“Best practices” should be a starting point, not a destination. This is because knowledge and skills are more agile than ever before. What’s a best practice today may be an outdated practice tomorrow.
In order for an organization to remain agile, learning and training must be “just enough, just in time, and just for us.” Speed, flexibility, and innovation have to be the drivers of learning; not off-the-shelf practices that someone else has deemed “the best.”
As we seek maximum impact in student performance, we must keep our eye on purpose, intentionality, and timing. Consider four approaches to cultivate districtwide practices that will make a true difference for students.
1. Invest in your administrative team: Effective leaders are earnest learners who rely on their team to make them better. Setting aside time for principals and co-administrators to talk with one another about their practice is an investment worth making. Mentoring and coaching can be tailored “just for us.” Administrators who feel accountable to each other bring their best thinking to work and lean on one another to get through challenging moments.
2. Development over deficiency: Instead of trying to fill gaps or make people feel they’re not good enough, focus on their contributions and assets instead. What unique skills does each team member bring to the table? How can we help principals let go of practices, projects, or attitudes that might be holding them back? Casting more light on deficiencies creates distress. Conversely, focusing on areas to develop or refine increases people’s ability to learn, act, and grow.
3. Bring students into the mix: It’s rare to see student input included in the design of learning opportunities. Yet, unless administrators and teachers see learning through the eyes of students, effective practices will be hit or miss. Work with your team to design and distribute student surveys to determine which approaches are preferred. Offer training that will help principals and teachers incorporate student input and ideas into practice within their building.
4. Encourage unconventional thinking: Conformity and routine have been hammered into our heads. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the status quo is generally not questioned in schools. When a school is “on the fringe” of innovative practices, we wonder if student performance will suffer. Conventional thinking can lead to complacency; complacency is code for a boring environment. Go after unconventional thinking by recognizing and rewarding schools that take risks.
McChesney, C., Covey, S., & Huling, J. (2012). The 4 disciplines of execution. New York: Franklin Covey.
Younger, J. (October 2016). How learning and development are becoming more agile. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/10/how-learning-and-development-are-becoming-more-agile