I recently attended the Association for the Advancement of International Education 42nd Annual Conference in NYC. Most of the attendees were administrators at International Schools around the world.
I participated in a session conducted by Stacey Rainey, who works with Microsoft Corporation and has responsibility for the Microsoft School of the Future in Philadelphia. She presented the processes and discoveries coming from this joint project between Microsoft and the Philadelphia City Schools. Students at the school focus on projects that have Pennsylvania Standards embedded. Tour the school and learn much more at www.Microsoft.com/education/sof.
One very interesting offering on this site is the Education Competency Wheel. Under six qualities that are identified as needed by school leaders to help schools succeed in the 21st century are 37 educational competencies. For each competency you will find a proficiency rubric, essential questions, interview questions to identify the presence of the competency in candidates for positions, ways to practice and learn the competency on the job and recommended readings about the competency.
One competency that particularly caught my attention was “Learning on the Fly”.
“Learns quickly when facing new problems; analyzes both successes and failures for clues to improvement: experiments and will try anything to find solutions; enjoys the challenge of unfamiliar tasks.”
I immediately thought that peer coaching would be a natural tool for the development and practice of “learning on the fly”. The following two suggestions in the learning on the job section reinforced my thinking.
Use experts: Seek out expert(s) in your area, and find out how they think and problem-solve. Ask what key questions they apply when solving problems.
Use others: Employ others with diverse backgrounds to help analyze the situation. Come up with questions and discuss them.
Get feedback from those in authority. Communicate that you are open to constructive criticism and are willing to work on issues they view as important.
Be open and non-defensive when others offer feedback. Ask for examples and details, and take notes.
Learn from mistakes. Focus on “why” more than “what.” Don’t avoid similar situations for fear of repeating mistakes, but learn and try again. Don’t repeat what went wrong more diligently, but try something new. Look for patterns that may be causing the problem.
I have often suggested that school leaders need to be lead learners. Collegial staff relationships like vertical teams and professional learning communities can provide the support for teachers and administrators learning “on the fly”.