Saturday, January 26, 2019

What If...

Katie Martin LEARNER CENTERED INNOVATION—Spark Curiosity, Ignite Passion
and Unleash Genius

I am just pages away from finishing Katie Martin’s book Learner Center Innovation, Spark Curiosity, Ignite Passion, and Unleash Genius and I’ve reached yet another section in the book that is leaving me incredibly inspired as a leader to better.  The preface in Martin’s book encourages the reader to “Be the Change” and start to reframe what learning looks like in our schools and classrooms by asking the question, “What if?”
Although Martin also encourages the reader to remember, “The role of you, the reader, is not to just consume and copy my ideas or the ideas of other I will share, but to dive in, question, create new meaning and ultimately ask ‘What if?’ and begin to create the change that you wish to see in your context” (p. 14-15).
There was a multitude of innovating ideas I came away with to do and be a better leader. The one idea that is keeping me up at night…in a good way was found in Chapter 10, “Better Together.” Martin shares a personal experience when she joined a Professional Learning Community (PLC). The team was moving through the motions of answering the essential questions of a PLC and diligently completing the form and minutes in order to turn in their completed task. Her experience sounded too familiar and caused me to genuinely reflect on what I have been asking teachers to do regularly.
Then my “ah-ha” occurred when I read the next sentence. “How much more useful could that meeting have been had the focus been on using their questions to delve into ways to improve their practice?” The essential questions of a PLC are nothing less than brilliant in my opinion, but Martin reframed innovation for all of us by stating, “The questions they asked are great if they are used to guide and investigate practices and to collaboratively explore new and better ways to meet the learners’ needs. Moving the PLC process from“compliance-based cycles to cycles of learning that empower teachers to improve their practice and meet the needs of the learner.”
“Imagine the same cycle, but (what if)…
  • Instead of focusing on the right answers, teachers have the opportunity to experience new models of learning and shift their thinking about what is possible in the classrooms.
  • Based on new experiences, teachers work together to select goals and research what works in their classrooms with their learners.
  • They determine the best evidence to gather and analyze based on their goals.
  • Teachers collectively provide and receive peer feedback and support to improve based on the shared vision, their goals, and the needs of their learners.
  • This kind of cycle ensures that the vision and goals for learners remain the driving force for professional learning” (p. 260). 

Martin gives the reader critical items to seriously consider during a cycle of inquiry. “Trust is imperative to empowerment, but it should not be confused with abandonment” (p. 268). This cycle of inquiry requires balancing the structure of a learning cycle (in my case the essential questions of a PLC within the framework of the data team process), and the collective inquiry of professional learning of our teams. Building collective efficacy not only prioritizes the professional relationships we develop and the diverse experiences we each bring to the conversation in order to  “create the right kind of culture, which requires prioritizing time and experiences that help us grow” (p. 271).

The cycle of inquiry is just one of Martin’s recommendations to “spark curiosity, ignite passion, and unleash genius.” Martin's book also includes multiple ideas for not necessarily doing more but being more purposeful and framing “the why” we need to keep our learners at the center of innovation.

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