Archive for the 'Organizational Change' Category

Organizational Change (In A Nutshell)

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

I pulled this together by combining two previous papers and whittling it down to “one page.” This section may expand again to look very like those papers when it appears in my dissertation with supporting citations. However, I may wind up cutting this section altogether in order to maintain a tighter focus in the dissertation. Still, I believe the realities of organizational change will need to be considered in any effort to introduce video games into schools – particularly at scale. In any case, this section is heavily influenced by Senge, Evans, Fullan, the DuFours, and others.

This is probably the last of the “In A Nutshell” posts… and it’s kind of fun that it will be appearing on my birthday.

Of course, I’m still open to any comments, if you’ve got any to share. :)

If a new educational technology such as video games is going to be effective and sustainable, a great deal of organizational change is often necessary. Educational technologists can look to organizational change theorists for guidance in facilitating change and overcoming resistance to change.

In order to facilitate organizational change it is important to respect the realities of change. To be successful, change agents must respect that organizational change is a complicated, difficult, and time-consuming process – especially in an educational institution. It is also important to establish mission, vision, values, and goals in an organization so that everyone involved can focus their efforts on the things that are most important. Systems thinking, as opposed to linear or rational-structural thinking, can be a positive tool for change agents to understand and use in educational institutions. Systems thinking can help make big-picture patterns clear and help educational technologists change them effectively.

In the tradition of professional learning communities, educational technologists can do their best to support personal learning, collaborative learning, and the development of leadership in their organizations. Any organizational change begins with individual change, and any change requires learning. This makes individual learning the foundation of any organizational change. Personal learning may be a necessary condition for organizational change, but it is not sufficient; there must also be a degree of collaborative learning as well. This is the best way to combat isolation and stagnation in an organization. Both personal and collaborative learning are necessary for organizational change, but even these two are not sufficient without strong leadership. Change agents, including educational technologists, who hope to bring about positive change in schools must also take steps to develop leadership at all levels of their organization. Because teaching is one of the best ways to lead, it becomes even more important for educational institutions to also develop teaching in all their members. Ultimately the ability of an organization to teach and learn will be the determining factor in the success or failure of any change initiative, including any effort to introduce video games and simulations as educational technologies.

To overcome resistance to change, it is important to respect that resistance. Change agents who respect the realities of resistance will be more likely to successfully deal with and overcome challenges. Resistance is after all a healthy and necessary reaction to organizational change. It is also important to remember psychological factors, and that resistance to change is not merely a matter of logic, but of emotion. In addition, it is critical to seek effective strategies for responding to specific obstacles, challenges, and barriers.

Any effort a change agent puts into facilitating organizational change or overcoming resistance to change is lost if the effects, or more importantly the process, cannot be sustained. A state of continuous improvement is necessary for sustained change, particularly in the fast moving field of technology – and the volatile field of education.

An important element of sustaining change in an educational institution is to include families and the community in the change effort. Schools do not exist – and school change does not happen – in isolation. Change agents working to integrate educational technologies such as video games and simulations, must consider not only the changes necessary in the school, but the effect that these changes will have on the community. There may even be changes necessary in the community for the project to be successful, or the project may need to allow changes to accommodate the needs of the community.

In the end, parents and the community do not exist so much to improve schools, as schools exist to improve the community, or society at large. Organizational change theorists tend to subscribe to the view that the purpose of any school change is to effect positive social change.

Quote: What can, should, and will be done?

Monday, April 9th, 2007

I was trying to remember this quote the other day and I came across it in my notes just now, so I’m posting it here… to be able to find it in the future and to share it with others. I think this line of thinking is critical to actually effecting the sort of organizational change educational technologists aim for:

“Seymour Papert wrote that when it comes to learning, what can be done is a technological question, what should be done is a pedagogical question, and what will be done is a political question.” (Shaffer, 2006, p. 191)

I guess I need to track down the original Papert quote, so if anyone knows where that is, let me know. :)

Reference

Shaffer, D. W. (2006). How Computer Games Help Children Learn. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Collaborative Tech Planning With A Wiki (Or: It’s A Plan, Not a Commitment)

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

On Tuesday night I presented a new educational technology plan to the school board of the Palm Springs Unified School District. The board was gracious enough to give me 15 minutes to present, several of the planning committee members were in attendance to show their support (including Dr. Lee Grafton who was my partner in leading the process and writing the plan), and the superintendent, Dr. Lorri McCune, was downright enthusiastic… so it was a positive experience for me and well worth the drive out there.

The plan is the result of a truly collaborative effort, and I think that is reflected in the length. My colleague Ranjit Mayadas in CTAP Region 9 told me months ago that a tech plan for the state doesn’t need to be more than 50 pages in length, but this one comes in at about 150 before appendixes. I really do feel sorry for his counterpart in Region 10, Jenny Thomas, who is reviewing the plan now. :)

Obviously, I was only able to touch on the highlights in my presentation, the things that made it stand out from other more formulaic plans. Check out the slides if you are interested. (Or read the two page executive summary.)

When I say that writing the plan was a collaborative effort, I actually mean we collaboratively authored the plan using… a wiki. Check it out at http://pstechplan.wikispaces.com if you are interested. Each week we met in a computer lab (or with laptops) so anyone could read or edit the wiki at any time. Many of the edits were mine (or made with my account) as I led or facilitated discussions. You’ll see a lot of anonymous edits early on. Later, I password protected the site once the plan-in-progress was released to the press and the public. After that you’ll see edits by a user called pstechplan, which was shared by the entire committee. I focused on ease-of-use over security and accountability. (Of course, I backed it up after each meeting.)

Late in the process we ended up using the discussion feature to discuss changes without altering the text of the main wiki pages. In one of our final group editing sessions, the committee made 40 changes and posted 38 discussion questions in only 90 minutes. I was amazed… and thrilled that the collaborative tool was working even better than I’d hoped by that point. I was then able to make any necessary changes and respond to each concern in the discussion area. Finally, we moved the content into a word template and made the final changes.

It’s not groundbreaking or impressive if you dial into specific pages or posts on the wiki, but the process really was collaborative… and easy, so I thought I’d share it here. I really appreciate having months of work archived there, especially in the “More…” section.

One final thought that came up while I was preparing the slides for this evening’s presentation was the phrase, “It’s a plan, not a commitment.” I initially included it as the lead in to my explanation that the board could approve the plan (which called for an average spending of $5.2 million per year MORE than they are already spending) without fear that they would be held accountable for committing those funds. (Tech plans don’t have much teeth in California.) I realized this phrase really captured the reality of the plan, but it also made me realize that the key to making it work (in addition to keeping it a living document) will be making a continued and consistent commitment to the plan. Happily, Dr. McCune really took the lead on this during the discussion and I almost didn’t have to say another word. :)

She, and the board, seemed to latch onto another phrase I shared (after hearing Jackie Francoeur use it often)… “built it and they will come” or “plan it, and the money will come.” One board member called the $5.2 million a “funding opportunity.” The best part was that by the end of the discussion they were asking the superintendent how long it would be until all students had a laptop… and when one of her staff threw out the goal of five years, one of the board members said, “that’s too long.”

I can’t wait to see what happens there… and I hope some of you will share your tech planning successes (or nightmares) in the comments below, too. Is anyone else using web 2.0 or other collaboration tools to facilitate the process?

Annotated Bibliography: School Change and PLCs

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

Here’s a draft of the annotated bibliography I need to include with the depth essay in my final KAM at Walden University. These are all articles out of books about professional learning communities. Most of these topics were not directly addressed in the depth essay, so this is something of a supplement to the essay.

Annotated Bibliography

Austen, D. (2006). Enriching and extending teaching through professional conferences. In Stone, R., & Cuper, P. Best practices for teacher leadership (p. 102-106). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Many of the authors discussed in the depth essay above recommended that educators supplement their professional development by attending professional conferences (Hord, 2004, p. 39, Huffman & Hipp, 2003, p. 47). In this article, Austen also recommended this strategy as “an excellent way to accomplish the goal of staying connected to other adults while continuing to grow as educators” (p. 102). She offered ten tips for helping educators maximize their learning during conferences. These tips included identifying goals, seeking support, sharing with the community upon returning, and reflecting upon the conference experience. Though this article does not represent a formal study, it does directly address a strategy for capacity building that is largely ignored in the depth essay discussion above.

Beaty, D., & Pankake, A. M.(2003). Nurturing the human side: a crucial component for PLCs. In Huffman, J. B., & Hipp, K. K. Reculturing schools as professional learning communities (pp. 97-108). Lanham, MD: ScarecrowEducation.

In this article, Beaty and Pankake presented a case study of a small rural high school with poor facilities in an area poor enough to qualify for Title 1 funding district wide. Ten years prior the school had been ranked low performing and had a high teacher turnover rate. However, due to the professional learning community at the school and especially due to the practice of celebrating faculty and student success, the school had then ranked highly on state accountability tests for seven years – and ranked the highest possible the previous two years. Beaty and Pankake offered readers key areas for reflection, a challenge, and key questions to further their own learning from the case study. Articles such as this will be particularly valuable to readers of the DuFour’s more general descriptions of professional learning communities.

Bradshaw, M. C. (2006). Perception, focus, and attitude: teachers leading the way. In Stone, R., & Cuper, P. Best practices for teacher leadership (p. 137-140). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Bradshaw argued that though schools can certainly improve, they are not failing. He noted how the perception that schools are failing is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, and he asks what might be done to change this public perception. His answer was that “educators are going to have to be more vocal about [their] own successes, not just about inadequate pay and how overworked [they] are” (p. 139). Bradshaw then presented a slew of staggeringly positive statistics demonstrating improvement in American public schools from the 1970s to the new millennium. This is an important lesson that can be applied to supporting professional learning communities. While the practices of focusing on failures can instigate a negative reinforcement loop, sharing success can on the other hand support a positive reinforcement loop.

Easin-Watkins, B. (2005). Implementing PLCs in the Chicago public schools. In DuFour, R., Eaker, R. & DuFour, R. (Eds.), On common ground: the power of professional learning communities (pp. 193-207). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Easin-Watkins described “the challenges of developing the capacity of staff to build professional learning communities across an urban district that includes over 620 schools, 45,000 employees, and 434,000 students” (p. 192). She outlined three steps in this process: creating a shared mission and vision, making structural changes necessary to support the vision, and committing to allowing time for real change to occur (p. 194-195). She shared many experiences that will be valuable to others developing professional learning communities, including “steps toward a shared vision” (p. 195), a process for “laying a strong foundaction for PLCs” (p. 197), and model for STARS (School Teams Achieving Results for Students, p. 202-206). Though the article is light on academic references (with only two), it draws heavily on the authors’ considerable experience as chief education officer of the Chicago Public Schools.

Evans, R. (1998). Changing families changing schools. Independent School Magazine. Winter 1998. Washington, DC: National Association of Independent Schools. http://www.robevans.org/NewFiles/families.html

Evans addressed “the irony at the heart of the growing division between home and school… that all the participants are caught in a similar crucible, the classic stress postion in which demands are too high, supports are too low, and, despote the best intentions and efforts,a chronic sense of inadequacy prevails” (p. 2). He went on to explore recent changes in American families (pp. 2-3), child development (pp.3-5), and schooling (pp.5-6) – and then the ways in which faculty resist these changes (pp. 6-7). He then explored the standard remedies and why they don’t work (pp. 7-8), before offering new strategies and approaches (pp. 8-13). He argued that the answer “begins with perspective, not action, and with strategy, not tactics” (p. 8), and he concluded that this approach “restores perspective and renews hope” (p. 13). Evans himself noted that his “summary is far too brief and oversimplifies social transitions that are enormously complex” (p. 3 of 13). This article can be seen as either a valuable appendix to Evan’s (1996) The Hunan Side of School Change or as a succinct prequel to his 2001 volume, Family Matters.

Evans, R. (2000). Why a school doesn’t run – or change – like a business. Independent School Magazine. Spring 2000. Washington, DC: National Association of Independent Schools. http://www.nais.org/ismagazinearticlePrint.cfm?print=Y&ItemNumber=144267

Here Evans acknowledged that “innovation is vital to preparing students for an
ever more challenging future” (p. 1), and noted that many school boards and administrators attempt to “employ corporate-style approaches to recalcitrant staff” in order to encourage change. However, Evans argued that “schools are much more like families and religious institutions than like corporations and other professional organizations… especially with respect to four key facets of school life and culture: mission, operations, outcomes, and personnel” (pp. 1-2), which he then proceeded to discuss in some detail. He then went on to discuss ways to foster constructive change through motivation, innovation, clarity, focus, and continuity (pp. 4-6). He concludes that it is best to help schools “fulfill their mission in new ways by meeting them on their own terms, tempering our expectations, concentrating our efforts, and celebrating their successes” (p. 6). Though the article does not represent a formal study, it is a valuable perspective for all those involved in professional learning communities or school change in general.

Evans, R. (2005). Reframing the achievement gap. Phi Delta Kappan. May 2005. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappan International.

Evans addresses the achievement gap between African American and Hispanic students, and their white and Asian American peers. While “the conventional wisdom has it that the achievement gap is a school problem” (p.1). However, Evans argues that “its origins lie neither in students not in schools” (p. 1), but rather in “economic and political realities that are mostly beyond the power of… schools to remedy” (p. 2). He feels that the suggestion that schools can overcome this gap (on their own) is “deeply flawed [because] it exaggerates the influence of schooling and underestimates the impact of the major contributors to the achievement gap, which occur outside the school” (p. 3). Evans included an overview of research that supports the limitations of school to impact the lives of students (pp. 3-7) and then offered suggestions for resetting educators’ perspective, priorities, and expectations such that they focus on modesty (p. 9) and perseverance (p. 10). Ultimately he felt that “schools must be – but can only be – a part of the solution” (p. 11). This article is a succinct re-articulation of the core argument in Evans’ (2001) Family Matters, and can serve as a valuable reference for educators involved in growing and sustaining professional learning communities.

Fleming, G. L., & Thompson, T. L. (2004). The role of trust building and its relation to collective responsibility. In Hord, S. M. (Ed.), Learning together, leading together: changing schools through professional learning communities (pp. 31-44). New York: Teachers College Press.

Fleming and Thompson examined “the role of trust and its relationship to building teacher collective responsibility” (p. 31). They focused on the “principal as the starting point” (p. 31) of trust-building and then offered a variety of lessons from principals and their teachers regarding trust. These lessons focused on elements of a professional learning community such as shared values and vision, supportive conditions, and collective learning and application (pp. 34-36). They then included lessons from teachers building trust with each other, again focusing on similar elements. Five case studies were considered in their discussion focused on evidence of trust and collective responsibility. Finally, they concluded that “professional learning communities rely on trust in order to function effectively” (p. 43) and that in order to be successful in building this trust, “principal and teachers alike must relinquish traditional views of their roles and define new roles that are better suited to meeting the needs of their students” (p. 43). Trust building is an important part of a professional learning community, and not only for its relationship to collective responsibility, as Fleming and Thomas discussed, but also because trust is a necessary condition for the sort of risk-taking necessary for PLCs to discover innovative new ways to help students learn (see Hipp, 2003, below).

Fullan, M. (2005). Professional learning communities writ large. In DuFour, R., Eaker, R. & DuFour, R. (Eds.), On common ground: the power of professional learning communities (pp. 209-224). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Fullan opened this article by citing research demonstrating the effectiveness of professional learning communities at the school level. He then argued that “if we do not examine and improve the overall system at three levels, we will never have more than temporary havens of excellence that come and go” (p. 210). His tri-level solution included the school community level (p. 211), the district or regional level (p. 212), and the state or province policy level (p. 214). He explored the challenges and changes at each of these levels before then suggesting four implications of this solution: 1. the need to address the problem of bias toward individualistic solutions (p. 217), 2. the radical need for systems thinkers in action (p. 218), 3. the importance of learning from each other as we go (p. 221), and the danger of waiting for others to act (p. 221). He concludes that “when all three levels… are engaged… it will be possible to make substantial progress” (p. 222). This article does not represent a formal study, but draws on Fullan’s considerable experience working with school change. As such it makes a valuable addition to the professional learning community literature, especially for those who may have the opportunity to work with various levels of the public school system.

Hipp, K. K. (2003). Trust as a foundation in building a learning community. In Huffman, J. B., & Hipp, K. K. Reculturing schools as professional learning communities (pp. 109-120). Lanham, MD: ScarecrowEducation.

Hipp provided a case study that “focuses on a middle school in the Midwest that has been involved… over the [previous] three years in trying to create a professional learning community” (p. 110). She explored the “detrimental effects of allowing unattended feelings to fester and grow, ignoring voice, betrayal, and perceptions of favoritism” and “the effects of mistrust on risk, relationships, organizational health, and openness to change” (p. 110). Like, Beaty and Pankake, Hipp provides key areas of reflection, a challenge, and key questions for the reader, making the article something of an interactive learning experience that can be readily used as a professional development activity in a professional learning community.

Hipp, K. K., & Huffman, J. B. (2004). Two professional learning communities: tales from the field. In Hord, S. M. (Ed.), Learning together, leading together: changing schools through professional learning communities (pp. 71-83). New York: Teachers College Press.

Using Hord’s five dimensions of a professional learning community as a guide, Hipp and Huffman presented two case studies of schools working to become professional learning communities. Through these two cases, they “showed how the dimensions of professional learning communities can assist schools already engaged in school improvement efforts by focusing those efforts, and by providing a means of assessing progress” (p. 82). They also demonstrated that “the PLC dimensions provide an organizational scheme that can facilitate thinking about change and interpreting changes” (p. 83). For anyone involved in school change, and particularly a professional learning community, this article will be a valuable illustration of Hord’s theories in practice.

Lezotte, L. W. (2005). More effective schools: professional learning communities in action. In DuFour, R., Eaker, R. & DuFour, R. (Eds.), On common ground: the power of professional learning communities (pp. 177-192). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Marking the 40th anniversary of the Equal Educational Opportunity (EEO) study and the Effective Schools movement that followed in its wake, Lezotte explored why and how some schools make a difference in the lives of students (p. 178) and whether or not more schools can make a difference (p. 179). In the article he reviewed the seven correlates of effective schools (p. 179) and offers an overview of creating the effective schools process (pp. 180-183). He also discussed elements of the core leadership group, including their mission and their core beliefs (pp. 183-189). He concluded with a discussion of professional learning communities in action, suggesting that if the professional learning community had been part of “the school improvement lexicon when the Effective Schools journey began[, then] it would have been easier and more efficient to engage schools in the conversations around the research” (p. 190). This article may serve as a valuable reference for those interested in the change models that served as predecessors to the professional learning community.

Olivier, D. F. (2003). Reculturing a school in crisis. In Huffman, J. B., & Hipp, K. K. Reculturing schools as professional learning communities (pp. 129-140). Lanham, MD: ScarecrowEducation.

Olivier offered a case study that “examines the challenges of reculturing undertaken by one principal at a school deemed in crisis” (p. 130). The article earns a place in Huffman and Hipp’s collection because “after struggling and achieving only minimal success, the principal’s intent [was] to reculture the school applying the dimensions of a professional learning community” (p. 130). The article describes progress and challenges of the first year of a new professional learning community, and then leaves the readers with key areas for reflection, a challenge, and key questions to extend their learning. Those new to the professional learning community process may find reading the article and answering the questions a valuable experience to supplement their own.

Olivier, D. F. (2004). Against all odds: reculturing a troubled school. In Hord, S. M. (Ed.), Learning together, leading together: changing schools through professional learning communities (pp. 114-126). New York: Teachers College Press.

Olivier prepared a similar case study for Hord’s collection. In it she reports on the first three years of a new principal’s efforts to build a professional learning community. The first year focuses on fighting the status quo, challenging expectations, and building trust. The second year focused on what she called “speed bumps on the path of transition,” transition through research, and PLC initiation. Finally, the third year focused on the change from transition to transformation, comprehensive school assessment, and a focus on results. Olivier concluded that “a key factor in the change process at any school is the need to address significant areas or issues in a manner that will result in sustainability” (p. 126) and cautioned that although her case study school had “made significant strides, the changes that [were] bneing implemented [were] not yet internalized” (p. 126). As an ‘big picture’ overview of the first three years of a professional learning community, this article might be particularly valuable to those just beginning the process of initiating a professional learning community at their site.

Schiller, E. (2006). Each one, teach one. In Stone, R., & Cuper, P. Best practices for teacher leadership (p. 145-146). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Schiller focuses on the common professional learning community philosophy of “each one, teach one” in his article on empowering students as leaders. This philosophy calls for teachers to “designate student peer leaders in the classroom” p. 146). Schiller explains that teachers often don’t use their surrounding resources wisely – especially their students. He emphasizes that “it is okay for the students to know more than the instructor” (p. 146) and advocates a philosophy of teaching that raises the level of expectation of students. This article does not represent a formal study, but does address an important element of professional learning communities that is often overlooked; in the same way that principals must allow teachers to serve as resources and leaders for the school, so must teachers allow students to serve as resources and leaders in the classroom.

Effect Positive Social Change

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

These last two sections are indeed more brief. Here is the tenth of ten, focusing on effecting positive social change. Now on to the conclusion… then the annotated bibliography… and the Application portion of the KAM… there’s still a lot of work to do.

UPDATE: Actually, I’m including a cut and dry conclusion here and moving on. :)

10. Effect Positive Social Change

In the end, parents and the community do not exist so much to improve schools as schools exist to improve the community, or society at large. Professional learning community theorists tend to subscribe to the view that the purpose of any school change is to effect positive social change.

The DuFours in particular support this view, from their philosophy of service leadership (Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002, p. 54) to their efforts to “building engines of hope” (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 110). In short, they believe that the “most powerful fuel for sustaining the initiative to improve a school is not the desire to raise test scores but rather the moral imperative …the professional learning community concept offers the best strategy for connecting educators to that moral imperative” (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004, p. 11-12). Put another way, school change is made “not for the sake of improved test scores, but for the sake of the dreams and aspirations of the children whose lives they touch” (p. 192).

Others in the field espouse similar philosophies. Wald and Castleberry (2000) suggested that educators “see each other as human beings brimming with possibility and potential” rather than “as part of an assembly line” (p. 14). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) were interested in “in identifying, celebrating, and modeling on an ongoing bases those behaviors and accomplishments that reinforce the positive aspects of the culture” (p. 177). Hord (2004) was also interested in being sure that “students of all social backgrounds benefit equally, regardless of race, gender, or family income” (p. 12). Acknowledging the interconnectedness of education and societal change, Stone and Cuper (2006) concluded that “”we must be forever vigilant in our search for creative and unique solutions to help us meet the educational needs of our students and prepare them for the society and world these changes will bring” (p. 89). Stone and Cuper also captured the spirit of education for social change when they wrote that:

“Recognizing the global nature of educating our children has provided the children the opportunity to take their education into their own hands and act as leaders in the community. It has given parents input they had been denied, creating a more positive relationship with the school. It provides the greater community a chance to give back and act as stewards for the environment and the children who live there. No one is left in doubt as to his or her contribution to each child’s education or his or her role in creating a positive change in the world.” (Stone and Cuper, 2006, p. 53)

The use of new educational technologies, such as video games and simulations, is not an end unto itself. The change agents responsible for the implementation of such technologies must always keep in mind the question of whether or not the greater social good is being served by the changes they propose.

Conclusion

Based on the works of DuFour & DuFour, Wald & Castlebury, Huffman & Hipp, Roberts & Pruit, Hord, and Stone & Cuper, a working theory of school change has been presented in three sections: Facilitating Organizational Change, Overcoming Resistance to Organizational Change, and Integrating Organizational Change with Society. Five principles of school change related to Facilitating Organizational Change: respect the realities of change; establish mission, vision, values, and goals; focus on what’s important; develop leadership; and develop teaching. Three more principles related to Overcoming Resistance to Organizational Change: respond to obstacles, challenges, and barriers; sustain the process; and, develop learning. Finally, the last two principals related to Integrating School Organizational Change with Society: include family and community, and effect positive school change. In addition to the similar principles presented in the breadth portion of the KAM, these additional principles can, and should, be used to guide the process of integrating video games and simulations as educational technologies in a constructivist learning environment.

Include the Family and Community

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

I’m nearing the end of this portion of the KAM and these last few sections will be more brief. Below is my cursory treatment of the necessity of involving parents and the community in professional learning communities and other school change initiatives…

Integrating Organizational Change with Society

A thorough review was conducted of theories about professional learning communities published by DuFour & DuFour, Wald & Castlebury, Huffman & Hipp, Roberts & Pruit, Hord, and Stone & Cuper. This review has revealed ten elements of school change that can be used to guide the process of integrating video games and simulations as educational technologies in a constructivist learning environment. The final two of these elements relate to integrating organizational change with society: include the family and community, and effect positive social change.

9. Include the Family and Community

As with any school change, professional learning communities are not formed in isolation. Families of the students (and faculty) and the surrounding community influence and are influenced by the changes in the school. Professional learning community theorists recommend taking advantage of this symbiotic relationship rather than ignoring it.

DuFour and Eaker (1998) look at parents as partners (p. 238), and they offer a framework for school-parent partnerships that consists of six standards. The first is that “communication between the home and school is regular, two-way, and meaningful” (p. 241). The second standard is to promote and support the development of parenting skills in the community (p. 244). Third, they recommend that schools encourage parents to “play an integral role in assisting student learning” (p. 245). Fourth is the requirement that parents be welcome in the school, and that their support and assistance are sought (p. 246). The fifth standard is that parents be made “full partners in the decisions that affect their children” (p. 248). Finally, they recommend collaboration with the community such that “community resources are used to strengthen schools, families and student learning” (p. 249). DuFour and Eaker also include “representatives of parents” (p. 67) in the process of developing shared mission, vision, values, and goals. Later, Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) include involving parents among their strategies for responding to students who are not learning (p. 71). DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Karhanek (2004) then recommended parent workshops organized by grade level (p. 108).

Roberts and Pruitt (2003) also explore ways to “collaborate with parents in learning communities” (p. 153). Like the DuFours, they offer tips for home-school communication, parenting, parent involvement in student learning, parent volunteering, parent-inclusive decision making, and collaboration with the community (p. 153-155). In short, Roberts and Pruitt believed that “students, parents, and teachers benefit when parents assume the role of learners” (p. 15) and that parents, too, can be school leaders (p. 176). Similarly, Huffman and Hipp (2003) viewed “a united effort from school staff, parents, and community members [as being] critical to embed effective practices and values into the culture of the school” (p. 64). Hord (2004) also included parents and other citizens as part of external support in her model of professional learning communities (p. 12). Stone and Cuper (2006) also include community among their three C’s of education: a classroom, a community, and collaboration (p. 46). This framework, too, is accompanied by numerous tips that might help aspiring change agents to leverage parents and the community for successful school change.

In order to draw on all available resources and to maximize the chances of success and sustainability for their change initiatives, change agents should involve parents and community members in all phases of the change process from planning to implementation and on into assessment and re-evaluation. This is true even of efforts to incorporate new educational technologies such as video games and simulations. Parents and community members may poses valuable expertise and at the very least will be able to understand a broader perspective on the influence of new technologies on the lives of students. Many obstacles, challenges, and barriers may be avoided or more easily dealt with on account of parent and community input into a change process.

Develop Learning Capacity

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Here’s the last section of my KAM focused on overcoming organizational resistance. Here I focus on building the learning capacity of the organization as a strategy for sustained change. Of course this DRAFT is only a surface treatment of the subject, but I suppose this will all add up…

8. Develop Learning Capacity

Hord (2004) wrote that “substantive change is never simple, and any change requires learning” (p. 57). Ultimately, the sustained success of a professional learning community, or any individual change initiative, is dependent on the ability of the organization (or school) to learn. Change agents should focus first and foremost on developing the learning capacity of their organizations, and the individuals in those organizations.

The DuFours focused on schools as learning organizations (DuFour & Eaker, 1998, p. 15). Even though developing teaching skills is important, these authors describe a cultural shift from a school that is primarily focused on teaching to one that is primarily focused on learning (Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002, p. 18; DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004, p. 173; DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2006, p. 83), and from a culture of average learning to a culture of individual learning (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004, p. 177). They advocate “learning for all versus teaching for all” (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 12). They call for the principal to model lifelong learning (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 120) and to focus on developing a staff of lifelong learners (p. 121). Among their tips for celebrations, a key to sustaining professional learning communities, the DuFours even recommend sharing professional learning at weekly team meetings and monthly staff meetings (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2006, p. 91).

Other professional learning community theorists also emphasized the importance of learning for sustained change in schools. Wald and Castleberry (2000) focused on certain assumptions about adult learning; according to their model adult learning is an active process that occurs over time (p. 10), is driven by the learner around meaningful issues (p. 11), is experimental by nature (p. 11), and is fueled by rich, diverse, accessible sources of information (p. 12). They also felt that “inquiry into underlying assumptions deepens the learning process” (p. 9). For Wald and Castleberry a professional learning community would be one in which the learner “the learner not only hears and processes the information but also experiments with it and then documents and reflects on the results” (p. 10). It is also important that “opportunities exist for the expert to learn from the learner and for the learners to learn from each other and from their own fund of knowledge and experience” (p. 12). In addition, Wald and Castleberry write that:

“yet other rich and diverse sources of information can be found inside and outside the school walls… sharing know-how and ideas among staff… discussing success and failures, and… supporting each other in experimenting and reflecting… network with other teachers; access consultants and university faculty; and tap into multiple forms of technology, such as video, computer, and telecommunications.” (Wald & Castleberry, 2000, p. 12)

Roberts and Pruitt (2003) advocate a variety of means for members of a professional learning community to learn. One is to learn through a study group, or “a gathering of people who meet on a regularly scheduled basis to address issues that the group members have agreed to study” (p. 92). After all, “conversations among administrators, supervisors, and teachers are a critical aspect of building the professional learning community needed for successful school reculturing” (p. 91). They also suggest learning through a professional portfolio, or “a thoughtful document demonstrating a teacher’s approach to teaching or an administrator’s approach to leadership… and reflection about it” (p. 159).

Huffman and Hipp (2003) point out that a professional learning community is “focuses, first and foremost, upon learning on the part of professionals in the school as the way to increase learning on the part of students” (p. 76). This process of learning and application includes an early phase of “establishing a school culture that values sharing information” (p. 45). Meanwhile, “gaining knowledge, skills, and strategies often is accomplished by traditional staff development, including workshops, mini-workshops, conferences, district inservices, and university courses” (p. 47). It is critically important to throughout this process that the principal, as a co-learner, “models the level of learning expected from the professional staff” (p. 14).

Kagaan, too, wrote for:

“professionals who believe that the ‘whole’ of collective efforts is infinitely greater than the ‘sum’ of individual efforts. Professionals who are convinced that their own learning is prerequisite to the learning of students – and that the learning of students is enhanced by their own learning” (Kagaan, 2004, p. 1)

Kagaan (2004) also recommended several principals of staff development, including the expectations that “participants take responsibility for their own learning”, “exercises reflect higher-order thinking”, and “exercises engender collective energy” (p. 5).

Like Huffman and Hipp, Hord (2004), focused on “collective learning and application of that learning” (p. 1) and like Wald and Castleberry, she also focused on “making opportunity for teachers to learn” (p. 25). In addition to the sorts of experiences advocated by Huffman and Hipp, Hord emphasized the importance of teachers “learn[ing] from and teach[ing] each other by focusing their attention collectively on issues that they identified themselves” (p. 37).

Being primarily constructivist in their pedagogy, many of these theorists focused on the context of professional learning. Huffman and Hipp (2003) for instance believed that professional development should be “an activity that is embedded in the various educational processes of operating schools – curriculum development, student assessment, and the development and evaluation of instructional strategies” (p. 10). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) also advocated “job-embedded professional development strategies… [because] they are collaborative and offer opportunity for conversation, reflection, and inquiry” (p. 55). They also recommend that adult learners need to have “a practical use for the knowledge and think it will benefit them in real life” (p. 60), and they recommend that learning be an active and interactive process (p. 61). Similarly, DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker (2006) warn that “to transform data into information requires putting data in context” (p. 61) and recommend this as part of professional development efforts.

A great deal of adult learning is involved when new educational technologies are integrated into a school’s teachng and learning routines. For this reason, change agents responsible for the integration of new educational technologies, such as video games and simulations, must address the needs of the adult learners who will be implementing the new technologies. Professional development should be collaborative, context-embedded, and congruent with the principals of a professional learning community.

Sustain the Change Process

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Even though this is the longest segment I’ve written so far, I probably discarded the most notes I had collected for this section, too! And still I feel it only barely scratches the surface of the topic… but I suppose this should be a given when I review the resources I have and try to boil them down to a thirty page paper.

In any case, here is my *overview* of what professional learning community literature has to say on sustaining the change process.

7. Sustain the Change Process

Establishing a professional learning community and then responding to obstacles, challenges, and barriers can go a long way toward improving the chances that school change initiatives will be successful. However, these efforts are easily wasted if the process is not sustained over time. Not surprisingly, professional learning community theorists also offer advice for sustaining the process. They explore the human needs for passion and persistence in addition to more structural changes.

Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour believed explained that “what the PLC model offers is a process, not a program” (p. 107), a process that DuFour and Eaker (1998) described as nonlinear and persistent (p. 282-283). A critical first step in this process is to build shared knowledge of the school’s current reality (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004, p. 95). It is also “imperative that the school develop a critical mass of personnel that accepts both the desirability and feasibility of transforming the school” (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 286). To accomplish this and other steps, Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) recommended creation of a guiding coalition of school leadership (p. 61). The next step is the process of laying the foundation of shared mission, vision, values, and goals (p. 62-63). Then school structures, such as the schedule and organizational hierarchies, must be aligned with the professional learning community model, including time for teachers to plan or collaborate (p. 63-64). Over time, the ability to enhance team productivity by analyzing data, identifying strengths and weaknesses, reaching consensus on the reality of the past, and identifying a goal (p. 65). Perhaps most importantly, professional learning communities should “limit the number of collective commitments to a handful; five or six is plenty” (p. 103). These “collective commitments also serve as a guide for confrontation” (p. 104) when some staff are not fulfilling their commitments to the community. Huffman and Hipp (2003) articulated “five dimensions characteristic of schools with successful professional learning communities in place” (p. 6), including shared professional practice (p. 11) and “an environment that values such endeavors is enhanced by processes that encourage teachers to share their personal practices with one another… peer review and feedback on instructional practice in order to increase individual and organizational capacity” (p. 11). Finally, Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) warn that “the process need not and should not use a cookie cutter approach” (p. 81). Or, as DuFour and Eaker wrote in 1998:

“When the challenge of creating a professional learning community is reduced to a recipe or formula, it is easy to overlook the fact that this task is a passionate endeavor. A school becomes a professional learning community… by tapping into the wellsprings of emotions that lie within the professionals of that school.” (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 280)

Other human “needs and yearnings that the professional learning committee seeks to address” (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 280) include the “desire to succeed in one’s work” (p. 280), the “desire to belong, to feel a part of a collective endeavor” (p. 281), and the “desire to live a life of meaning, to serve a higher purpose, to make a difference in this world” (p. 282). Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) also addressed the importance of meeting often unmet needs for educators, such as the “need to feel a sense of personal accomplishment” (p. 52), the “need to belong” (p. 53), and the “need to feel our life has meaning” (p. 53). Ultimately, the professional learning community should set out to create “a community of caring and mutual concern” (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 281). Wald and Castleberry (2000) also add that “to sustain… communal energy and hope, the leader must hold the vision high for all to see, constantly revisit it, expand on it, and continuously help members of the community connect with it and find ways to personalize it and make it their own” (p. 20). However, like Evans in the breadth portion of this KAM, DuFour and Eaker (1998) warn that “optimism must be tempered by tough-minded recognition of the difficulties that lie ahead” (p. 286). DuFour and Eaker (1998) wrote that passion and persistence are key to sustaining a professional learning community (p. 279), and in 2002 Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour were insistent that sustainability was a matter of “persistence, persistence, persistence” (p. 27). As they explained, “the difficult times are inevitable and can be overcome only through the tenacity and persistence that are byproducts of passion” (p. 105). Hord (2004), too, acknowledged that successful professional learning communities “had a realistic understanding of change as a process that requires an ongoing commitment that oftentimes simply reduces to perseverance” (p. 23).

There are ways, of course, to persevere wisely. DuFour and Eaker (1998) advocated observance of “the three Cs of sustaining an improvement initiative – communication, collaboration, and culture” (p. 106). They focused on “the need for clear, constant communication in support of [objectives]” (p. 106), the “shift from a culture of teacher isolation to a culture of deep and meaningful collaboration” (p. 10), and “embedding change in the culture of a school” (p. 131). Hord (2004) shared “strategies for increasing staff capacities for continuous learning” (p. 23), including “focusing on staff and student success” (p. 24), “making opportunities for teachers to learn” (p. 25), “inviting teachers into decision-making and implementation” (p. 25), “nurturing new ways of operating” (p. 26), and “connecting professional development to school improvement goals” (p. 51). Kagaan (2004) believed that “staff professional development should in significant part be about finding allies, colleagues, even soul mates for ideas that are worth pursuing” (p. 3) and that “good professional development should counter this sense of isolation… [teachers] should return to their daily responsibilities uplifted, renewed, and ready to assume new challenges” (p. 3). He supported “collective capacity building” (p. 3) and recommended three guiding principles of professional development:

  • “Participants take responsibility for their own learning
  • Development exercises reflect high-impact learning
  • Development exercises engender collective energy” (Kaagan, 2004, p. 5)

“Most important,” Kagaan (2004) wrote, “the exercises have to stimulate and inspire, providing a sense of anticipation that will be rewarded and a challenge that will be fulfilled” (p. 6).

Wald and Castleberry (2000), for their part, focused on establishing “environments characterized by high levels of trust” (p. 62). These environments included elements such as openness, sharing, acceptance, support, and cooperative intention (p. 62). Hord (2004) also frequently addressed the theme of building trust in a professional learning community (p. 31, 33, 36, & 43). Wald and Castleberry (2000) also recommended five communication norms that facilitate collaborative learning: listening carefully, sharing relevant information, developing shared meaning, making assumptions explicit, and deciding by consensus (p. 64). In addition, they shared several “group practices that support collaborative learning” (p. 69): establishing ground rules (p. 69), exploring trust and task roles (p. 70), documenting information (p. 71), and reflecting on group processes (p. 71). Similarly, Huffman and Hipp (2003) identified “five dimensions characteristic of schools with successful professional learning communities in place” (p. 6): supportive conditions (p. 13, including “the people capacities of those involved and the physical, or structural, conditions” p. 12), restructured time in the school day (p. 13), and the abilities of principals to both relinquish power and model learning (p. 14). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) recommend that principals follow ten specific steps to sustain their professional learning communities, including taking “every opportunity to educate [the] staff and the broader school community about the characteristics of learning communities” (p. 47), demonstrating the value of learning “by actively participating in learning activities with the teachers” (p. 48), and consistently focusing on instructional outcomes (p. 48). They also shared many strategies for overcoming barriers to effective teamwork, including providing “time enough for the group process” (p. 72), paying attention to “issues of equity and diversity” (p. 74), and providing “training in team skills” (p. 77). They even address ways that conflict between team members can be managed (p. 83). Most importantly, “to ensure shared leadership is sustained” (p. 186), they recommend the continual development of new leaders at the school. This process can include strategies such as a mentoring program (p. 144-147). Another strategy recommended by Hord (2004) was to commit funding “for teachers to attend conferences and visit other schools to observe effective practices” (p. 39), after which those teachers would then be “responsible for imparting their new knowledge to the entire staff afterward” (p. 39).

Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour describe a cultural shift from a culture where “improvement efforts frequently shift as new fads or trends come along” (p. 28) to a culture in which commitment “to ‘stay the course’ in the attainment of the school vision [ensures that] new initiatives are only implemented if it is determined that the change will help the school achieve its vision of the future” (p. 28) and in which “the leader’s role is to promote, protect and defend the school’s vision and values and to confront behavior that is incongruent with the school’s vision and values” (p. 28). Hord (2004) describes this process as long-term transformation taking three years (115-120). In year one, a new professional learning community is “fighting the status quo” (p. 115). In year two, the school encounters what she calls “speed bumps on the path of transition” (p. 117), and year three finally brings “transition to transformation” (p. 120). She also points out that “three years is not long enough to develop professional learning communities, though” (p. 162) a sustainable seed can be planted in that amount of time.

Regarding the assessment of a school as a professional learning community, Huffman and Hipp (2003) warn that “while many principals and faculties conceptualize their schools as organizations operating as learning communities, they rarely meet the operational criteria” (p. 67) and they developed the School Professional Staff as Learning Community questionnaire as an instrument for objectively evaluating schools as professional learning communities (p. 68). Such an instrument is in keeping with Roberts and Pruitt’s (2003) philosophy of teachers learning through classroom observation (p. 118).

Many of the lessons learned by those who have sustained professional learning communities year after year can be valuable to change agents responsible for other long-term change initiatives, such as the integration of video games and simulations as educational technologies in schools. Such change agents, whether administrators or educational technologists, can benefit from considering the change initiative a process, in which human needs must be met over time with passion and persistence. They can also benefit from proceeding as wisely as possible by implementing the advice of the authors discussed above.

References

Overcoming Organizational Resistance

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Here is the next section of my KAM (in DRAFT form of course). I’ve finished the first five sections on facilitating organizational change; this is the first on overcoming organizational resistance. It doesn’t offer many answers, but might get people pointed in the right direction. For now, I’ve included an “appendix” as a summary of a particularly valuable passage in one of the DuFours’ books.

Thanks to those who have been reading… and especially to the few who have left comments. It’s motivating to me, and the criticisms will be valuable as I move forward with this project. For everyone else, I apologize for the temporarily low signal to noise ratio. ;)

Overcoming Organizational Resistance

A thorough review was conducted of theories about professional learning communities published by DuFour & DuFour, Wald & Castlebury, Huffman & Hipp, Roberts & Pruit, Hord, and Stone & Cuper. This review has revealed ten elements of school change that can be used to guide the process of integrating video games and simulations as educational technologies in a constructivist learning environment. The next three of these elements relate to overcoming organizational resistance: respond to obstacles, challenges, and barriers; sustain the process; and, develop learning.

6. Respond to Obstacles, Challenges, and Barriers

As Hord (2004) reported, “changing schools is highly challenging, complex, and messy work – and change is rarely welcomed” (p. 3). There are a variety of obstacles, challenges, and barriers to successful school change, including resistance from faculty and others. However, many professional learning community theorists have addressed these elements of resistance. They have offered strategies for responding to obstacles, challenges, and barriers – and for overcoming organizational resistance.

One of the first and most obvious obstacles is people in the organization who actively resist change. DuFour and Eaker (1998) point out that “principals often make one of three mistakes as they struggle with this problem” (p. 188). They either “pay too much attention to the resisters… vilify the resisters… [or] focus on attitudes rather than behaviors” (p. 188-189). DuFour and Eaker share that “the most effective way to change negative attitudes is to focus on behavior… [thus] providing them with new experiences [that] can become a catalyst for transforming attitudes” (p. 190, see also DuFour, & DuFour, 2002, p. 85). There are a variety of other objections or problems that schools must overcome: the claim that “there is not enough money or personnel” to support the necessary changes, or that “there is not enough time for frequent teacher collaboration” (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004, p. xiv). These issues must be creatively and carefully accounted for in school schedules and budgets. Even so, there will be no denying that “building a professional learning community is difficult due to the many demands on teachers and administrators; the growing accountability issues; the increasingly diverse needs of students; teacher isolation and burnout; and many other unmanageable stressors” (Huffman & Hipp, 2003, p. 5). Increasing a school’s capacity for flexibility and adaptability is critical for successful change efforts, but ultimately, “the level of distrust, the lack of structural flexibility, debilitating levels of turnover among school and district personnel, lack of resources, and other obstacles combined to make PLC implementation a truly heroic effort” (Hord, 2004, p. 151).

In addition to these obstacles, DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour (2005) identified “three daunting challenges” (p. 9) to professional learning communities. The first is the challenge of “developing and applying shared knowledge” (p. 9), which is highly individualistic and dependent on context. The second is the challenge of “sustaining the hard work of change” (p. 10), which requires considerable effort and focus, particularly in the early days of a professional learning community. As DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour pointed out, there are “no easy shortcuts… it will require a staff to find common ground and to exert a focused, coherent, consistent effort over time” (p. 11). The third and most daunting challenge is that of “transforming school culture (p. 11), which the authors explain this way:

“Significant school transformation will require more than changes in structure – the policies, programs, and procedures of a school. Substantive and lasting change will ultimately require a transformation of culture – the beliefs, assumptions, expectations, and habits that constitute the norm for the people throughout the organization” (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 11)

The DuFours and others offer still more warnings about additional barriers. For instance, the sorts of logistical barriers that Richard DuFour overcame at Adlai Stevenson high school included the teacher’s association (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004, p. 68), instituting a new concept of supervision (p. 69), providing staffing (p. 71), revisiting the grading system (p. 72), continuing to handle discipline issues (p. 73), and working together to find solutions (p. 77). Many of these same issues will need to be addressed or revisited when a technology such as video games or simulations are introduced to a school culture. More “fundamental barriers to professional learning communities” were identified by DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour (2005, p. 162). First among these was “a lack of clarity regarding vales, intentions, and beliefs” (p. 162). Clearly maintaining a focus on mission, vision, values, and goals will be important to overcoming this barrier. The next was a “dependence on those outside of the school for solutions to problems” (p. 162), which can only be overcome by building the problem solving capacity of the faculty, staff, and community of the school. The worst barrier was a “sense of resignation that robs educators of the energy that is essential to the continuous improvement of teaching, learning, and relationships in schools,” (p. 162), which can only be overcome through inspirational leadership, frequent celebrations, and consistent attention to the human side of school change. Elsewhere in the same volume, DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour offer an additional “ten barriers to action and how to overcome them” (p. 227-248, see appendix A for an overview of this discussion). Hord (2004) pointed out additional structural barriers, such as “lack of training, lack of time, lack of a culture of collaboration, and lack of leadership support for shared practice” (p. 152), and the fact that “for the most part, American teachers work in high-volume, short term relationships with students” (p. 153).

To overcome these barriers the principal (or other change agent) must “constantly nurture those who under[stand] the value of becoming a PLC and persuade those who [have] yet to recognize the strength of a PLC” (Hord, 2004, p. 23). This is important because, according to Hord’s observations, “professional learning communities provide the means through which teachers can be enabled and emboldened to develop individually as professionals, and collectively as a profession” (p. 153). Moreover, “those who begin the PLC journey and the cultural shifts that it requires should not only anticipate but should also welcome challenges to PLC concepts” (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004, p. 168). After all, as Hord (2004) explained, “the most successful PLC schools… were catalyzed by an external crisis or opportunity and lead by a powerful administrator who transformed the external force into energy for internal change” (p. 4).

Clearly change agents responsible for the introduction of new educational technologies, such as video games and simulations, will need to respond to similar obstacles, challenges, and barriers. Luckily, similar solutions to those used in professional learning communities should be helpful. For instance, focusing on behaviors rather than attitudes may be a more efficient way to help educators accept the use of new technologies.

Appendix A

References

Develop Teaching (Including Professional Development)

Friday, November 24th, 2006

Here’s one more section before Eva and I rush out to meet with my brother, his wife, and my little one and a half year old hockey playing nephew. :)

This DRAFT is once again submitted for your consideration and comments…

5. Develop Teaching (Including Professional Development)

Dennis Sparks said that “teaching is the most effective means through which a leader can lead” (Tichy, 2002, p. 57, as cited in DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 165). As Hord (2004) pointed out, the most effective principal will be one who has a deep understanding of teaching and learning (p. 146), and one of the main benefits of developing a shared vision is the opportunity to then use that shared vision to recruit quality staff (p. 46). Developing a professional learning community necessitates not only a need to develop leadership, but also a need to develop high-quality teaching at the school. Ultimately the ability of an organization to teach and learn will be the determining factor in the success or failure of any change initiative, including any effort to introduce video games and simulations as educational technologies. For this reason, schools must overcome the cultural belief that they cannot honor or identify good teaching because it will “lead to unhealthy competition and bad feelings among teachers” (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Karhanek, 2004, p. xiv).

The DuFours and their co-authors put the development of quality teaching and learning at the heart of their professional learning community model. “First and foremost,” they said, “the potential benefits of collaboration will never be realized unless educators work together in matters directly related to teaching and learning” (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 125). They described a professional teaching as one who emphasizes learning rather than teaching (p. 216), emphasizes active student engagement with significant content (p. 217), focuses on student performance and production (p. 218), routinely collaborates with their colleagues (p. 219), and consumes research as a student of teaching (p. 220, see also DuFour, DuFour, and Eaker, 2006, p. 83). For DuFour and Eaker, professional teachers also serve as leaders (p. 226). The DuFour’s constructivist approach to inquiry also plays a roll in their concept of a professional teacher; they consider “the focus of collective inquiry… both a search for best practice for helping students learn at high levels and an honest assessment of the current reality regarding teaching practices and student learning” (DuFour, DuFour, & Eaker, 2006, p. 21). They also call for an interactive sort of teaching, including patterns of calling on students, responses to student answers (such as cuing, wait time, expressing confidence, asking the question in a different way, and validating what is right about a student’s answer while pointing in another direction; DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 92), giving help (such as useful cues; DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 92), dealing with errors, assigning tasks, offering feedback on student performance, and displaying tenacity as a teacher (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 90-91). In order to make this sort of teaching possible, they also suggest that school schedules be carefully designed to include “consistent and large blocks of teaching and learning time” (Eaker, DuFour, & DuFour, 2002, p. 63), and to include collaborative structures with a focus on teaching and learning (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 196-199).

Hord (2004) also called for the professionalization of teaching; her model included critical self-consciousness (p. 155), practical expertise (p. 157), trustful relationships with students (p. 158), and collegial regulation among fellow teachers (p. 159). Hord shared that in “he most successful schools functioned as professional learning communities, where teachers helped one another, took collective (not just individual) responsibility for student learning, and worked continuously to improve their teaching practices” (p. 12). She also noted the importance of “providing the structures necessary for learning (e.g., team meetings, grade-level meetings, study groups, etc.) and look[ing] for other opportunities for… teachers to collaborate around meaningful teaching and learning issues” (Hord, 1997, as cited in Roberts & Pruitt, 2003, p. 47). Hord wasn’t alone in believing that “meaningful and continuous conversation among teachers about their beliefs, their teaching, their learning, and what they have learned about teaching is necessary for teachers to develop into a community of learners and leaders” (Kruse, Louis, Bryk, 1995, as cited in Roberts & Pruit, 2003, p. xi). Wald and Castleberry (2000) advocated a similar practice, writing that as teachers reflect on themselves “as learners in a larger community… [they] will have new insights about cooperative learning in heterogeneous groups, learner-centered teaching, and the inquiry-based approach to learning because” (p. 17). Stone and Cuper (2006) conclude that teacher education programs must be dedicated to fostering the concept of being a lifelong learner in professional educators so that they might pass this on to their (p. 88-89).

Professional development is an important part of building educators’ capacities as teachers. DuFour and Eaker (1998) recommend that the content of staff development programs should “be based on research”, focused on “both generic and discipline-specific teaching skills”, and used to “expand the repertoire of teachers to meet the needs of students who learn in diverse ways” (p. 276). They also recommend that the process of staff development should “attend to the tenets of good teaching,” “provide the ongoing coaching that is critical to the mastery of new skills,” “result in reflection and dialogue on the part of participants,” “be sustained over a considerable period of time,” and “be evaluated at several different levels, including evidence of improved student performance” (p. 276). Finally, they recommend that the context of staff development should “be focused on individual schools and have strong support from the central office”, “be so deeply embedded in daily work that it is difficult to determine where the work ends and the staff development begins”, and “foster renewal” (p. 277). Stone and Cuper (2006) further recommend
“enriching and extending teaching through professional conferences” (p. 102).

At the heart of any school change effort should be an attempt to improve teaching. Change agents who hope to help educators adopt video games and simulations as educational technologies need to be sure their efforts focus on such improvements as are recommended by the professional learning community theorists above. Games and simulations may even serve as natural means of helping teachers practice and hone their teaching and learning skills.

References