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Resilient and adaptive schools

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Presentation at uLead 2017 to a full house of colleagues in Banff, April 2017. Looks at what it takes to lead an adaptive and resilient school. Book coming soon!

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Resilient and adaptive schools

  1. 1. Building Resilience and Adaptive Capacity in Schools Stephen Murgatroyd, PhD and Jean Stiles, MEd
  2. 2. Systems Thinking Before we can understand resilience and adaptive capacity, we need to understand the school as a system
  3. 3. Five Key Elements of School as an Eco- System  Every child comes from a complex family, cultural and social system  Every teacher comes from a different complex, family, cultural and social system coupled with assumptions about their role, professionalism and tasks  Every school is placed in a community and communities have complex histories, biographies and dynamics  Every school is part of a school system and no two schools within that system are the same and no two school systems are the same  Every school has rhythms, disruptions and dynamics which change daily - superficially the same, always different
  4. 4. Sense Making  Making sense of a school as an ecosystem requires us to understand:  Small data and nuances of the school – insights which shift understanding and perceptions and provide “ha- ha” moments  Big data – patterns over time  The compassion, empathy and emotional climate of the school  The learning outcomes within the school – not just those tested for, but those cared about  The social complexity of the school as an ecosystem  Understanding the different motivations and needs of stakeholders
  5. 5. Few of Us See the School as a System  We can see the surface – the “tip of the iceberg”  But beneath this tip of the “iceberg” ecosystem are:  Change and opportunity dynamics  Resistance dynamics  Expectations and performance dynamics  The drama of the lives of students, teachers and leaders  The failings of the school in terms of equity, performance and compassion  Deviation dynamics – the exceptions, the “falling through the cracks” challenges
  6. 6. The Importance of the Student Voice  What they say:  Authenticity  Engagement  Respect  Richness of Experience  What they want  Authentic learning  Compassion and respect for them as persons - e.g. as part of the design of learning  Challenge  Feedback which enables not disables
  7. 7. Resilient and Adaptive Schools
  8. 8. Adaptive capacity / Resilience Time Usual Conditions Ending Reconciling Navigating Thriving
  9. 9. Catastrophic Shock
  10. 10. RISK: THINK MOST ABOUT THIS IS MANAGEABLE THIS WE HANDLE THIS IS OK THIS IS SCARY LEVEL OF RISK FREQUENCY OF RISK LOW LOW HIGH HIGH Our ability to cope is a function of experience – which is a function of frequency – which is function of life experiences being rich not limited
  11. 11. 7 Characteristics  Focus and alignment around a challenging key purpose and challenge  Optimism about being able to change and make a difference  Decisiveness – “no one else is coming” so “let’s get it done”  Integrity and a focus on quality experience and outcomes  Open Communication and a high degree of self-organization / internal trust  Collaboration up, down, sideways and outwards  Empathy, Warmth and Genuineness shown through compassion for all in the school – students, teachers, colleagues, parents
  12. 12. They do this work through these actions..  Build and empower teacher teams..  Build and empower supports for learners and learning  Enable the student voice to be heard  Connect to others around the world: collaborate, engage, adopt/adapt  Focus, re-focus, and focus again on equity as an ambition in terms of outcomes for all learners  Never let a good crisis go to waste..  Use “small data” to capture the nuances of their work
  13. 13. Which requires them to..  Build a commitment to a common purpose and agreed outcomes. Using evidence, dialogue and sharing of successes to show that the agreed outcomes are not only possible, but have been achieved by colleagues within the school.  Value similarities and differences. Rather than seeking an enmeshed and rigid sense of how to work on the schools, the schools seeks to build it adaptive capacity by celebrating and valuing differences and diversity.  Listen and talk to build understanding. Some talk. Some listen. Sometimes they do both. However, the key to the resilient school is the search for understanding and meaning.  Strive to achieve authentic, valued and meaningful outcomes for each student of the school and each staff member. This is more than a commitment to try to work towards common outcomes; this is about finding the authentic voice for each teacher and student so that their work and investment of energy is truly valued. The key word here is “authentic” – the genuine pursuit of the inner professional voice of the teacher to deliver support for the students learning and personal / social development intentions
  14. 14. Adaptive Schools are not the Same as Highly Organized Schools Highly Organized Schools  Machine like administration focused on predictability and reliability.  Strong centralized control.  Substantial policy and procedures formally administered.  Directive leadership.  Safe  Highly organized and regimented Resilient / Adaptive School Ecosystems  Living organism that adapts to conditions daily, weekly, monthly.  Teamwork dominates the methods of working.  Patterns are recognized and responded to.  Leadership is distributed, engaged and situational.  Risk taking occurs within a context of care for others.  Interdependent, dynamic.  Passionate focus on success for all - sprints for performance and ”Catch-Nets” for those who struggle  Safe
  15. 15. Small Data – Big Insights
  16. 16. How Small Data Gives Insight – More Small Observation Opportunities  Student voices and engagement  Teacher-share and engagement  Pupil Pursuit  Systematic small scale, in school research (researcher in residence)  Adopt a “Student with Promise” (one who the school needs to attend to…)  Map Your Teaching Year (Highs, Lows) and the Learning..  Walk the Hall and Listen and Chat…make notes  Drop in Classrooms and Look  Community focus groups  Innovation Through Hands on Learning and Drop In to Another Teachers Class
  17. 17. Equity and a Change of Language How changing language can change behaviour. A school used to use the language of “students at risk” and sought to encourage faculty identify students who were at risk. Few faculty did so. But when they changed this ask to “identify students with promise whose promise is unfilled” not only did they get a much larger response, they also received a great many suggestions from faculty about what an appropriate response to the students need might be.
  18. 18. Context Shifting How changing context can change outcomes. When a teacher gives a context to some task or challenge then students see the task or challenge in that context. Changing the context – for example, rather than being a health care context it becomes the context for a new video game – can change how the learner approaches this task. A colleague did this – asked his class to create the rules for a new battle game between conflicting parties and then showed them how their rules for the battle were similar to the rules for a particular legal process. “One class I wont forget in a hurry…”
  19. 19. Observing and Change.. How observing peer groups can produce better group activities. A teacher set three groups different versions of the same task – each group had a different component of the same problem and the “solution” required all three groups to realize that they needed to share information between the groups if any one of them was to be successful in solving the problem. Though she had not intended to formally teach problem solving skills, she used the experience of the group work to do so with the result that the next time she undertook group activities all of her groups performed better, faster, smarter.
  20. 20. Pupil Pursuit and Patterns.. How watching an individual student try to master a complex problem can help identify problem solving skills which can be shared. The teacher sat with a student who was struggling with some basic chemistry. Rather than explain the chemistry, the faculty member explored how the student was thinking about the work and what kind of processes they were using to “solve” the problem. This generated several insights not why this and other students were struggling with thinking like a chemist and led to significant changes in the design and delivery of these courses.
  21. 21. Innovation from Observation How close observation leads to innovation. In designing a new approach to the design of a new program of studies, a small team spent time discussing the hopes and ambitions or potential students and realized two things: (a) the students were looking for far greater flexibility and choice than existed in any other program available to them – they were looking to “mix and match” their own program; and (b) they wanted the opportunity to be flexible in how they studied (some in-class, some online, some through intense but short courses, some through projects).
  22. 22. A Global Café - Safe Place to Risk  Staffed by social workers, counsellors and community workers  A hub for student led projects and community engagement  A place for some down time  A friendship centre  A counselling and support hub  All profits invested in student led learning projects
  23. 23. Big Data versus Small Data  Big data is hard: Doing it at scale and waiting for trickle down benefits can take time. Many in the college or university do not understand the analytic models and the complexities of the data and they are also suspicious of correlational data being used to suggest causation – a common mistake. Small data, in contrast, is a story or understanding which can be shared quickly and effectively and is easily related to.  Small data is all around us: Social channels are rich with small data that is ready to be collected to inform learning design and educational decisions. At a personal level, we are constantly creating this small data each time we teach a class, mark assignments, log in, browse, post etc. Understanding patterns from these observations can trigger change.  Small data is at the center of the new understanding of student behaviour. Small data is the key to building rich profiles of our students. Not just who they are, but how they think, work, share, engage and work with others. Understanding these behaviours and ways of thinking should led to significant improvements in pedagogy and the design of learning, especially online learning.
  24. 24. Big Data versus Small Data (…)  Data-driven learning is the next wave: Big and small data-driven learning design has the potential to revolutionize the way faculty interact with students and knowledge, transforming how students interact with each other and how students utilize knowledge resources for learning. This work will also transform assessment.  Platform and Tool vendors are starting to pay attention: New tools are emerging which enable faculty, students and others to capture and share small data so that we can identify patterns quickly. Collaborative software with pre-designed capture tools are growing in use and a number of small data supports (Kanban systems, quick video capture) are growing in use for this purpose.  Small data in education is about the learner. Small data is about the learner: what they need, and how they can take action, what supports work best for them, how they use learning resources, what they know and don’t know about the technology they use. Focus on the the learner first, and a lot of our decisions about teaching, learning design, technology supports will soon become clearer.  Simple: Small data is the right data, some small data will start life as two or three faculty members making the same observations about how their students approach a leanring challenge. Soon big data can be used to look at the behaviour on a larger scale, but you shouldn't need to be a data scientist to understand or apply small data for everyday tasks. Less is more and simple and small is good.
  25. 25. 3 Keys to for Small Data  Collaboration is the DNA of the Adaptive School - Collaborative sharing of insights, observations and practices – sharing small data – can lead to major changes in what we teach and how we do so.  Not Just a Story - move beyond anecdotes and look for patterns. Anthropologists do this well – they study the behaviour of groups and then discern the patterns in this behaviour – rituals and routines - and then pay attention to deviance.  Think Like a Kindergarten Group - work collaboratively, problem solving as you go, do lots of prototyping until you find a workable solution and then go for that solution with gusto.
  26. 26. Resilient Cultural Eco-Systems Have..
  27. 27. Persistence Adaptability Transformability Compassion Empathy Fun
  28. 28. Resilient and Adaptive Schools Because they have…  Moved beyond coping and surviving  Moved to understand their internal strengths and capacities  Flaws and understand what they are – they are working to leverage them, change them or live with them  Diversity and leverage this diversity to gain strength and create opportunities  Energy for being better all the time They also have..  Distributed leadership  Engaged staff and students and community members  Constant innovation and change  A collaborative professional learning environment  Energy for the next thing..
  29. 29. Resilient and Adaptive School are Learning Organizations
  30. 30. Resilient and Adaptive Schools Learn..  Create an proactive, creative and innovative approach to the unknown and the about to be…  Engage and involve stakeholders, especially students and staff  Build trust so that risks can be taken, failures learned from and change is constant  Move beyond coping to adaptation and transformation  Inspire and motivate towards a common purpose: equity

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