Come on, baby- Light my Fire! Part 5
To continue updating you on our work in southwest Colorado, we are observing an interesting phenomenon between schools and classrooms. When we last wrote, schools were innovating their personalized mastery culture inside of their own classrooms and schools. We have been focusing our consulting on training and coaching support at the individual school level. This usually entails Gene or Copper working with teachers and principals to initiate and problem-solve the implementation of learner-centered classroom practices and mastery tools.
In our book, we asserted that teachers built collective efficacy through the processes of creating vicarious experiences and social persuasion. Until recently, this took the form of teachers sharing experiences within their teams and between teams in their school. Gene and Copper began to take video of teachers and learners explaining an innovation that has worked for them. We began to share those videos across schools to inspire others with the thought “if they can do it, we can do it”. These videos are serving as a catalyst for teachers to now visit each other’s classrooms and schools. We currently have four elementary and middle school staffs who have worked with their principal to support these efforts.
This work began at a low-performing elementary during the 2014-15 school year. It spread to three more schools during the 2015-16 school year and now some of the practices in blended learning and differentiation have come back to the original elementary school to make them even better. As the teachers in the original school were implementing and refining their practices, they visited other teachers’ classrooms and brought back solutions to issues that they were experiencing. This sharing of practice has made the early adopters build collective efficacy to benefit the whole district.
One of the key levers in the success of these four schools in the principal championing the teachers’ risk-taking and efforts to better meet the needs of each learner. In this role, the principal is using the leadership strategies of optimizing and affirming. There is a renewed energy in teachers dividing and conquering the work in order to make teaching and learning time more meaningful for each student. It has been exciting for us to see two schools use PLC time to share their work so the changes don’t seem so overwhelming.
As often happens in a forest fire, sparks jump from tree-to-tree. This is not only true in a forest fire, but also in innovations that will reform educational practice.