07 January, 2011

Solution Focus - an educational approach to school improvement

Are you exploring the possible contributions of adopting a Solution Focus (SF) approach to the life and work of your school? If so,  the following background thinking may be useful to you as the  proponent, facilitator and/or principal as you work with staff, students, their families and the school's leadership team, and community:

1. Education, especially remedial education, is often problem (deficit) focused 

2. Most quality teaching and learning is solution focused hence the value of
     - working on what's working (WOWW) and doing more of it
     - trying something different for those things that are not working
     - working with those involved (rather than on or for them)
     - ...

3. SF is a learning process - a very useful and practical pedagogy in its own right that can be used directly with a wide range of students in a wide range of situations.

4. A Solution focused workshop will model SF as a pedagogy - however this may be need to be made explicit to the participants
     - In what ways, has our workshop been a learning experience?
     - In what ways might you use similar steps with your students?
     - ...

5. Solutions are about achieving increased success and well-being now, and in the future - these are the two outcomes that count!!

6. Success and well-being are personal, social, emotional and cultural experiences (not just a matter of academic and behavioural compliance)

7.Thus, quality education is a complex multi-level social endeavour
     - involving the respectful collaboration of teachers and individual students, staff, classes, families and the community
     - attending to significant purposes,
     - using productive pedagogies,
     - building respectful relationships and a richer more supportive school community 

8. SF is relatively 'simple' strategy yet it addresses these dimensions and thus supports quality education

9. At the same time, problems in schools are real and often required prompt attention:
    - serious problems need to be contained and resolved asap
    - all problems need to be reduced and, if possible, prevented
    - those involved need to participate and contribute to these outcomes

10. It is likely that a Solution Focused workshop will reveal the need for on-going attention to be given to
    - improved pedagogies, including SF approaches
    - improved social and emotional learning
    - improved 'behaviour management' (see 9 above), for example, restorative practices (here)
    - increasing the school's focus on solutions, e.g., here

For some schools and some staff this last point represents a challenging paradigm shift* ("old habits die hard"). AS well as being challenged they may need some on-going support.. It will mean working WITH (rather than working ON or working FOR) students.

And that is exactly what will be modelled in a well-led workshop using an SF approach in the .

* Footnote: Years ago I was skilled  at dealing with the problems  in my school. When problems arose I usually dealt with most of them promptly and well.  But then I noticed that I was solving the same problems time and time again. I realised I was just carrying out effective counter measures - containing the situations that arose and resolving events as if they occurred in isolation. I wasn't really focusing on genuine improvements and lasting solutions.

Fortunately Solution Focus now offers a substantial body of knowledge to address this almost universal challenge.