By Carol Commodore
It has been my privilege over the last 20 years to work with educators all over the U.S. and the world in the area of assessment, leadership, and systems. What I have learned from these experiences is that educators work hard and are dedicated to the students they serve, but to do their work more easily and well they need the support of the educational systems in which they work. They must also have strong leaders who understand their needs and strive to remove the barriers and provide the resources for change. To make positive, productive changes in classroom assessment practices, I have drawn particular conclusions about systems and leaders.
Systems, especially effective systems:
- Are dynamic. When you improve or innovate in one area of the system, it can have an impact on multiple areas of the system
- Change person by person
- Support rather than impede the work of individuals within the system
- Are large and small, but regardless of size effective systems, have strong leaders and committed individuals who know and can communicate the mission and vision of the educational system
- Need people who know their roles in the system and know what decisions they have to make so all can succeed in making the vision become a reality
- Have people who know they are valued by the type of feedback and support they receive
- Have people who continually strive and work together to improve their knowledge and skills in classroom assessment practices and team learning
- Have people who respect each other
- Have people who know they are making a positive difference by the results that are produced and analyzed
- Have a vision of quality, balanced assessment practices
- Are able to communicate that vision to others and know how to invite others in to shape and make that vision become a reality
- Are assessment literate themselves
- Understand how systems and people work and move forward
- Possess two mindsets and sets of skills: one for improvement and one for innovation
- Know what the system needs to provide the individuals within the system in order for them to make positive, productive changes
- Remove barriers to change
- Provide resources for change especially in the area of professional development and time to meet with one another
- Remain focused on the vision and the plan for implementation in the midst of organizational chaos brought about by the messiness of change. They help others remain focused as well.
- Think BIG and act small. Every journey begins with a single step and progresses step by step
- Build relationships by:
o Recognizing and honoring the uniqueness of gifts each member of the organization brings to the system
o Providing the support that members of the organization need to make improvements to themselves and the organization
o Giving ongoing, supportive feedback to those who are making the changes
o Providing a risk-free environment for trying new strategies and changes
o Celebrating the successes along the way as well as at the end
o Analyzing together what works and does not work and learning how to use that information to move forward
- Use data to know where they are, where they are going and how well they are getting there
- Are communicators of useful information to those making or experiencing the changes
- Know when they must make the decisions themselves and when they need to include others in the decision-making
Thank you, Carol, for a professional lifetime’s wisdom distilled into actionable ideas.
If we think of every teacher as a leader, perhaps we need to incorporate systems thinking into ongoing professional development for teachers, principals, superintendents, and board members, and share with parents also.
My biggest takeaway from your excellent post is this: “Understand how systems and people work and move forward”
Thank you, Hugh, for your feedback. I agree that systems thinking should be part of ongoing professional development for all. It has been my practice to do so and the results for all have been positive.