The Power of Networks for School Improvement: Learning with Steven Katz (4)

[The Manitoba Association of School Superintendents (MASS) 2019 Summer Institute includes 3 days of learning with Steven Katz. Here are some of my notes from this learning opportunity.]

You can find all the posts in this series here:

Creating the Conditions for Focused Professional Learning (Part 2): The Learning Focus

When you are in a classroom, and something isn’t working, you only have 2 choices: Change the kids, or change the teaching practice!

Creating the conditions for focused professional learning is the FUNCTION of the network.

How do we enable the kind of professional learning that results in the kind of knowledge creation and sharing that will lead to sustained changes in thinking and practice in schools and classrooms?

In general, we don’t get it to the depth of ownership, sustainability, and scale necessary for success. You must be able to see a change in 90% of classrooms, not scattered in isolated places. So we have to enable that kind of professional learning.

There are three enablers that effective networks pay attention to:

  • Learning Focus: Focus really matters! (the what)
  • Collaborative Inquiry Methodology (the how) that challenges thinking and practice
  • Instructional Leadership at formal and informal levels.

The strongest mechanism for supporting these three enablers is the professional learning community inside of the school.

Investing in school-based professional learning communities matters!

But in addition, how can those in school learning communities be networked together? What does it look like for learning communities within schools to connect with each other across schools?

This also has the potential to influence the three key enablers, to allow us to get the right kind of impactful professional learning in place.

An interconnected learning focus (Steven Katz, 2019)

We begin by asking, “What is our urgent student learning need“?

This is the indicator of the urgent teacher learning need. This becomes an indicator of a leader learning need.

We START with “What knowledge and skills do our students need?”. What do we as professionals then need to learn? Once we learn all the new stuff, we have to try it! It is next practice. How effective has what we’ve done been in improving outcomes?

This is: Plan -> Act -> Assess -> Reflect (repeat).

We are very good at Plan -> Act Plan->Act

We are not as good at Assess -> Reflect -> possibly change course.

When we see that what the kids are learning is determining what the adults are doing, we have an intelligent learning focus. There is a shared understanding of why the adults are learning what they are learning, and it is because they are learning to meet the identified needs of the learners in the building.

And everyone, including front office staff, knows what that focus is.

Featured image by Stephan Cosma on Unsplash

One thought on “The Power of Networks for School Improvement: Learning with Steven Katz (4)

  1. Succinctly said Donna! I love that you tease out the critical pieces in learning relationships and highlight what many of us have known for a long time – the need to reflect, determine impact of actions – revise the plan to address what we are seeing – practice – analyze – and reflect again.

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