can be easily revisited (so no more lost files!). Most importantly however, this is an opportunity to have the Thought of the Week become interactive…to have my thinking responded to and hopefully challenged, by others; thus allowing me to grow in my thinking (assessment for learning at its best). This is modelling the learning that we know needs to define our education system at all levels of the organization. What conditions need to be in place for learning to occur? What conditions for learning will be met by the very nature of this interactive format? Consider the success criteria for our SGDSB Conditions for Learning below (these were co-constructed by our Leadership Learning Team last year).
1. Risk Taking: I know I am taking risks when I engage in tasks with the desire/intention to further my learning, seeing errors as opportunities and taking initiative to investigate new topics and ideas. Learning to use the blog is just the beginning of my risk; taking the risk of sharing my thinking is truly the result of working with an amazing group of people in a culture of learning. This is the culture of our district, a culture where there is the free exchange of ideas, the recognition and acceptance of the fact that learners are all at different places in their journey, and the notion that our work is truly about research-based instructional strategies and approaches, targets for success and the measurement of impact on learners. This assessment for learning approach is one whereby judgement is suspended (until absolutely necessary) and feedback according to the target is used to guide and scaffold learning. It is a powerful approach which results in the development of a culture of learning for all – with risk taking recognized as a critically important feature.
2. Collaboration: I know I am collaborating if I work interdependently, engage others, actively listen, constructively contribute, respectfully challenge ideas, and share knowledge to build on others’ thinking to arrive at a desired goal. The MMM is shifting from a communication tool to a learning tool, whereby others will be asked and encouraged to construct thinking together. Blogging is social networking; thus its interactive nature where others share their thinking in response to a post ensures that it is collaborative. I challenge my colleagues to help me to learn by reflecting on my Thought of the Week and posting a response! Remember that we distinguish collaboration from cooperation…this isn’t about compliance. It is about engagement in learning. I wonder what Thought of the Week topics will result from our online collaboration?
3. Relationship Building: I know I am building relationships if I engage in communication (active listening and responding) to build trust and respect and provide others with the opportunity to share and reflect. Wow. As I reflect on this criteria for success, I am aware that, to date, my listening has been done in real time. This blog is giving me the opportunity to listen at all times; to “throw” my thinking out there, and to see what comes back (hopefully!!). What a powerful way to learn and to ultimately, build relationships based upon mutual understanding.
4. Responsive Instruction: I know I am providing responsive instruction if I am collecting a continuum of data (to show progression) towards an identified goal and my responses are reflective of the learner’s strengths/needs. This blog is one aspect of my Problem of Practice Theory of Action…more to come on this in the very near future!
This blog is about continuous growth and improvement; it is about ongoing learning. I remember a quote, “Education is conversation. Conversation creates change” (Karl Fisch www.thefischbowl.blogspot.com). By ensuring that the conditions for learning are in place, I am hopeful that our team will actively engage in this learning dialogue. Perhaps the impact will be felt in the classroom as leaders practice and apply some of what they learn when working with other learners who they influence…and then return to this environment to share that learning.
Until next week…thinking about making connections explicit!