Am I talking about innovation, or something else? Yes.
Here in Forest Hills Public Schools, we are embarking on our third year of integration with Dr. Robert Marzano's The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction (2007). Those familiar with the framework will recognize Domains 2 through 4 in the title of this blog post, but what you may not realize is that they are the building blocks for successful innovation as well.
To facilitate this conversation, I have "invited" thoughts from a variety of innovators/educators.
"There are, of course, innovations that spring from a flash of genius. Most innovations, however, especially the successful ones, result from a conscious, purposeful search for innovation opportunities...." Peter Drucker
So, how good are we as educators in conscious, purposeful searches? Turns out, not so good. As Steven Katz and Lisa Ain Dack note in their book, Intentional Interruption: Breaking Down Learning Barriers to Transform Professional Practice (2013, pp. 54-55), "[h]uman beings tend not to be particularly good at thinking through all possible angles when considering a problem. We tend to jump to action very quickly, and educators are no exception. Most people don't spend enough time trying to unpack their "problems of practice" and really understanding them prior to committing to a course of action." Part of this may be due to a sense of having so little time, but when we look at the time we have, it is an effective use of it. Domain 2 (Planning and Preparing) is what makes or breaks Domain 1(Classroom Strategies and Behaviors).
One great example of this is the work that about 20 of our secondary ELA teachers did this past year. They spent the school year slowing down to learn a new innovative process for developing units and lessons and evaluating resources, The planning and preparation could then be leveraged as they looked at the content under the new Michigan State Standards and integrated it into their work.
"The future will likely be won by those who don't wait for light-bulb moments from a single genius, but rather develop highly collaborative win-win relationships that leverage the collective power of many." Kate Vitasek
The hard work of teachers in professional learning communities, focused on adult learning around curriculum, instruction, and assessment, is capable of leveraging this collective power. The devil is always in the details -- holding PLC time absolutely sacred, even when pushed by a principal to "just take a few minutes to discuss the new lunch schedule and let me know," or by a colleague who wants to vent about the new lunch schedule. This isn't to say the impact of the new lunch schedule may not be important, but the discussion does not belong in the PLC because it is not focused on collaborative adult learning. The interaction, sharing, and mentorship expected in Domain 4 (Collegiality and Professionalism) is the foundation of a highly-performing PLC.
Through this laser-like, collaborative focus, I am convinced teachers can transform their professional practice, and be innovators along the way. The power of a group of dedicated teacher-learners. working from the PLC platform, is certain to launch a group of teacher-innovators who help their students reach new heights.
"Innovation is something that comes when you're not under the gun. So it's important that, even if you don't have balance in your life, you have some time for reflection. So that you could say, 'Well, maybe I'm not working on the right thing.' Or, 'maybe I should have this new idea.' The creative parts of one's mind are not on schedule." Eric Schmidt
If collaboration is good for the PLC soul, then reflection is good for the individual teacher soul. Domain 3 (Reflecting on Teaching) asks each teacher to evaluate their own effectiveness and develop a professional growth plan. Schmidt is right that many parts of our brain are not on the school schedule, and we need to make and take time for reflection. Some of the greatest "a-ha!" moments for teachers come after the school day, as they finally relax on a walk or write in a reflective journal. Heck, some even come the next morning, standing in the shower!
Now, take that reflection, and think about moving into the PLC for discussion, research, and learning. Who else might be wondering about how to implement the workshop model for reading and writing. or utilizing design thinking to teach students how to discover and frame problems? How might your principal support the learning? Through this reflective process, new ideas will be born.
Join the conversation...
What are some of your thoughts as you read this post? How else might innovation and the instructional framework be linked?