20 September, 2008

Schools are for people

What if this was really true?  What would if take for this to be true for your school?

I know you want your school to be for its people: students, staff, families, the local community. But I also know that the official version (teachers teaching students in class) is really quite simplistic and often naive. The real stories tell something more.

Would you like to take part in a blog experiment? Instead of using the Comments to debate my attempts to make sense of schools maybe you could make a brief comment and then illustrate it with a story from your own (recent) activity and experience - good, bad or indifferent.

Let's start by gathering the range of things that people like you do in connection with schools.

What is one of the things that you have done recently that needs to be better and more widely understood?

As the themes become clearer we can focus on particular aspects and learn together.

Worth a try? I think so... it seems to me that the present orthodoxies are not serving anyone very well.

Looking forward to learning with/from you and your stories.

01 September, 2008

Most genuine solutions are 'inschool solutions'

The reason for this is very simple:

  • Solutions are about improving success and well-being for all concerned and thus act as attractors for those involved
  • Inschool because there is nowhere else that solutions can be constructed. Useful ideas and resources may come from elsewhere
In social situations such as schools the relationship between cause and effect is inconsistent: unlike engineering contexts, it is not readily possible to work backwards from the problem to its cause. Even when we can, the cause of the problem is likely to be elsewhere, at another time and too difficult for the school address, eg, parent drug addiction or mental illness.

The alternative is to search for what works in the here and now: a solution. Thus, despite our love of ‘problem solving’ it is usually much more productive to focus on solutions than on problems.

30 August, 2008

Common erroneous assumptions

Many schools and school systems are being badly damaged by systemic change initiatives. Such initiatives are based on erroneous notions of cause and effect as they relate to all organisations and to schools in particular.

Change initiatives generally assume that
(1) Some expert knows about the changes required and how to achieve them
(2) There are few or no current constraints on the school's capacity to solve problems and change
(3) The relationships between cause and effect in the phenomena involved are consistent over time and place
(4) The outcomes of the change initiatives are predictable
(5) Solutions are close (and deliverable) to where the problem manifest itself
(6) There are problems because schools don't know what is happening
(7) Schools don't know what they are doing (or need to do)
(8) Change in schools can be achieved by directing the actions of teachers, and hence,
(9) If the outcomes are not achieved then the school (staff) is somehow responsible
(10) Doing something (about the problem) is better than doing nothing
(11) Those in charge of the situation are also responsible for it
(12) Those in charge are in control