The Self Organizing School


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  • The Self Organizing School

    1. 1. Leadership and The Self-Organizing School David F. Bower, Ed.D. Complexity Science and Educational Research Conference October 2004 [email_address]
    2. 2. Abstract
    3. 3. Background <ul><li>Questions about my school </li></ul><ul><li>Questions about my role as leader </li></ul><ul><li>Questions about new theories of organization </li></ul><ul><li>From holonomy to chaos theory to self-organization to my study </li></ul>
    4. 4. Problem statement <ul><li>What do we know about successful schools that have sustained reform efforts over time? How can a study of such schools inform our work of school improvement? How can current organizational theories become a lens to help us focus on successful practices? </li></ul>
    5. 5. Purpose <ul><li>The purpose of this research is to study the dynamics of self-organization in a school. </li></ul>
    6. 6. Research questions <ul><li>1. What characterizes self-organization and renewal within a school? </li></ul><ul><li>2. How do self-organization and renewal sustain reform and improvement? </li></ul><ul><li>3. How does leadership support and sustain the dynamics of self-organization, renewal, and improvement? </li></ul>
    7. 7. Definition of terms <ul><li>Self-organization </li></ul><ul><li>Reform and improvement </li></ul><ul><li>Renewal </li></ul><ul><li>Leadership </li></ul>
    8. 8. Limitations <ul><li>School history and demographics </li></ul><ul><li>Study of one school in depth </li></ul><ul><li>Researcher as participant </li></ul>
    9. 9. Conceptual Framework <ul><li>From core to process level to emergence level </li></ul><ul><li>Core influences processes; processes influence emergence </li></ul><ul><li>Sustained and emerging changes can influence core </li></ul>
    10. 10. Conceptual framework Emergence Level Ownership Process Level The Core: Principles/ Philosophy/ Values Renewal Self-Organization Creativity Safe/trusting environment Engagement Feedback Relationships Communication Sense making Dialogue
    11. 11. Literature review <ul><li>Part One: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Educational Reform </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organizational change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chaos and complexity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-organization </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Part Two: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Leadership </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. Purpose of literature review <ul><li>Set research study in context of educational reform, organizational change, and new organizational theories </li></ul><ul><li>Self-organization offers a new approach to sustaining reform and improvement by organizing from the inside out </li></ul>
    13. 13. Methods and Procedures <ul><li>Qualitative research and phenomenology </li></ul><ul><li>Research design </li></ul><ul><li>Context of study </li></ul><ul><li>Data collection methods </li></ul><ul><li>Data analysis </li></ul><ul><li>Population and participants </li></ul>
    14. 14. Research Design <ul><li>First round of open-ended questions </li></ul><ul><li>Document and history review </li></ul><ul><li>Second round of semi-structured questions </li></ul><ul><li>Transcription </li></ul><ul><li>Categories and themes </li></ul><ul><li>Focus group questions </li></ul><ul><li>Final analysis </li></ul>
    15. 15. Research Methods <ul><li>Constant comparative method </li></ul><ul><li>Comparison of interview data with historical data and with topics from literature review </li></ul><ul><li>Journal notes from researcher </li></ul>
    16. 16. Context, Population, and Participants <ul><li>One school – Roosevelt Middle School </li></ul><ul><li>Population includes 47 certified teaching and non-teaching staff </li></ul><ul><li>21 staff members participated </li></ul><ul><li>All participation was voluntary </li></ul><ul><li>Researcher was also a participant </li></ul>
    17. 17. Historical Background <ul><li>History of Roosevelt Middle School </li></ul><ul><li>First interviews (open-ended) 2000-2001 </li></ul><ul><li>Records summary </li></ul><ul><li>The garden metaphor </li></ul><ul><li>Emerging patterns </li></ul>
    18. 18. Emerging Patterns <ul><li>Topics of leadership, freedom and autonomy, relationships, ecology (location, size, community) emerge from the data </li></ul><ul><li>Emerging topics lead to further research questions </li></ul>
    19. 19. Data Findings and Analysis <ul><li>Second interviews (semi-structured) 2001-2002 </li></ul><ul><li>Research questions: </li></ul><ul><li>1. What characterizes self-organization within a school? </li></ul><ul><li>2. How do self-organization and renewal sustain reform and improvement? </li></ul><ul><li>3. How does leadership support and sustain the dynamics of self-organization, renewal, and improvement? </li></ul>
    20. 20. What characterizes self-organization and renewal within a school? <ul><li>Focus </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Student focus; Internalized focus; Principles and Philosophy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interaction </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Relationships and Teams; Communication and Feedback; Conversation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Emergence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Renewal; Creativity; Personal Engagement </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Summary: Developing patterns </li></ul>
    21. 21. How do self-organization and renewal sustain reform and improvement? <ul><li>Sense Making </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Collective and Individual Sense-Making </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sustaining conditions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Freedom; Safe/Supportive Environment; Ownership </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Summary: Developing patterns </li></ul>
    22. 22. How does leadership support and sustain the dynamics of self-organization, renewal, and improvement? <ul><li>Individual leadership: Principal </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Principal as buffer/filter; Leadership; Support </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Collective leadership: Principal and teachers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shared leadership; Inside/Out organization </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Putting it together: The story of a school retreat </li></ul><ul><li>Summary: Developing patterns </li></ul>
    23. 23. Focus Group Interviews <ul><li>Three focus group sessions – May 2002 </li></ul><ul><li>Voluntary participants </li></ul><ul><li>Methodology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Seven focus questions; transcribe taped interviews; analyze for patterns; correlate to prior interviews </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Summary: Confirming patterns </li></ul>
    24. 24. Discussion of Data <ul><li>Review of problem </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Look at interaction of parts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Study change that originates from within </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Examine renewal, sustained change, and self-organization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Link data to literature </li></ul></ul>
    25. 25. First research question <ul><li>What characterizes self-organization and renewal within a school? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interaction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Emergence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What characterizes self-organization and renewal is what emerges from within. </li></ul></ul>
    26. 26. Focus <ul><li>Core principles create a foundation for work; work emerges from within and organizes around focus; boundaries are open </li></ul><ul><li>“Generative cultures have no boundaries” (Chawla and Renesch, 1995). </li></ul>
    27. 27. Interaction <ul><li>Teamed relationships support communication and conversation </li></ul><ul><li>Focus is student-centered </li></ul><ul><li>Genuine accountability </li></ul><ul><li>“…contrasting the effectiveness of ten individuals acting alone with that of the same ten people acting in concert” (Marion, 1999). </li></ul>
    28. 28. Emergence <ul><li>Renewal, creativity, personal engagement come from within </li></ul><ul><li>Co-creation links change to renewal (people support what they create) </li></ul><ul><li>Edge of chaos or bounded instability avoids complacency, stability, and routine </li></ul><ul><li>“… edge of chaos…(Pascale, 2000). </li></ul><ul><li>Ecotone – “…edges where differences come together are the richest of habitats… (Krall, 1999). </li></ul>
    29. 29. Second research question <ul><li>How do self-organization and renewal sustain reform and improvement? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sense making </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sustaining conditions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-organization and renewal sustain reform and renewal indirectly and are related to emergence. </li></ul></ul>
    30. 30. Sense making <ul><li>Individual and collective sense-making reduces isolation, supports sense of “fit”, and fosters internalization of purpose </li></ul><ul><li>Holonomy – the interaction of individual and collective </li></ul><ul><li>“…integrative and self-assertive tendencies of holons” (Capra, 1982). </li></ul>
    31. 31. Sustaining conditions <ul><li>Safety and freedom support risk-taking and creativity </li></ul><ul><li>Ownership emerges from shared leadership and internalized focus on principles </li></ul><ul><li>Autonomy + freedom = coherence through self-organization (Wheatley,1992) </li></ul>
    32. 32. Third research question <ul><li>How does leadership support and sustain the dynamics of of self-organization, renewal, and improvement? </li></ul><ul><li>Leadership supports these dynamics by shifting the concept of leadership from individual to collective. Attention to processes and relationships supports this shift. </li></ul>
    33. 33. Individual leadership:Principal <ul><li>Buffer/filter; listen; support;focus </li></ul><ul><li>Balance process and content </li></ul><ul><li>“All managers can do is to establish the conditions that enable groups of people to learn…” (Stacey, 1992) </li></ul>
    34. 34. Collective leadership: Principal and teachers <ul><li>Collective leadership is based upon sound relationships </li></ul><ul><li>Leadership must be redefined </li></ul><ul><li>Leading from inside/out is collective and creative process </li></ul><ul><li>“ If self-management is our goal, then leadership will have to be reinvented in a fashion that places ‘followership’ first (Sergiovanni, 1992). </li></ul>
    35. 35. What I have learned about leadership in a self-organizing school <ul><li>Shift focus to relationships and to interaction of the parts </li></ul><ul><li>Support the processes </li></ul><ul><li>Be patient while results emerge </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate values and leadership philosophy clearly </li></ul><ul><li>Balance direction with improvisation </li></ul>
    36. 36. What leaders can do <ul><li>Move organizations to edge of chaos or bounded instability </li></ul><ul><li>Remember that the whole determines the behavior of the parts </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the focus clear; complexity will emerge </li></ul>
    37. 37. Unanticipated findings <ul><li>Teams cannot support interaction, internalization, or emergence if relationships are dysfunctional </li></ul><ul><li>Public nature of teaching can intimidate as isolation ends </li></ul><ul><li>An independent/autonomous school may lack ability to integrate and to balance self-assertion with integration. </li></ul>
    38. 38. Further research <ul><li>Serendipity and synchronicity may exist with self-organization. Do we have the “lens” to see these phenomena? </li></ul><ul><li>Applying principles of self-organization to district-level work </li></ul><ul><li>Can self-organizing schools sustain their work? </li></ul>
    39. 39. Conclusion <ul><li>Education : from Latin roots ex meaning out and ducere meaning lead </li></ul><ul><li>If education is about leading out, then it is about what emerges from within </li></ul><ul><li>Self-organization, emergence, and leadership support this dynamic </li></ul>
    40. 40. References <ul><li>Chawla, S. & Renesch, J. (Eds). (1995). Learning organizations: Developing cultures for tomorrow’s workplace. Portland, Oregon: Productivity Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Capra, F. (1982). The turning point: Science, society, and the rising culture. NY: Bantam Books. </li></ul><ul><li>Marion, R. (1999). The edge of organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. </li></ul><ul><li>Pascale, R.T., Milleman, M., & Gioja, L. (2000). Surfing the edge of chaos: The laws of nature and the new laws of business. New York: Crown Business. </li></ul><ul><li>Krall, F.R. (1994). Ecotone: Wayfaring on the margins . Albany, New York: State University of New York Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Wheatley, M. J. (1992). Leadership and the new science. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. </li></ul><ul><li>Stacey, R. (1992). Managing the unknowable: Strategic boundaries between order and chaos in organizations . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. </li></ul><ul><li>Sergiovanni, T. J. (1992). Moral leadership: Getting to the heart of school improvement. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers. </li></ul>
    41. 41. About the Author <ul><li>David F. Bower is an assistant professor of teacher education in the College of Education at Ohio University. His primary program affiliation is Middle Childhood Education. </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. Bower joined the faculty at Ohio University in the fall of 2003. He completed his Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership at the University of New Mexico in May 2003. He received his Master of Arts degree in Educational Administration from UNM in 1996. He also holds a BA degree in English, Theater Arts, and Education from Grove City College in Pennsylvania. </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. Bower was a high school English and drama teacher for twenty years prior to his work as a middle school administrator. He is a former principal of Roosevelt Middle School in Albuquerque, NM. </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. Bower has presented at a variety of conferences including the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum, the NM Administrators Conference on Education, and the South Australian Middle Schooling Conference. </li></ul><ul><li>Research interests include teacher preparation, quality, and leadership; chaos and complexity theory as applied to schools and organizations; and middle childhood education. </li></ul>
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