Sunday, July 28, 2019

Transforming Learning

Eric C. Sheninger & Thomas C. Murray LEARNING TRANSFORMED—8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today

Oh my! When I began to read Learning Transformed, I was immersed in the praises from many well-known researchers, educators, authors, CEO’s, and TED Talk speakers. Their endorsements and recommendations included utilizing the book as a resource for "evidence-rich strategies," "a handbook to implementing actionable, sustainable change," and to be read "to put fun, excitement, and real learning back into your school or classrooms."

Sheninger and Murray, authors of Learning Transformed, 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow's Schools, Today grabbed my immediate attention on page one. Starting with "...the abhorrent inequities in opportunity for women, students of color, and those from low-income families remain issues that must be addressed today." Their reflections and stories in this book framed the "why" every school needs to move forward and invest in evidence-based instructional practices and strategies. Ultimately, to allow access, opportunities, and positive outcomes for EACH student. The goal is to empower our student so they can pursue with passion and rigor their potential and dreams.

Chapter by chapter, you can feel the author's drive to support transforming learning for the students we serve, followed by how we can make it happen. "How are our schools preparing students for the type of jobs that will exist in this future global workforce?.... As we enter this next Industrial Revolution—Industry 4.0—a robust education, combined with personalized training, will be key to one's success and ultimately, their economic survival. To prepare students for their world of work tomorrow, we must transform their learning today" (p. 18).  A "Moral Imperative" yes, but even more compelling the need to transform our schools to be "Future Ready."

Sheninger and Murray proposed "Eight Keys for Intentional Design" changes needed in our schools and classrooms. These keys allow our students to experience school with the necessary skills to propel and empower their learning forward not only their future but as learners in the world today. In summary, the eight keys for designing tomorrow's schools include; 

  1. Leadership and school culture as the foundation
  2. Redesigning the learning experience for students
  3. Decisions are driven by evidence and the return on instruction
  4. Learning spaces are learner-centered
  5. Professional learning is relevant and on-going
  6. Technology can enhance and accelerate learning
  7. Collaborating and developing community partnerships
  8. Transform systems for sustainability
My learning reflections focused on two of these eight keys starting with the value of developing a culture of leadership with a platform of trust for more innovation to occur. The biggest lesson I have learned to date from my experience as a turnaround principal is school culture comes first. And it matters more than initially expected and starts with trust. "Just as there is no I in team, there is no leader without followers and no change without trust! Leaders who manage change effectively should not work in isolation but in concert with their team and with constituents..." (p. 49).

Sheninger and Murray remind the reader leadership is not a solo endeavor, but an opportunity to empower others. So a leader must model, model, model, adaptability, joyfulness, appreciation, focus, expectations, momentum, meaningful feedback, effective communication, positive relationships, and delegate, delegate, delegate for others to develop the mindset to do the same (p. 41-43). Agreed. The outcomes of our shared leadership framework have ultimately accelerated student learning and staff empowerment of our school improvement journey.

My next moment of clarity from Learning Transformed was in Sheninger and Murray’s use of a new and now forever term for me, Return on Instruction (ROI). " better prepare teachers and administrators with the skills and mindset to usher in needed change but also to study and show-case powerful examples of success. Showing teachers what 'high-quality' actually looks like is key. Professional learning must help educators on what they already do—better. It can't be hypothetical, especially when focused on technology and innovation" (p. 85). It is followed by closely examining student data. "Simply put, when integrating technology, there needs to be an ROI that results in evidence of improved student learning outcomes" (p. 87).

I always appreciate when authors give credit to those that are knee-deep in the work of positively changing student outcomes. I couldn't help but smile when the authors featured Vancouver Public Schools in Washington State, as an example of how one district is including technology in their strategic planning to "leverage learning." These close neighbors are showing their commitment to "going slow to go fast" by realizing "digital transformation takes time," starting small is OK, "focus on high-leverage, high-yield strategies," with an understanding "each district's approach is unique to its vision, culture, and resources." Yes, "Culture trumps strategy every time." (p. 196-198).

What is it that we want each of our students to know and be able to do now and as they experience and transition into a fast-paced changing global society? A critical question for consideration. Our part as educators is not to stand still but to move forward, one purposeful step at a time and Sheninger and Murray provide “Eight Keys for Intentional Design” as a guide

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