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Posts Tagged ‘Network’

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This past week I participated in the  Network of Inquiry and Innovation (NOII) Symposium:  Stories of Change: Pictures of Possibility.  My presentation was entitled Innovation That Sticks – Real Examples from Real Schools.  I think we can easily get caught up in the theoretical of what schools could be and fail to recognize the shifts occurring right in front of us.  In our district (and I know of others), teachers and administrators are finding new ways to connect to students.  The experiences for our students are quite different from even five years ago.

One notion that seemed to particularly resonate with those in attendance was my latest thinking around scaling.  I openly admitted, over the last seven years in West Vancouver, I have often considered the idea of “scaling” — how do we take an idea from one school, which is clearly making a difference for learners, and replicate it in our other schools?  The following two slides from the presentation reflect my most recent thinking on this:

innovation 1

 

innovation 2

 

I have moved away from the language of “scaling our work,” to “networking our work.”  We are not trying to create ‘sameness’ in our classes and schools; rather, we are trying to support the good work in one site by connecting it to the good work in another.  I have written before about the power of networks in West Vancouver and British Columbia and I believe this is one of the characteristics that differentiates B.C. education from so many other regions — it is the connection across schools, districts, levels and disciplines — all focused on improving student learning.

So, rather than seeking to scale work, our focus is on diffusion.  At some point, there are so many connections with the ‘new’ they become the ‘normal’.  We are seeing this with our inquiry work in West Vancouver on all levels — we have teachers embracing the PYP / MYP International Baccalaureate approach; others, use the Spirals of Inquiry as a basis of their work, while others use Understanding by Design to ground their approach. They are all taking similar approaches to learning and connecting to each other as inquiry-based learning has taken hold in all of our schools. The learners are as diverse as the learning, and while I know some would appreciate the simplicity of  “just doing it all one way” we are finding huge power in the autonomy of teachers and schools as part of the new learning network.

The work of innovation in our schools is not a program, it is not something we can announce, proclaim or implement.  It is an ongoing shift to adjust our system to meet the needs of students in a way that is reflective of the world they are living in.  The power of networks — connecting people and ideas as part of a community — is key to our story of success in West Vancouver.

The full slide deck from my presentation is below (if you receive this post via email you will have to open it in the site to view):

 

 

 

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SoI.indd

Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have been at the forefront of teaching and learning in British Columbia for decades.  I have written previously about their work with the Network of Performance Based Schools (now the Network of Inquiry and Innovation).  Their latest book Spirals of Inquiry For equity and quality is a welcoming book; it takes us from where we are and invites us on a team journey. Halbert and Kaser have a wonderful way of bringing us aboard and to become part of their team – “We have had the privilege of working together on system transformation for a number of years.  We have experienced the joy of teamwork and the support that comes from facing challenges with a trusted learning partner.  Inquiry is not a solitary pursuit.  Meeting the needs of all learners is simply too big a task for any one leader, teacher, school or district to attempt alone.”

I have taken a stab at defining inquiry in my post All About Inquiry; I referenced the work of the Galileo Educational Network and in reviewing previous posts realize that I have made reference to inquiry in one out of every five posts written.  Inquiry is THE buzz word in education, but while there is opportunity there are also drawbacks that can be attributed to one word used so often, by so many, in so many circumstances.  There is general agreement we want more inquiry (the anti-inquiry movement is quite quiet), but exactly what this is and means is not clear. Although the work  Halbert and Kaser describe is hard work, their approach is straight forward.  I find it far more accessible than other frameworks and they provide structure without recipe.

Halbert and Kaser encourage us to start our investigation into inquiry with four key questions that “help move our thinking from a preoccupation with content coverage, to a focus on what learners are actually experiencing with the learning we are designing for, or with, them”:

  • Can you name two people in this school / setting who believe that you can be a success in life?
  • Where are you going with your learning?
  • How are you doing with your learning?
  • Where are you going next with your learning?

They move into their spiral approach, quoting Madame Gertrude de Stael, “The human mind always makes progress – but it is a progress in spirals.”  Halbert and Kaser focus their spirals around several key questions continually coming back to the first:

  • What is going on for our learners?
  • What does our focus need to be?
  • What is leading to this situation?
  • How and where can we learn more about what to do?
  • What will we do differently?
  • Have we made enough of a difference?

While I researched the book to better understand the process of student inquiry, it reminded me that we, as teachers, need to be committed to the same efforts with our own learning.

Halbert and Kaser have created a book with useful approaches to both student and adult inquiry; more importantly, they validate the work in British Columbia, link the efforts they describe with existing practices in districts across the province, and do not  hit us with a stick if we are not all doing it yet.  I would argue this book should be a must read for all new teachers, and for educators with decades of experience, it is a reminder that we are all part of a big team, who need each other and that our students need us, for as Halbert and Kaser conclude, “Let’s stick together and stick with this work until every BC learner does indeed cross the stage with dignity, purpose and options.”

WANT TO LEARN MORE

Spirals of Inquiry is available through the BC Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association for $20 (all proceeds support innovative and inquiring schools).

Chris Wejr and I are hosting a Twitter conversation on Sunday, May 26th at 8 pm Pacific.  We will be joined by the authors, Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser, and hopefully many others who would like to explore Spirals of Inquiry.  If you are interested in following along the hashtag will be #inqbc.

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We spend a lot of time talking about how our network influences our professional lives and how technology often assists in that networking. But, when B.C. educators talk about “THE NETWORK” it means something quite different.

For more than a decade, the Network of Performance Based Schools — school-based teams with an administrator and teachers — have focussed on  B.C. Performance Standards with some of the deepest, most powerful professional learning in our province.

Instrumental to this professional learning, Judy Halbert and Linda  Kaser have brought a network of teachers and administrators together in ongoing conversations about improving education opportunities for all students.

And just what is the Network?

The Network of Performance Based Schools is funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Education and is designed to improve quality and equity through inquiry, teamwork across roles, schools and districts, and a concentrated focus on applying coaching forms of assessment to assist learners to take greater ownership of their learning. Participation in the Network is on an annual basis and is voluntary. There has been a steady growth in Network membership since its inception in 2000.

Dedicated to the vision of EVERY learner crossing the stage with dignity, purpose and options, the network is supported by volunteer leaders in sixteen regions of the province.

Schools participate in an annual spiral of inquiry that provides the structure for their improvement and innovative work.  School questions, case studies, resources and reflections are shared in a spirit of generosity and curiosity. The BC performance standards provide a framework for educators, parents and learners in developing a deeper understanding of content area progressions and assist learners in answering three key learning oriented questions identified by John Hattie and Helen Timperley:

Where are you going with your learning? How is it going? Where to next?

The six key strategies of formative assessment are used to assist learners in taking ownership of their learning. Without clear learning intentions, the thoughtful use of criteria and informative descriptive feedback, it is virtually impossible for learners to answer these questions.

Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have an amazing way of making everyone feel special in the Network —  they link what we do to the very best work they have seen and heard of around the world.  Part cheerleader, story-teller, social connector and deep co-learner, Judy and Linda have invited thousands of teachers and administrators to join in the journey.

The Network has brought the BC Performance Standards to life as guiding documents for teachers, administrators, parents and students as we continue to move from a sorting to learning system.  And, the Network continues to evolve; it has moved from a strict focus on reading, writing, numeracy and social responsibility to asking the essential questions about Aboriginal learning, healthy living, and focussing all of our work to be better tomorrow than it was today.

When asked about the one professional development experience I recommend for teachers or administrators, I always say “to get a team in the Network”.  The connections that come out of this participation can improve us as professionals, and help move our schools forward.

As another successful year of the Network comes to a close with the recently held Leadership Seminar and School Project Showcases / Celebrations around the province, much thanks goes to Judy and Linda for continuing to lead this conversation.  More than a decade in, the Network is one of the quiet, non-political and powerful ways that differentiates our system and how we work from so many others in North America.

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