When Michael Fullan was here two weeks ago, he spent his second day in discussion with our leadership team on how we can get greater precision in our work.  He suggested three key areas as a next step: the coordination of the message across the system, the coordination of work across the networks and a strong instructional focus on literacy and maths.

According to Fullan, the last area is about getting specificity and depth and precision in the instruction.  You see this when principals work inside and outside of their school, teachers work collaboratively and schools see themselves as something bigger.  Building success across the system builds momentum.

Fullan also mentioned the importance of social capital in school improvement and whole system reform.  He explained that social capital is essentially the quality of relationships in a group focussed on the work.   The example Fullan uses is the sports team that is committed to each other and works cohesively actually beating the team with greater individual talent but which lacks cohesion and social capital.

The work of school principals is to help build the social capital in their own learning communities while systems support the creation of professional learning communities across networks. It is the development of a  “peer culture”, linking into bigger networks where everyone is  focused on improving student learning outcomes.

As Jim Collins says it’s not the destination but the journey that gets you from good to great.  In many respects, Fullan has become our coach – helping to change our own instructional practice in order to become a high performing system.

3 thoughts on “Precision

  1. Greg you made a number of points here and Fullan’s work on specificity, depth and precision in instruction are compelling. However the term social capital is the one I would like to comment on.

    I should reference here that my thoughts are influenced by the work of Burnham, Farrar and Otero who wrote in ” Schools and Communities” that “Productive learning is no longer measured soley in terms of competitive advantage, as indicated by test scores and degrees, but more a mix of advancing individual knowledge and skill in service to both individual and the collective, realizing the interdependence between individual satisfaction and achievement and community vitality.”

    We have been drawn to this notion that all learning is relational and must serve both the individual and the “learning community”. We are working with George Otero from New Mexico to try and shift or flip our thinking here particularly within a data informed instruction inquiry process to realise that relationships are the basis of effective learning communities and that time spent on exploring this each year is not wasted time. Bringing the whole community along on the journey is part if the challenge for leadership particularly in high socio economic communities and in high performing schools for the need to have community vitality is not always at the forefront of one’s experiences in my opinion, not that I am saying its no less relevant in other socio economic communities.

    This contiues to remain a challenge for us as we tryand redefine or reshape our morale purpose of education within schools.

    Thanks again for the prompts to reflect and comment. Have a safe summer holiday Greg.

    1. Mark, as usual I agree with everything you’ve written. Teaching and learning for me is about relationships. This is the real strength of the teacher who understands this relationship with student and content (Elmore’s Instructional Core). The stronger these relationships, the more powerful the learning and teaching. Many times, it is difficult to measure and quantify these relationships but we do know that while some can be quantified, there are others of a less tangible nature for which we make value judgments. The complexity involved sometimes baffles even the best teacher, often time it refuses to be measured but we know it when we see it. Keep the ideas coming.

  2. I think the points are well made that principals need to develop professional learning communities within their schools and at the same time foster networked professional learning communities. Though I do so hate the sporting team analogies – they’re just too simplistic!

    And I totally agree with Mark – moving away from the test scores is also an essential as the key measure of success – is vitally important if real learning is to occur.

    My experience in professional learning communities is that having everyone wanting to focus on student learning outcomes and working cohesively with one another are the easy parts. Moving to learning collaboratively as opposed to just sharing ideas, projects and resources is the hard part. And ensuring that in our professional dialogue there is challenge alongside respect – as educators we all tend to be in “the land of nice” – is even harder. Yet both these elements are essential if we are to have professional learning communities that really make a difference..

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