How do we know if we are achieving our goal of “putting the theoretical into practice”? We recognize that we are in the partial implementation of this goal; we are searching for ways to integrate the theory into our daily practice and our decisions, and are engaged in monitoring the evidence carefully to determine the degree of impact on our learners.
(Adapted from the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat Stages of Implementation)
If we are truly “practicing what we preach”, those with whom we work need to see evidence of this not only in our words, but in our actions and importantly reflected in our decision making. We must model, at all levels, the expectations for our system.
As we gradually begin the resumption of our formal SGDSB learning agenda, I have been thinking about how important it is for our decisions and actions (our practices) to be reflective of our SGDSB learning themes (our theory). This is an important time for us, as we need to not only maximize the remaining formal learning time, but we also have to support and reduce the “stress” that some are feeling (myself included), given these short time lines and multiple learning agendas filled with important goals. All of this work is important, however we need to carefully remember not only our Conditions for Learning, but our learning themes, if true learning and thus, the desired change, is going to occur.
How we move into the “new normal” is critical to the success of the learning culture in our district. Consequently, for our elementary schools, conversations have been taking place the center around the School Learning Plan; a document which not only provides direction for urgent learning, but one that captures the journey that the learning will take for the year, and is grounded in a collaborative approach for planning, learning and gathering evidence of impact. Thinking about our themes and the SLP:
- People Don’t Support What they Don’t Create The decision to encourage schools to simply resume (we were paused in early May) their School Learning Plan (SLP) work from last year stems from this theory. While the SLP is a cyclical process, there are “begin again” actions that take place each year. At the end of one year and the beginning of another, the analysis of the available data is a lengthy process as we engage in the Comprehensive Needs Assessment with the goal of identifying the most urgent student learning needs and determining our SMART goal and Theory of Action. It is important that this work be done collaboratively with all staff members having a voice (either directly or through representatives) at the table – which is another of our themes – the Power of Co – collaboration, cooperation, co-learning, etc. With our short timelines, ensuring that all staff are involved in this process may not be able to occur; thus we are suggesting that we continue our work from last year.
- Simplify and Focus The permission to continue our work from last year also provides us with the ability to go deeper into some aspect of our learning – to truly “narrow the focus” as we are often speaking about. We know that we struggle to complete at least three cycles of inquiry each year where we refine our theory of action relative to the evidence that we are analyzing. This is our opportunity to make this happen and to truly see how a deep focus supports the learning of our students.
- Culture of Thinking (not compliance) The fact that we are making our SLP process work in the best interest of learning is a solid example of intelligent decision making – we don’t simply create SLPs because we are required to. These plans are a document that captures the learning that is happening in the school. With that in mind, it is very easy to see that our culture of learning is alive and well, and we are moving away from the culture of compliance.
- Learner Mindset The learner mindset in me is seeing the silver lining in this decision as well; there are so many opportunities that we can and have yet to identify around this decision to simply resume our work from last year. If we can maintain that Learning Mindset at all times in this situation, we may be able to re-capture the time that perhaps would be wasted looking at the negatives and the reasons why we “can’t” and turn our attention to what we can do. We must maintain that Learning Mindset at all times.
This evidence is truly indicating that, when it comes to SLPs, we are moving towards Full Implementation of our shift from theory to practice. Let the learning begin!
Until next week…as we move into our “new normal”, what opportunities can be turned around when we approach them with a Learner Mindset?