Wednesday, 8 March 2017

MOOCing - Blog 2:

So this is my second blog post as part of the Innovators Mindset MOOC #IMMOOC.

Before I get into this, I'm pleased to say that I've already learnt two things:

1. I have to take notes of all the content from the videos that I want to talk about - I've learnt that I can't rely on my memory. I'm sure this reflects the quality and quantity of nuggets from George and guests rather than my slowing mental capacity.
2. In a house where both adults are teachers there are no working pens or pencils in order to take said notes. How is this?

Having watched the second video in the #IMMOOC series I thought I'd focus on one element of an Innovator's Mindset: Resilience.

Here's a couple of definitions and I think they link nicely to a thought I had during the video about the range in innovation amongst teachers within the same school. My mind conjured up a continuum (originally I used the word 'spectrum' but felt that continuum was a more expectant choice) of staff from those who have no intention or interest to innovate through to the almost 'head firsters' - innovators taking risks without considering the outcomes. 

Then I began to focus in on one group on this spectrum: those who begin to innovate but then return to the safety of the known and the norm. As a leader I am still surprised by this. I feel time had been spent investing in moving these people to a point of willingness to innovate, in fact in some instances innovation had started but then they stop.

But why? What's going on?

Maybe it's baggage.


What is the teacher bringing to this scenario that they are already carrying? Have they been keen previously to 'innovate' only to have something change - the system, the expectations, the leader themselves - that has meant the innovation was squashed? Are they afraid of leaving colleagues who are friends who are maybe settled further to the left of the continuum? Do they feel they can't match the perceived 'better' innovation elsewhere? So many potential factors, some more easily recognisable than others. What is stopping the desire to innovate being an intrinsic part of them as teacher?

The concept of support and space was discussed as a strength of leaders, at least for those staff who responded to this style. Some staff would prefer more support and less space. Moving all staff along the innovator continuum above perhaps requires leaders to know their staff as well as they expect teachers to know their children. Easy to say. What about those who refuse to engage in innovation or even disrupt the efforts or enthusiasm of others? 'Culture' is often identified as a key component of leading an organisation and I am not going to disagree with this however sometimes even the panacea that is 'cultre' struggles with this small percentage. The key is to remember that this is a continuum and there will always be variance within a staff popoulation. 

In a paper entitled 'What works best in education: The politics of collaborative expertise' John Hattie uses the phrase 'earned autonomy' to describe the space given to those staff who can be trusted to achieve the outcomes. He describes 'in-school variance', and the tolerance of it, as a key barrier to better pupil outcomes. 

Can this be applied to innovation? Should it only be staff who have already proven that they can get the outcomes, that children and schools 'need', that are only given the space to innovate? I think there is a delicate (and difficult) balance here. It's wrong to assume that teachers who aren't achieving required pupil outcomes aren't keen to innovate, nor for the opposite to be true. In fact it could be the case that the 'head firsters' are innovating at the cost of pupil outcomes. It comes back to knowing individual teachers. 

Also, if only allowing innovation after outcomes are achieved, innovation, or innovating, risks becoming seen as an extension activity - something to do after you've completed the 'basic work', when in reality it's possible that the basic work could be completed more effectively if innovation was employed.

So what has all of this got to do with resilience?

For staff to feel confident enough to innovate, to step out of their safe zone, resilience has to be an integral part of both them and the school culture. It is something that many teachers expect of their children so should be modeling themselves; the same applies to leaders' expectations of their teachers. 

BUT....taking the definitions of 'resilience' above do we want teachers to 'spring back into shape'? Surely this reflects those staff who stop innovating. Perhaps this is because they don't embody the 'resilience' in the second definition. The ability of a teacher to bounce back from adversity, when things don't go to plan, whether it be an innovative trial or even a lesson, reflects their ability to be, and remain, further to the right of the continuum - they are less likely to return to the safety of non-innovation. Leaders need to reflect this definition in their expectations of teachers - not all innovation is going to be successful and leaders have to understand this. 

I have no doubt that 'resilience' is a key component of an innovating teacher but let's be precise about what that means, what our definition is, so that we all share the same language and expectation. Which means no springing back into shape!

1 comment:

  1. Agree with this. 'Springing back into shape' implies returning to the way things were. No reflection, no 'How do I make this better?' No change. I think thoughtful 'springing' is positive. But spring forwards, even just a little bit. And change the shape.