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Blog: Friday, September 13th, 2019

Mirroring our Schools’ Values

in the Design of Leadership and Adult Learning

In preparation for the new school year, secondary school principals and vice-principals spent a few days in August engaged in an inquiry around the following question: How might we foster engagement of deeper learning with the adults in our school community? In pursuing this inquiry, we had two guiding principles:

Student learning and adult learning are symmetrical. There is a parallelism between the work of adults in the system and the work we hope that teachers will do with students. So, tackling this inquiry would require a focus toward collaborative capacity building;

Emergence is accelerated by leadership. In working together around this inquiry, we would model a cycle of knowledge creation that, as in our schools, would enact, nurture, and grow the energy and capacity in the groups, supporting more lateral and organic (non-hierarchical) connections to emerge.

With these principles in place, we divided ourselves into groups and dove headfirst into a hackathon, an intense brainstorming and development session followed by a “pitch” session – think project-based learning methodology combined with an educational version of Shark Tank. As groups worked through their inquiries and product creation, what became clear was that a stream of valuable ideas was being exchanged. The cultural effect? The awakening of an experimentation and innovation mindset framed within a fun and engaging pursuit.

As the day came to a close, what became evident was that the processes we engaged in and the discoveries we made had a significance beyond the immediacy of this activity – like in our own classrooms, specific content facilitated the development of transferable competencies. We began to develop new forms of what Ronald Heifetz terms improvisational expertise: “a kind of process of expertise that knows prudently how to experiment with never-been-tried-before relationships, means of communication and ways of interreacting that will help develop solutions that build upon and surpass present wisdom”. We engaged in the art of what Jeff Kluger calls simplexity: “making the complex simple in terms of understanding and coherence”- so important with all the white noise that surrounds us daily. We grew in our appreciation that in challenging expectations and finding a way to push, encourage, disappoint, we need to ensure that we don’t push those we are learning with completely over the edge.

In the end, isn’t this the type of student learning that is taking place in our classrooms. Shouldn’t it also inform our own adult learning?

Assistant Superintendent