I just read an amazing article called The Missing Link in School Reform by Carrie Leana in the Stanford Social Innovation review that described research done in American schools on the link between teacher-learning formats and student achievement.
She notes that we are all so familiar with the usual external experts that we keep bringing in to our school districts to inspire and inform our teachers about the next best thing in education.
She notes that we are also very familiar with our efforts to update and upgrade our teachers through a myriad of workshops, meetings, conferences etc. Again, all with the best of intentions to build the capacity of our teachers by increasing their knowledge base and pedagogical skills.
She notes that the third way we attempt to make change in our schools is to increase the capacity of our principals – provide them with the experts and workshops to make sure that their own knowledge and skills bases increase so that in their roles as instructional leaders, they can keep the teacher-learning momentum going.
These efforts, Leana called Human Capital. Surprisingly very ineffective in increasing student achievement in the studied school districts. Yet so very very expensive. Leana does not dispute that these are important…but..
We are forgetting Social Capital – the power of teachers working together to collaboratively solve problems, seek advice from each other, observe each other in action, mentoring each other, sharing tips and resources. Here is where the difference was made. In districts where this collaboration was made common practice, the student achievement soared.
So, let’s not abandon the workshops for new learning through our experts and principals, but let’s make absolutely certain that we incorporate time for consolidation of that new learning through the regular interactions between our teachers – let them have has much time together as possible to be the social beings as we know they are. Connectivism and Constructivism in the flesh.