Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Creating a Learning Epidemic!
We have had enough of a culture that forces schools to compete with each other.
Teachers have traditionally shared their ideas between schools but this is not the case today. We need an ‘educational epidemic’ to encourage teachers to share their knowledge once again and to enable them to ‘catch’ each others ideas. Spreading school based innovation between schools is the way of the future.
For far to long innovation has been imposed on schools by central government with a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, and with a notable lack of success. As well, by default, imposed ideas have devalued the countless successful local ideas developed by classroom teachers.
The greatest source of untapped intellectual capital in any education system is the talent and enterprise of its teachers. To be of use this capital needs to be recognized, acknowledged and spread within and between schools. In the future a school’s success will depend on its capacity to create conditions foster teachers creativity and in turn their ability to introduce new ideas to the school from any source.
In a culture, too quick to blame teachers for society’s ills, teacher innovation has gone underground. If it is to be accessible to others the government needs to trust teachers and give active permission for schools to take the necessary risks to innovate and try new ideas.
If this were done it could unleash a spate of possibly unfocused innovation so it is essential that it be undertaken in disciplined way. It is important that schools do not waste energy reinventing wheels; the key is to identify and share successful ideas that currently exist in schools. To do this schools need to begin to break down current barriers developed since 'Tomorrows Schools' and begin to work together in informal networks.
It is always difficult for individual schools to judge how that stand against other schools. To achieve such self self knowledge schools need to be prepared to work with others to determine their needs and to see what they can share. Making use of a trusted mentor would be very useful. Such a person could discuss with each school what assistance they need and what they could offer others.
Teachers will always consider ideas they have seen in action. Even if the ideas are difficult they will be enthusiastic and give them a go.If they have had a say in what they attempt, and can see what practical help is available, there is every chance of success. Good ideas have always 'spread' between teachers as if a 'benign virus'.
A lot depends on teachers having face to face encounters with other teachers they respect and trust. Through observation and demonstration ideas will spread between schools particularly, when teachers can get together to learn from each other. Any successful sharing depends on positive collaborative relationships not current isolationism, competition and compliance.
Some schools and teachers will naturally be seen as being at the ‘cutting edge’ and others will be keen to take advantage of such expertise if they see the value. Those who share will benefit from helping others. This spirit of sharing provides a positive force for ideas to generate. Ideas will also spread to other networks, no doubt helped by the power of communication media.
Teachers have always been open to introducing new ideas into their classrooms if they feel the ideas will make their teaching more effective. As ideas spread the ideas will gain a life of their own and will even spread more quickly, particularly if there are channels to allow this to happen.
The path to transformation are decentralized networks and trusted mentors. Ideas themselves will be disciplined by the professionalism of teachers who are open to working with their peers.
To achieve such a sharing culture the role of central government needs be transformed. If the aim is to create self generating creative communities the Ministries role is to create the conditions to allow innovation to develop and to develop the processes to share the ideas.
Rather than a ‘compliance culture’ a ‘gift culture’ needs to be established – one that benefits both the person giving and the person is receiving. Such a system would value and encourage passionate teachers who would, in the process, gain a sense of joy from the free communication and excitement of sharing. A sense of creative freedom and reciprocity is vital but most of all recognition would be given to those who count – the creative classroom teachers who contribute their ideas to the common good of the teaching community.
Let’s share the creativity of teachers between schools.
Enough of imposed contracts and curriculums
Spread the word! Let’s start a learning epidemic!