Learning Bets
Chapter: A Critical First Step

Becoming Aware of the Implicit Assumptions We Are Acting On

The widespread and shared nature of this how problem, our conflation of the how and the what of transformational learning and leadership, our tendencies to respond to pressure by “adding on” instead of by “focusing down,” and the poor research base about how teachers best grow all combine together like a fog around the choices we are making about how to grow classroom leaders.

The first step toward making more purposeful and informed choices about our learning bets is to see clearly the implicit assumptions we are currently making about how our people will grow.  In some cases, we are acting on assumptions about our teachers’ learning without even realizing it. 

The teacher educators we convened before and during the roundtable had divergent, and often conflicting, theories about what forms of engagement best grow teacscreen-shot-2016-10-10-at-6-36-29-amher candidates into exceptional teachers. 

Some, like Ellen Moir from the New Teacher Center and Franco Mosso from Enseña Peru, for example, are betting on well-facilitated reflection on classroom experience to nurture and grow foundational mindsets and dispositions.

In contrast, others like Morva MacDonald from the University of Washington and Doug Lemov (who developed Teach Like a Champion) are instead placing their bets on practicing skills as the critical foundation for growing as teacher.  And yet, while Morva and Doug share an emphasis on practice, they are each betting on practice in very different ways: Morva on deep, contextualized subject matter engagement and Doug on a core set of “generic” teaching tactics that a teacher may use in any context

In fact, each of the dozens of teacher preparation gurus we have studied is actually making a different set of “learning bets.”

To force those experts (and ourselves) to surface the assumptions they (and we) are making about how teachers best learn, we created a series of spectra, each representing an “axis of choice” that is made—explicitly or implicitly—by any teacher preparation program.  These spectra are artificial provocations, but by asking “where is your program?” and “where do you want your program to be?” on these spectra, we are learning a lot about what makes intentional and more successful learning theory.

Here are some of the spectra we are going to ask you to think about:

Reading/Watching versus Practicing/Doing

Contextualized versus Generic

Skills versus Mindsets

Explicit Engagement with Identity & Privilege versus Implicit

Individualized Learning versus Uniform Learning

Collective Learning versus Individual Learning

Learner-Driven Learning versus Organization-Driven Learning


These spectra are distilled from looking across all the divergent bets we saw from highly regarded teacher preparation programs.  That is, when we look at all the different perspectives about how to grow great classroom leaders, we see those differences actually represent choice points on a bunch of different axes. Even when the leaders of those teacher preparation models disagreed with each other about the specific learning bets they prioritized, all of them are acting on choices on these (and probably other) spectra.

As one CEO of a Teach For All partner organization put it,

I suddenly realized that we haven’t really had the conversation of why we stand where we stand [on how we will grow our teachers].  We just did it.  We have to go back and be clear on the choice we are making.

READING/WATCHING versus PRACTICING/DOING

Do New Teachers Best Grow By Reading & Watching, or By Practicing & Doing?

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We have been asking experts and innovators inside and outside our Teach For All network this question and then pushing to understand why they are taking that stand.  Before you look at what we are learning, take a moment to ask yourself where your program is on the spectrum above.  And also ask your self where on the spectrum you want your program to be.  Why?  On what basis are you making those judgments?  What assumptions are you making about how your teachers best learn?  What factors are influencing those choices?

In the table below BLUE DOTS represent where program leaders have stood on the question “where IS my program/approach right now?” and the GREEN DOTS represent where program leaders have stood on the question “where do you WANT your program to be?”

[Note: We have now led this exercise with many dozens of teacher trainers inside and outside of Teach For All.  The few dots on these spectra in this section are generally representative of the trends we are seeing.  They do not represent specific people or programs.]

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Some Comments and Questions:

  • What you see above represents the most alignment we had among ALL of the axes we explored. Partner organizations in the Teach For All network, and many of their closest external partners, are strongly oriented to the power of learning through doing.  Virtually all of our partner organizations are betting that classrooms where students are learning are the greatest place for teacher learning as well. 
  • A number of participants have noted that traditional teacher preparation systems around the world largely expect teachers to learn by reading and watching (even if, in reality, so much of the real learning happens by “doing.”)
  • With the experts at the Roundtable, and the dozens of subsequent explorations of these ideas with partner organizations, we see lots of wrestling with what it means to “learn by doing.”  How do we incorporate PRACTICE into our preparation and development of teachers?  How do we make the practice of teaching PUBLIC so that we define teaching as continuous learning and growing with and from others? 

OK, let’s get into some harder questions.

CONTEXTUALIZED versus GENERIC

Do New Teachers Best Grow Through Emphasis on Grade- and Content-Specific Learning, or Through Emphasis on Generic, Cross-Context Learning?

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Where do you think your program “stands” on this spectrum?  Why?  Where do you WANT it to stand on this spectrum?  Why?

While we are seeing across our network general alignment in the “doing” direction in that first spectrum above, we are seeing significantly divergent perspectives on this choice between generic teacher learning and content-centered teacher learning. 

With the blue dots representing where programs are, and the green dots representing where they want to be, the array of programs (indicated by where our experts and Teach For All partners “took at stand”) looked more like this:

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-2-29-36-pm

The Debate About Contextualized versus Generic Learning

All the experts and innovators we have engaged argue that both content-specific and generic teaching skills (in terms of the “what” of great teaching) are important.  Some experts believe, however, that it is better for teachers to first learn through basic non-contextualized skills so that new teachers have a generic foundation from which to build.  Others, like Morva McDonald (representing University of Washington’s approach), believe deeply in the power of learning to teach through the contextualized pedagogical puzzles of specific content:

Teachers’ capacity to facilitate organized discussion in productive ways is a practice that cuts across content and context. But the way to actually learn that is inside of an actual content or context.

Context matters to Morva and many others we have spoken with because (a) they believe that the essence of great teaching is the difficult, internal, pedagogical judgments of interacting with students and learning and (b) they argue that adult minds best learn within the context in which they will need to act. 

True mastery, they contend, is in how a teacher considers a pedagogical dilemma, including and especially in context of particular content and students.  And the brain-based argument for contextualizing learning is that difficult concepts “stick” better and are more actionable when they are built in the same context they will be used. 

So Morva and many others argue that how we grow teachers must reflect deep content-based practice and coaching:

Teaching is filled with pedagogical dilemmas, right? Do I sit these kids next each other or not? And they are equally good alternatives, so you have to, as a teacher, build the argumentation with yourself about how to make those decisions. Either one is a good choice, probably.  But it depends on your context and it depends on your reasoning. So we need to think about how to reason inside those dilemmas. This relates to judgment: you have to make a decision. You can’t just ponder the dilemma – you actually have to do something inside of teaching. And those decisions are made in moments of uncertainty. We don’t have all the info we need. We actually never have all the information we need when we’re making decisions, so what you want to do is help teachers practice how do you make decisions in moments of uncertainty as you’re learning teach.

Australian pedagogical expert Ben Jensen also stood toward the “context” side of this spectrum and offered the observation that a distinguishing characteristic of the Asian education systems that have most improved has been an emphasis on content-specific teacher learning.  He suggested that those systems have emphasized contextualized skills not just in what teachers need to know but how they learn.

This “context matters” learning bet often comes with a serious critique of  the “generic teaching skills first” approach often attributed to Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion approach, or to Teaching As Leadership.  Morva argues that “we know from research that generic practices don’t help you leverage what teachers need to know in order to teach the specific context that they’re teaching.” 

And yet, we are hearing Doug and other supporters of cross-context teaching practices also make a brain-based case for their learning bet.  The human brain is a powerful tool for applying generic principles to specific contexts, and, in fact, doing so is itself a learning process.  Some of the people who design training and support from a more generic-skills first angle make the argument that you must get some basics to the level of “automaticity” in order to free up your mind to consider the “judgments” that Morva is correct to value.  And the best path to that automaticity is to practice foundational generic skills (e.g., lesson planning, giving instructions, facilitating conversation, etc.) so that you have the “brain space” to identify and wrestling with Morva’s “pedagogical dilemmas.”

We See Across the Network a Desire to Shift to More toward Contextualized Learning

Meanwhile, many of the experts and Teach For All partners we have worked with stand closer to “generic” than “contextualized.”

But in many cases, our partner organizations are reporting that it has been logistical realities, more than purposeful learning theory, that has driven their inclination toward generic teaching skills.  For many partners,  what grade and subject teachers will be be teaching is rarely known until soon before school starts, putting a premium on building generic skills that teacher can apply across contexts.  Those programs are wrestling with how to infuse more contextualized learning into their programs despite those logistical challenges.

The Value of These Spectra Exercises

As illustrated by these two spectra exercises thus far, well respected experts and innovators are making fundamentally different assumptions about how people best learn.  Some experts believe that teaching is so complex that you must train and support from the context that builds that complexity.  Other experts argue that breaking things down and starting with simple, generic basics is the best way to scaffold teacher learning.

We have no illusion that all partner organizations can and should come to the same answer on those questions, but we do believe that we can all be more intentional in our choices, and thereby learn from each other.

The question we are asking is WHY?  Why do some experts value one learning bet and other experts another learning bet?  Where is your program on these questions?  How clear and intentional are these choices in how you design learning experiences for your teachers?

These spectra are meant to bring into the light assumptions your program may be making about how teachers best grow.

SKILLS versus MINDSETS

Do Our Teachers Best Growth with Early Emphasis on Skills (Through Practice) or Early Emphasis on Mindsets (Through Disorienting Experiences and Reflection)?

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Where do you think your program “stands” on this spectrum?  Why?  Where do you WANT it to stand on this spectrum?  Why?

While the division between the importance of skills versus mindsets is at some level artificial, the question of which (if either) of these two realms you emphasize more in your training and support model is a hotly debated topic across and beyond the Teach For All network.

We know both skills and mindsets are important to great teaching.  But some experts and innovators are betting  that mindsets grow from a successful foundation of skills while others are betting that skills grow from a successful foundation of mindsets.

A Divergent Array of Perspectives

At the Roundtable, the room was spread pretty widely across this spectrum when each person was asked to “take a stand” for where his or her program is on this axis.  Some of the partner programs from the globe’s Eastern Hemisphere seem to lean most strong toward the mindsets end of the spectrum.

Here’s a representative visualization of where programs we’ve engaged ARE and WANT TO BE:screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-2-35-03-pm

 

The Case for Skills (Through Practice) As a Foundation for Mindsets (Through Disorienting Experiences and Reflection)

Some of the program leaders and experts (like Mike Goldstein) argue that mindsets should be built on top of (and after) a foundation of skills grown in a new teacher.  Mike argues that “mindsets” progress is too fragile if a teacher is having serious challenges with basic classroom management and instruction:

My general view is that it is easier for more people to climb the ladder of the specific and get some positive momentum with basic, foundation skills so they see real progress. That foundation of progress can then catalyze some of the large “self” work because they’ve experienced, in a real way, some self-driven progress. I feel like the flaw in taking on the mindset stuff at the beginning is that for at least some of the teachers, once they start to hit obstacles in the day-to-day work with kids, that mindset work can just be undone more easily. Like, “ok, you’ve convinced me that these kids legitimately have lots of potential. Great, I am ready to go. I’m so fired up. Boy, I just had 17 bad teaching days in a row.” Ok, so maybe uncharitably I stop believing you, the person who told me that the kids have a lot of potential or I’ll point the finger of blame at myself. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this. Maybe I’ll point the finger at the institution or the school, that nobody can teach well in the school.

Morva (while often on different ends of various spectra from Mike) in this case agrees that mindsets should not be the lead focus of a theory of development.  In her opinion, mindsets will flow from success with deep, content-centered practice of pedagogical dilemmas:

I say we are going to work on your practice and we are going to give you a lot of examples and we are going to give you the experience of having some success with the kids that you never thought you could be successful with or that they themselves could never be successful. I think most of those teachers [in the Chicago institute that went through a variation of the “deep practice” model] don’t see the kids as the problem. They actually ask themselves, and we have some data around this, “Oh, I’m not doing this right because I can’t get that kid to participate,” not “that kid is not participating.” It’s really different.

Morva and Mike, in different ways, both contend that success on classroom skills leads to mindsets growth.

The Case for Mindsets (Through Disorienting Experiences and Reflection) As a Foundation for Skills (Through Practice)

And yet, some of the most innovative thinkers we have around the network, including some programmatic leaders from India and Pakistan and Peru and Nepal, are making a mindsets-early “bet” in their teacher growth strategy. screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-8-17-06-am

They believe that by nurturing in our teachers the internal drive to want to learn, to improve, and to achieve with and for students, skill-building comes more easily.  When our teacher-learners have the right mindsets, we are able to be more learner-driven and to be more aligned to our purpose of growing the leadership of both our students and our teachers.  These program leaders believe that stoking our teachers’ internal fire should be a leading “bet” in our training and support models. 

Todd Rose from the Center for Individual Opportunity at Harvard [have we mentioned that his book The End of Average is a MUST READ?] also argues that true  leadership in the classroom and beyond requires profound mindset shifts because we are part and product of systems that are not build to do that:

This has been an eye-opening day . . . I would argue if you really believe that we need a dramatic shift in the way that we’re going to think about individuals that is very different than what has come before and what is based into the system right now, then I don’t think you can sleep on mindsets.  . . .How do you think about kids, fundamentally?  If you go into a system that is all rank and order—standardized test scores, IQ, etc.—unless you have a very strong conviction and a personal mindsets around how you see kids, it’s very easy to snap back [to that rank  and order thinking that inhibits true learning]. 

Where do you fall on this spectrum between leading with skills through practice (as a foundation for growing mindsets) and leading with mindsets through disorienting experience and reflection (as a foundation for building skills)? 

And most importantly, WHY?  Where does that perspective come from?  What do these experts’ thoughts and perspectives make you think about your own? Are your choices in this regard deriving from the purpose your program is serving? 

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EXPLICIT ENGAGEMENT WITH CULTURE & IDENTITY versus IMPLICIT ENGAGEMENT WITH CULTURE & IDENTITY

Do Our New Teachers Best Grow Through Explicit Consideration of Culture and Identity in the Foreground of their Learning, or Through Implicit Consideration of Those Issues in the Background of Learning to Become Teachers?

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-7-59-56-amWhere do you think your program “stands” on this spectrum?  Why?  Where do you WANT it to stand on this spectrum?  Why?

This is another axis of choice that is often made implicitly, without much intentionality.  And this is another another axis that revealed at the Roundtable some global divisions.  Speaking generally, we saw a number of organization leaders from the US describing their programs in terms of more explicit consideration of culture, identity, power, privilege, race, socio-economic status, and social justice while representatives of many other places suggested those themes were much less explicit elements of their “learning bets.” 

For example, Jennifer Green of the Urban Teacher Center, described the emphasis her “residency” model program puts on identity, self and dynamics of difference and sameness that play out in the relationships among teachers, students, and families. Representatives from Teach For America described efforts the organization has made to put self-awareness in relation to those dynamics at the heart of its menu of “learning bets” with new teachers.

Interestingly, across the globe we are seeing almost all programs want to move from more implicit to more explicit about issues of culture, identity, and power and privilege in their training and support of teachers.  (Reminder:  the blue dots are where programs ARE, and the green dots are where program leaders say they WANT to be.) screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-8-00-21-am

Those of you familiar with the evolution of Teach For All’s  “transformational learning and leadership” model will recall that power and privilege is a recurring theme that arises when we ask “what patterns do we see in our most transformational classrooms that are not showing up very often in our teacher performance models?”

Here’s what Teach For All is finding in those studies:

Often our classroom leadership models and approaches to training and support seem to be relatively quiet (if not silent) on the local histories, structures, and systemic injustices that privilege certain groups and perspectives in our communities. By contrast, in our most transformational classrooms, we often see teachers and students wrestling together with those systemic injustices, discussing difficult topics like prejudices and expectations related to gender, class, race sexual orientation, and learning differences.  We see teachers provoking reflection on the local and cultural histories of oppression that students and the teacher live in every day. We see students exploring in age-appropriate ways the systemic injustices they will have to navigate to reach their vision and the cultural, collective, and individual assets they have to do so.

These teachers—especially those who do not share the background of their students—often describe growing and uncomfortable awareness of the unjust “norms” and systems around their students and share worry that their own perspectives have been deeply shaped by issues of power and privilege in ways that inhibit their connections with their students.  Sometimes these teachers describe their growing conviction that silence or “neutral” passivity on issues like sexism, classism, and racism risks making them accomplices to the perpetuation of those injustices.

How do these insights and questions make you think differently about your own “learning bets” for teachers?

INDIVIDUALIZATION versus UNIFORMITY

Do Our New Teachers Best Grow When We Individualize Their Learning Experiences or When They Experience a Common Set of Learning Experiences with Their Cohort?

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-8-37-15-amWhere do you think your program “stands” on this spectrum?  Why?  Where do you WANT it to stand on this spectrum?  Why?

Over the course of the Roundtable engagements, most of the participants—many of whom lead large-scale teacher preparation models—acknowledged that their programs do very little “individualization” of learning for teacher candidates.  Some of those program leaders regret that lack of differentiation.

Repeatedly, program leaders across and beyond the Teach For All network have noted that all of our teacher preparation programs emphasize differentiation by teachers for students in the classroom but few of our partner organizations do much to differentiate support in teacher learning.

We see striking alignment among all the teacher programs in wanting to move more toward differentiated support for their teachers.  Generally speaking, this is where program leaders ARE and WANT TO BE on this spectrum:screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-8-37-29-am

Virtually every program we have engaged with wants to be further to the left—in the direction of individualized, customized, differentiated learning bets for their teacher candidates.  Why do you think this is an axis in which we are so consistently misaligned (in our actions) with where we want to be?

The Case For Greater Individualization

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-8-21-37-amAt the Roundtable, two of the experts in particular were powerful voices for the importance of thinking about the spectrum of individualization and systematization.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-8-44-41-am

The first was Dr. Adrienne Dixson, an education professor who focuses on multicultural education and critical race studies (and is also an alumnae of Teach For America and graduate of the highly regarded University of Michigan graduate school of education).  Speaking both from her personal experience and from her deep knowledge of the research on minority groups in higher education, Dr. Dixson challenged us to consider carefully who our learners are. 

Having gone through a non-traditional program, it’s a huge issue to always be invisible.  I think we have to be real explicit about WHO we’re training and what that model can and can’t do, and if it can’t do things for that population, imagine the population you are actually trying to serve.

Those perspectives, for Dr. Dixson, are deeply personal:

The way we are talking about teacher ed—I wouldn’t be successful.  The breaking teaching down into discrete practices doesn’t resonate with my perspective on (1) the world and learning and (2) how I believe teachers develop, and (3) the traditions that teachers of color have come out of.

Dr. Dixson identifies one of the core problems with our “theories of development” is that we are not thinking hard enough about the perspective, experiences, background, context of our learners:

Who do we imagine as the teacher?  We have to talk about who were imagining because in may ways that shapes and informs both the structures and the what.  My career has been around what do teachers of color, particularly African-American woman, think about both the philosophy of teaching and what it looks like in practice.

Are we designing our train and support to be culturally responsive to our learners?  How are paradigms and perspectives of privilege baked into our training and support models that may be making those models less accessible and comfortable for some groups and more accessible and comfortable for others? 

Dr. Dixson—surrounded at the Roundtable by many teacher-trainers who do not share the background, race, ethnicity, cultural history or daily experiences of the children their teachers will work with—challenged the room think about the ways our programs are and are not built on consideration of the background, culture, perspective and learning inclinations of our teacher candidates.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-8-17-06-amFrom a different angle, a second guest expert at the Roundtable pushed us on this axis of individualization versus generic learning.  Dr. screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-8-44-52-amTodd Rose is a professor at Harvard who studies neuroscience and the “science of the individual.”  Dr. Rose, himself someone with learning differences that profoundly influenced his experience in formal education, is a leader in a new frontier of science that is proving that each of us learns and develops our talents in distinctive ways.  And yet those individual patterns get lost in the massive systems (like teacher preparation programs) that are designed to the “average.” 

Dr. Rose says this starts with deeply embedded design choices in our education system for children:

Most of us say that the goal of education is to meet each kid where they are and to help them reach their potential or some variation on that. . . But that is decidedly not how the system was structured and designed.  In the industrial era, it was about mass education, and about rank and sort.

How much of the problem we have right now are consequences of that system? We soldered into our system Edward Thorndyke’s standardized scope and sequence – the time you get to learn and the standard by which you’re assessed at that time – based on an average kid could do. Slow meant dumb. If that were true, why in the world would you give more time? Even though we KNOW fast doesn’t equal smart, we still have one scope and sequence. If you just vary pacing, and we’re talking about 1.6x the amount of time,  you can shift 2 standard deviations of performance pretty consistently. But, we’ve kind of bailed on that and went towards more standardized, more test based accountability. What is the purpose?  As Dr Dixson said, let’s question some basic assumptions – how do we design a system that does what we want it to do?

That same “design to the average” perspective is built into teacher preparation, and Dr. Rose insists that we are losing opportunity, wasting talent and reducing human capital in education and all sectors because we are ignoring the reality that a learning system “designed to the average” is actually not welcoming to ANY particular individual, because each of us has such a “jagged profile” as a learner.

We focus on jaggedness.  No one is 50th percentile on everything, no one 90th percentile on everything, and you really do need to know that jaggedness because it matters [to how you engage your learner.]

Dr. Rose challenged all of us to see our teacher preparation and support design challenges through the lens of individual opportunity, strengths, and learning.  He believes that there are ways to “systematize” that individualization, but we are so blinded by the “myth of average” that we end up creating learning experiences that undermine every student’s (and teacher-learner’s) learning.   

Dr. Rose says:

If we’re serious about individual kids and teachers, there might need to be a pretty fundamental shift in education.

 

 

LEARNER DRIVEN LEARNING versus ORGANIZATION DRIVEN LEARNING

Do Our New Teachers Best Grow When We Build Learning Around their Autonomy, Self-Diagnosis, and Choices as the “Owners” of their Learning Experiences, or When We Shape the Scope and Sequence of their Learning for Them?

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-7-48-52-pmWhere do you think your program “stands” on this spectrum?  Why?  Where do you WANT it to stand on this spectrum?  Why?

This spectrum focuses on the assumptions we make about whether our learners (our teacher candidates) are the drivers of their own learning or whether we are the drivers of their learning.  This idea percolated under the surface of both the Roundtable discussions and our subsequent engagements with training and support leaders and coaches across the network.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-7-51-33-pm

Generally speaking, we heard a number of the leaders from Teach For All partner organizations express an interest in having more “learner driven” models than they currently have.  They said that we are ultimately in the leadership-development business and treating our learners as the leaders we expect them to become is the only “learning bet” that aligns to our ultimate purpose.  (And, on the other hand, when we treat our learners as empty vessels that we much fill, we often inhibit the leadership and self-directed entrepreneurialism that we need in our teachers and alumni).

Here’s a graphic representation of what we are hearing and seeing:screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-7-49-27-pm

Virtually every leader, trainer, coach, and innovator we have spoken to has had the same reaction to this spectrum:  we want to dial up the “learner drivenness” of learning in our program.  For partner organizations in the Teach For All network, that inclination comes from a commitment to grow leaders who can and will continue their learning beyond the training and support that comes from the organization.

COLLECTIVE LEARNING versus INDIVIDUAL LEARNING

Do Our New Teachers Best Grow As Interdependent Members of a Learning Cohort or as Individual Self-Dependent Learners?

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-8-21-21-pmWhere do you think your program “stands” on this spectrum?  Why?  Where do you WANT it to stand  on this spectrum?  Why?

At the Roundtable, we heard lots of interest in this concept of “collective learning,” and yet few organizations represented at the Roundtable had concrete examples of implementing this idea.  [Teach For India is experimenting with “learning circles” that move in the direction of collective learning.  We’re watching and studying that innovation now.]

In the last couple of years, we have had the opportunity to work with leadership guru Jim Collins, who studies who leaders grow.  He has been studying leadership growth in some particularly difficult contexts—namely military academies.  His work in that realm (and his work with us in “Good to Great” teacher studies), has led him to challenge the Teach For All network (and the broader education landscape) to rethink its focus on individualized learning.   

In a nutshell, Jim Collins argues that what we are aspiring to do is so hard, the only way we will get there is through collective pursuit of communal goals.  And yet our teacher preparation models and schools lean heavily in the direction of individual learning and discourage interdependence among adults.  From Jim Collin’s perspective, this is a massive liability for our network if we truly want to create networks of alumni who are changing the education system, because we are orienting our new teachers to this work as individual actors, not as interdependent teams of learners who feel responsible for each others’ success.

By far the best way to truly appreciate the magnitude and importance of this challenge is to watch Jim Collins in this video.  As an alternative, here is one section of what he says in that video:

It’s so difficult that in the end you need your friends to help you.  And the only way that works is if you help them . . . it’s this beautiful idea that when things get difficult instead of worrying about ourselves, when things get difficult, instead of thinking “can I get through this” when things get difficult, you say . . . how can I help you?  Imagine if you had a culture that has an ethic of service.  And imagine that culture has tremendous and audacious goals where you are going to grow and accomplish things in the name of a broader purpose.  AND in that culture, the default is that this is really hard—we signed up to do something REALLY hard—so therefore the culture expectation is we watch out for each other and we help each other.  That is a powerful cultural recipe.

Can this come alive in your world?  Is it alive in your world?  Do yo have all those pieces?  So that you can not just get through it yourself but you can watch out for each other so that in the end you are watching out for the kids, because in the end that’s what it is all about.

I believe that a secret to a life well led—and in the end that is the leadership of our own lives—is to answer the question “How will you change the lives of others?”  And what I ask you to think about, is that as you go on this quest to change the lives of students, to change the lives of kids, how can you help each other through the great difficulties of doing that, so that you are supporting each other and working with each other to accomplish those huge [goals] and therefore change the lives of the kids.

We are seeing Jim Collins’ advice resonating deeply across the network, especially as partner organizations think about the collective action they want from alumni in pursuit of systemic change.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-8-21-51-pm

Are the learning assumptions and “bets” you are making with and for your teachers built on a paradigm of individual effort and accomplishment?  Or are they built on collective pursuit of communal aims?  Why?  How does this challenge from Jim Collins make you think differently about your learning bets with your teachers?

 

 


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