Reflecting on EARCOS leadership conference

I am never one to shy away from a challenge¬†and am quite fond of tackling wicked problems. ūüôā Which is why I was excited to join Paul O’Neill in planning and facilitating the EARCOS Preconference session for curriculum leaders. The focus?¬†The knowing-doing gap.¬†

Given all we know, why is change so hard? There is no easy way to answer that question and we certainly didn’t try to–rather we hoped to create a space to enquire and explore ways to understand and adapt to challenges.

We started by crowd-sourcing some of the common things we know schools and educators keep doing despite what we know from research and from our own experiences in schools.

doing knowHere are some of the ideas the groups charted.

Change of any kind can feel uncomfortable–at an individual and at a system level. Is it because we expect instant success? How open are we to tolerating the dip that usually occurs pretty much whenever we change something?¬†In an educational, context Dylan Wiliam expressed it like this in his book,¬†Sustaining Formative Assessment with Teacher Learning Communities:

“The collection of routines that teachers establish to get through the day are their greatest asset, but at the same time, a liability because getting better involves getting a little bit worse, at least for a while.”

Our day with curriculum leaders afforded the time to explore, through case studies drawn from the people in the room, where we get stuck and how to navigate some of those dips. We gave people opportunities to plan with team members, to immerse themselves in curated resources, enter into coaching and consulting conversations, and explore how a framework can be useful for analyzing change with.
The following are a few of the tools our colleagues helped us field test and used to do some problem solving and forward planning with:

As always, I learned so much from listening to other people’s stories. It was a rewarding day spent with thoughtful and caring educators.




Change knowledge and leadership

I am fortunate to work with principals that model leadership. An example from a few weeks ago was when writing consultant Penny Kittle ran a session for our 9th grade teachers about how to support reading and writing across disciplines. Both our HS principals joined in as participants, and continued conversations about the strategies we explored in the following weeks with individual teachers and the whole staff.

“understanding requires interaction”

One of the many insights I gleaned from Michael Fullan’s book The New Meaning of Change was what a powerful influence principals can have on change initiatives. Why this struck me as significant is because, although we expect principals to be leaders of change, the realities of their jobs means they can get swamped and side tracked by the day to day running of school.

Fullan points out that without visible, tangible support from principals for change initiatives teachers won’t adopt new practices. Yet, if administrators do some or all of the following, their agency for change can be huge. Do you know principals who regularly:
Visit classrooms to see what is happening?
Follow through on decisions?
Attend workshops and training?
Articulate challenges to show understanding of realities effecting implementation?