Archive for the ‘Professional Development’ category

Collaborative Leadership and Participatory Decision Making – An Experience.

August 15, 2011

Collaborative Leadership

and

Participatory Decision Making – An Experience.

Lawrence P. Creedon

This piece considers the rise, development and demise of a 20 year effort in collaborative leadership and participatory decision making.

The Concept

Those who are to be affected by a decision ought to be involved in the process of  making, implementing and being held accountable for decisions made

Introduction

Collaborative Leadership and Participatory Decision Making [CL/PDM], is much talked about and little practiced. To begin with, neither is easy. Traditional line-staff, autocratic, bureaucratic, command, control and comply [AB C] procedures are and have been the norm. However, an ABC approach is in fundamental conflict with the ubiquitous proclaimed school mission statements that among the purposes of the school is to prepare young learners to live and participate in a democratic society. Traditionally in organizational structure, including decision making, learning environment, and instructional process schools have not made good on that assertion and have not been exemplars of CL/PDM.

In the United States the recent federal initiative known as “No Child Left Behind” with its emphasis on standardized testing is one example. NCLF is closer to a command control and comply process than it is to less autocratic approaches. In contrast and again in the USA the three decade old initiative in Charter Schools has been a step toward CL/PDM.

In international schools where private ownership of schools is more prevalent and where financial profit is frequently a factor, centralized leadership and decision making is the norm.

A committee structure for involving faculty in decision making while increasingly common is seldom an adequate example of CL/PDM. Certainly it is closer in design and implementation than ABC, but it falls short when measured against CL/PDM.

Focus

This paper will focus on:

  1. A brief synopsis of the theory and history of CL/PDM
  2. Four fundamental characteristics of CL/PDM
  3. An example of a 20 effort in conceptualizing, developing, implementing, assessing and all but abandoning the effort.

Theory and History

The democratic ideal of citizen involvement in their  own governance is at the root of CL/PDM. That ideal extends to the school – the primary institution within a democratic society for fostering democratic ideals and processes in the young. As indicated at the outset of this monograph and simply stated: Those who are to be affected by a decision ought to be involved in the process of making, implementing and being held accountable for decisions made.

In many, if not most, quarters collaborative leadership and participatory decision making are looked upon as innovations. And to some, the concepts are fanciful, far-fetched initiatives promoted by those on the fringe of the progressive movement. However, the concepts do seem to be in conflict with an era that has focused its attention on authoritarian practices evidenced by the quality through testing movement. While viewing CL/PDM as a contemporary fashionable approach to leadership and organizational development that characterization is not accurate.

The concepts of CL/PDM are not of recent origin. They are embedded in democratic ideals. In the context of leadership and management in the world of work contemporary thinking in these areas dates back to at least the 1930s. The Human Relations Movement began then with George Mayo [1880 – 1949] as its first guru. The “Hawthorne Studies” became well known so that to this day reference is still made to the “Hawthorne Effect.” In short, the Hawthorne Effect referred to a situation where no actual change took place in the work place, but workers were led to believe that their surroundings had improvement and thus production went up. The hallmark of Mayo’s work was his belief arrived at through experience and observation that the primacy given to human organizations as human cooperative systems rather than mechanical contraptions made the difference in organizational harmony and accomplishment.

In 1960 Douglas McGregor published his now classic study of organizational behavior known as Theory X and Theory Y in his book The Human Side of the Enterprise. Theory X organizations were identified as being authoritarian where workers were viewed as lazy, lacking in motivation, self-centered and resistant to change. In contrast Theory Y organizations were more democratic where workers were self-motivated, sought responsibility and were committed to fulfilling the objectives of the work place.

In the era before and after World War II, Kurt Lewin [1925-1947] was prominent. Lewin is frequently credited as the father of social psychology including group dynamics and organizational development.  Also he is associated with the development of the notions of “Force Field Analysis” and “Action Research.” Lewin identified three types of organizations: authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire. In the area of the change Lewin categorized the process into three phases:

  1. Unfreezing: Overcome inertia and current mind-set
  2. Change: Characterized by confusion and transition
  3. Freezing: Not refreezing, but the reestablishment of a comfort zone

Warren Bennis [1925 – ] has been frequently identified among the top leadership theorists and practitioners of modern times. He is credited with being a strong promoter of democratic approaches to leadership and organizational development. For example in 2007 Business Week quoted him in his belief that “ humanistic democratic-style leaders are better suited to deal with complexity and change that characterizes today’s leadership environment.”

There are many others leading spokes people in support of CL/PDM. However, the four cited above are generally recognized as the fathers of the democratically based human relations movement.

Four Fundamental Characteristics

Four fundamental characteristics of CL/PDM are:

1.Commitment to the concept and ideal

2. A climate for change

3. Mutual trust and respect

4. Involvement in decision making, implementing and assessment

Foremost of the four is commitment at the top of the organization or institution. Policy makers and the most senior leadership authorities must be committed to the concept and the ideal. Loss of that will lead to the demise of the effort as will be noted farther on in this paper. Commitment is a key factor in developing the climate – the environment – for mutual trust to develop and thus involvement in the quest for CL/PDM.

Quite possibility faculty and staff will be skeptical about overtures from the top calling for a climate and process conducive to CL/PDM. They may feel that there is an ulterior motive involved. Trust may be lacking as the result of past actual or perceived behavior of those on top. They may look for and expect concrete and specific examples of the concept in the here and now.

It is not uncommon that those in policy making positions such as school owners [both those active in the management of the organization and those more passive and absentee], boards of directors, or publically elected or appointed school boards will doubt the wisdom CL/PDM. The feeling may be plain and simple that those appointed to lead ought to lead. CL/PDM may be viewed as a weakness and the shirking of responsibility.

Unions and employee associations might also have misgivings and doubts about the intent of CL/PDM. They may exhibit distrust in the motives of those on top who are calling for CL/PDM. They may come to the table with an “us-against-them” mind-set.

Finally, among the general population of the school or organization faculty and staff there will be those who doubt the wisdom and need for change. They may have reputations as “Nay-sayers” toward most efforts at reconsidering the status quo of things as they are and have been.

Speeches alone promoting CL/PDM from those on top will not create the climate for CL/PDM to take root and develop. As the sayings go: Actions speak louder than words and By their fruits you will know them.

Commitment, climate, trust, and involvement are circular. Addressed in linear fashion each alone will not suffice. The four are interrelated and inter-dependent. However, the seed of the whole concept is commitment. Without continuous, lasting and action-based commitment at the top, trust will not take root and without trust a desirable, positive climate will not prevail.

Experts external to the local area regardless of how well credentialed they might be cannot provide for commitment, climate, trust and involvement. These four basic and vital compounds are planted, grown and harvested in the context of concrete, specific situations. They will not flourish and bear fruit as abstract, theoretical concepts. Outside authorities can offer counsel on how to proceed and can assist in providing relevant theoretical, historical and experience-based data, but the seeds of commitment, climate and trust resulting in involvement are local and come from within. Indeed there are skills involved in the whole process and outside authorities can assist in facilitating their identification, development and application.

Establishing and implementing a program characterized by commitment, trust and climate is a never ending process. It is not something that has an alpha and an omega. The banner of Mission Accomplished ought never to be flown. The four components together are the source of fuel that propels the organization and like other fuels it is consumed in use. It is refreshed through continuous, active commitment at the top.

An Era of Collaborative Leadership and Participant Involvement and Innovation.

A renewed era of innovation in leadership and participant involvement in decision making, implementation and assessment within the Quincy, Massachusetts, USA public schools began in 1963 with the arrival of Robert E. Pruitt as superintendent of the nearly 20,000 student school system. Mr. Pruitt came from the University of Chicago School of Education where he had served as assistant director of the University Laboratory School. The School of Education grew out of the Cook County Normal School in Chicago where  American philosopher John Dewey and Colonel Francis W. Parker were among the founders.  Colonel Parker had previously served as the first superintendent of schools in Quincy from 1865-1870. At the time the entire faculty of the Quincy school system numbered 30. During the more recent renewed era of innovation from 1963 – 1984 the faculty numbered approximately 2000. Professor Merle Curti, Harvard University in his book The Social ideas of American Educators is among those authorities who have observed that progressive education in the United States began in Quincy, MA under Colonel Parker.

Superintendent Pruitt served from 1963 – 1969 and did so in the progressive tradition of Colonel Parker. I served as superintendent and the 13th successor of Parker from 1969 – 1984. I continued in the progressive tradition of Parker and Pruitt.

What follows is a synopsis of what I consider and recall as the significant events in the more recent rise, development, implementation and demise of CL/PDM in Quincy. These views, accurate or not, fanciful or not, biased or not, embellished or not capture the 20 year renewed period of innovation as I experienced it, contributed to it and lived it.

Policy Makers: Democratically Elected School Board

The seven member city-wide democratically elected school board of Quincy played a vital role in the progressive orientation of the Quincy Public Schools. The board did not consist of professional educators and was not appointed, but rather was made up of a cross section of locally elected citizens of Quincy. Traditionally board members were openly and aggressively committed to the quest for quality education for the approximately 20,000 young people of the community. As a whole the Board personified a progressive approach to education. The Quincy Public Schools [QPS] had a long tradition of progressive education. For example, Quincy was among the first school systems to establish junior high schools in departure from the then prevailing eight year grammar school and four year high school model. Quincy was early in establishing a special education department, guidance services, kindergartens, a 13th-14th year vocational-technical education program and a two-year associate degree community college. The Board welcomed and encouraged innovation. It functioned as architects of policy and did not attempt to micro-manage. However, much of that changed including the orientation of newly elected members of the Board. Beginning with the decade of the 1980s successive Boards played a role in the demise of the renewed period of innovation.

Challenging the status Quo

Superintendent Pruitt arrived in Quincy from the University of Chicago in 1963 and ushered in a period committed to challenging the status quo and establishing a climate for change. For the duration of his five year tenure, Mr. Pruitt promoted the concept of CL/PDM as it was then understood. With the passage of time, research, a host of initiatives in many school systems the concept has developed from what it was in the decade of the 1960s.

Superintendent Pruitt stressed the importance of climate – a climate of mutual trust and respect. He promoted the notion of a systemic approach to the mission of the school system, to learning and to management. He embraced the newly enacted Massachusetts law granting educators collective bargaining rights and privileges. In fact Quincy was among the first in the USA to establish a collective bargaining agreement [a contract] between a school board and a teachers association.

As an assistant to Mr Pruitt as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Teachers Association I actually drafted the brief, two page contract. It focused on both professional rights and responsibilities.

Mr. Pruitt reached out to national government and private industry initiatives in progressive innovative approaches to education. Among the more prominent initiatives were the federally funded Project Able in Vocational Education, Project PLAN [Program for Learning in Accordance With Needs] privately funded, and COPED [Cooperative Program in Education Development] a federally funded program in human relations development including CL/PDM. Superintendent Pruitt was committed to establishing a climate for change.

In 1969 Mr. Pruitt left Quincy and at age 36 I was elected superintendent of schools. I served in that capacity until 1984. Mr. Pruitt went on to a position with the United States Department of Education in Washington, DC

Having served under Mr. Pruitt and having been mentored by him I continued his commitment to progressive education and participatory decision making. It was and continues to be my practice to author position papers defining and sharing with those interested and effected views on education. This paper is one such example. Scores of others are found on my web site: www.larrycreedon.wordpress.com.  Two among those I authored then and that are still applicable today are: Establishing a Climate for Change, and Participatory Decision Making in the Schools of Quincy, MA.

Establishing a Climate for Change

An early initiative in the quest for establishing a climate for change was embarking on an extensive series of educational retreats. Over a three to four year period of time small groups of school leaders and faculty members numbering about 40 individuals spent two to three day residential retreats at a conference center. Participants were selected at the school level by the teachers association.  Some retreats focused on faculty members from one school while others involved faculty members from several schools. In one instance the entire faculty of the community college was involved each time for a series of two retreats.

The teachers association [union] took part in selecting participants. The sessions were facilitated by human relations department faculty members from Boston University, Lesley College and the Sloan School of Business Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT]. The agenda was built by participants and focused on climate including the issue of trust. The goal was not to focus on problem solving and seeking consensus on a specific concern, but rather to consider factors that facilitated or hindered progressive change.

The program was associated with the United States Department of Education program Cooperative Program in Educational Development. Locally it was known as Q-PED – Quincy Program in Educational Development. Funding came from the US Department of Education, the Simon Gutman Foundation [a private foundation dedicated to human relations], and the Quincy Public Schools. Ultimately budget cuts contributed to the end of the effort. However during its active period approximately 400 faculty members took part in retreats and follow-up activities.

Participatory Management

At the outset of the renewed period of innovation the school system reflected a common and traditional line-staff organizational structure. During my superintendency that changed to a layered team structure. The layers were:

Building Level:

At the building level faculty became more involved through such structures as faculty senates and principal councils. Faculty participated in developing building level budgets reflecting specific needs of an individual school.  Faculty participated in developing aspects of the ten component design for learning. The Design for Learning is addressed in other Creedon monographs. Faculty participated in developing job descriptions for new or replacement openings. They also participated in interviewing, screening and recommending candidates for appointment.

System-Wide Level

Instructional Planning Team [IPT]: The IPT was made up of all system-wide academic and special areas coordinators. It included system-wide coordinators of math, science, social studies, foreign languages, music, art, physical education, athletics, media and library science, guidance and special education. Among the tasks of the IPT was the system-wide, systemic development and implementation of the ten component Design for Learning. Most of the Design for Learning developmental work was done during summer workshops. Over a five year period 250 faculty members participated in summer Design for learning development  workshops.  Implementation of summer efforts was carried out during the school year. The IPT reported to the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.

Learning Management Team [LMT]: The LMT was made up of system-wide directors of elementary education, secondary education, pupil personnel, plant, and business affairs. It functioned primarily in the area of system-wide management as opposed to the curriculum and instruction concerns of the IPT. The LMT reported collectively to the Superintendency Team.

Superintendency Team [ST]: The superintendency team was made up of the assistant superintendents of schools for curriculum and instruction, vocational-technical education, pupil personnel services and human resources. The directors of plant and business affairs served as resource persons to the ST. The superintendent chaired the superintendency team. The superintendency team considered all system related concerns that channeled up to it through the other team structures. It made recommendations to the superintendent who in turn either directed action to be taken or if the matter related to policy referred it the school board. Only the school board determined policy.

Expanded Task Teams [ETT]: Expanded Task Teams were issue related and where made up of colleagues across the spectrum of the school system who were impacted by a particular issue. Four examples follow:

Elementary School Renovations: At the elementary school level all principals sat on the School Renovations Task Team. Each budget year principals included in their proposed budgets requests for building improvements and maintenance. The 22 elementary principals met as a group, reviewed all requests and made recommendations to the Learning Management Team [LMT].

New School Construction: When a new high school was being built the entire faculty was involved in recommending space needs. For example, school was closed one day and the entire faculty was involved in recommending space needs for their departments. A steering committee of faculty from every department met monthly with the superintendent and architect throughout the entire construction period.

Curriculum Development:

Project Plan: When a decision had to be made concerning a curriculum development project [Project PLAN: Program for Learning in Accordance with Needs – Westinghouse Learning Corp and American institutes for Research] that had impact system-wide all teachers from the affected schools met in a two day Friday-Saturday session. They reviewed the situation and made a recommendation as to whether or not to proceed with the effort. Their recommendation was adopted.

Project ABLE: Project ABLE was a one million dollar federally funded curriculum development project in conjunction with the American Institutes for Research.  The purpose was to develop a curriculum and program of studies bringing together the curriculums of both the vocational-technical school and the high school so that courses and programs could be shared back and forth. The development period was for three years. During that time more than 70 faculties members were relieved of classes one-half time on as rotating basis in order to develop curriculum. Additional staff was hired as necessary.

Leadership Assembly:  The Leadership Assembly included every person in the school system who had a professional leadership position including assistant principals, department heads, principals, system-wide specialists, coordinators and directors. It numbered approximately 125 individuals and was chaired by the superintendent of schools. It met twice a year for the purpose of sharing system-wide information. It was an information sharing forum as opposed to an action oriented body.

Support Staff Assemblies: Once a year day long sessions were held separately for custodial and maintenance staff personnel as well as secretarial and clerical support staff. The purpose was information sharing as to developments and initiatives within the system.

Student Leadership Assembly: Twice a year student leaders from all levels of the school system and from all school related activities participated in the Student Leadership Assembly. Participants included elected class officers, officers from clubs and special interest area groups, and leaders from athletic teams, music, and theater groups, etc. The purpose was to solicit from the student leaders their views on curriculum and instructional issues pending before the school system. For example at one such session the Student Leadership Assembly produced a position paper on their view as to basic skills.

Curriculum Relevance Forum: In every academic area a curriculum relevance forum was established. It was made up of an equal number of educators and community people and parents. The purpose was to review the curriculum and instructional program and make recommendations to the IPT. Each forum was chaired by an IPT member. Relevance Forums met quarterly.

System-Wide Excellence Forum: Once a year parents, PTA leaders and community members were invited to a forum on “The Pursuit of Excellence Within the Quincy public Schools.” The all day session was held on a Saturday. The AM session was held in each of the system’s 33 schools. The afternoon session was a common session held at one school. The agenda was framed around the ten component Design for Learning. Recommendations went directly to the superintendent and the Learning Management Team.

Superintendent’s Seminars in Current Trends in School Administration: Twice each school year the superintendent facilitated a seminar for 10 principals and/or assistant principals focusing on current trends in education. Eight once a week 90 minute sessions were held. Each session began with breakfast being served at 7:45 AM. Participation was on a volunteer basis and was limited to ten.

Teachers Association Leadership and Supintendent: On a monthly basis the leadership of the teachers association and the superintendent met. The agenda was jointly prepared.

Involvement in Promotional Screening Process: The procedure for recommending individuals to the school board for promotion included a screening committee process that included representatives from the faculty, the student body and the community. The teachers association identified faculty participants, students were identified by the principals and community folks were identified by the PTA or other parent organization.

Superintendent at Home Series: Every month one day after school the superintendent and members of the IPT and LMT met with an invited number of teachers for a two hour social meeting. There was no agenda. The atmosphere was of a reception social gathering type. Light refreshments were served. The teachers association controlled the invitation list. A similar series of social gatherings were held for high school students. High School principals extended invitations to about 30 students per session.

Other Initiatives: The above does not exhaust the initiatives taken to reach out to various constituencies within the school system, however, it does cite most of the major efforts. Also not considered in this monograph are the several other initiatives taken such as newsletters, superintendent monographs followed up by Superintendent – Faculty Q and A sessions held at individual schools and departments within the secondary schools.

Demise of Collaborative leadership and Participatory Decision Making

Unfortunately much of what has been chronicled above no longer exists. The reasons are many and to do them justice would require at least a separate monograph. However, so as not to end with the notion that nirvana has been reached [for it has not] a brief listing as the reasons for the demise will be cited here.

  1. The attitude of the majority of the School Board toward progressive initiatives changed. More conservative candidates were elected to the School Board.
  2. Severe State mandated cuts in taxes sharply curtailed programs within the schools, thereby requiring the school system to make deep and extremely harmful cuts in its budget and personnel.
  3. The superintendency changed thereby leaving a “commitment” void at the top.
  4. For all the effort over a 20 year period a “Climate for Change” did not take root. Rather quickly the pendulum swung back to more traditional ways.

 

Summary Observation

What has been chronicled here has been an effort to point out that the involvement process is much more than the leadership meeting periodically with a representative group of faculty. Rather, the involvement process requires an on-going effort to meet with as many different sub-sections of the whole as possible. Indeed, what has been cited here does not exhaust the total effort at involvement and communication. For example, nothing is mentioned here about written communications and there were several avenues. All of this took place before the advent of tele-communications so nothing is mentioned here about the advances attributable to the computer, technology and social networking. The process is never ending. If trust and a climate receptive to change is to be maintained the effort must be continuous as must the commitment at the top.

Lawrence P. Creedon

For Honduras Leadership Cohort

September 2010

www.larrycreedon.wordpress.com

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Professional Development, Faculty Meetings and Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy

August 15, 2011

Professional Development, Faculty Meetings

and Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy

Lawrence P. Creedon

A frequent lament of practitioners is that professional development activities including faculty meetings called by principals and/or departments heads are of limited value. It is not uncommon for such meetings to be termed a waste of  time.

One recent example shared with me and a class of international graduate student colleagues in a role playing dynamic begins with the principal in customary fashion opening the monthly faculty meeting by alluding to then recent significant events in the lives of faculty members such as birthdays, anniversaries, births and the like.  A question for you to ponder: A humanistic gesture on the part of the principal or a waste of time? You be the judge.

Following this ritual the principal usually goes through a list of administrative announcements including due dates for reports or matters relating to student discipline and building security.  A question for you to ponder: Could the goal here be accomplished through some form of electronic messaging, periodic written bulletins, or hand-outs distributed at the meeting. Is this an effective administrative tactic or not? You be the judge.  

It is not uncommon that all too frequently adequate time is not provided for  curriculum and instructional concerns.  Of immediate concern here is: What constitutes adequate?

In response it is not uncommon for faculty members to resist faculty meetings through such actions as arriving late, arriving armed with classroom based paper work such as papers to grade and reports to complete. Others, as inconspicuously as possible, might engage in texting family and friends, working on “TO DO” lists, and caring for other personal matters.

Responding to the concerns of their members unions have negotiated limitations on faculty meetings and have won concessions on the structure, number and time devoted to faculty meetings.  The bottom line is that rather than a faculty meeting being a component of professional development it is frequently viewed as a deterrent and irritant to professional development and compatibility between the leadership and faculty.

I have been in practice for over 50 years and am sorry to say that the issue has been of concern during all of that time. A few decades ago a USA graduate student I was working with at the time termed the situation as one of “The same circus with different clowns.” What do you think? What has been your experience?

Fortunately the situation is easily remedied. No out of pocket cost need be is incurred or new or expanded positions need not be added to administrative structure of the school. The remedy about to be suggested here is based on the assumption that the “leadership” is receptive to change and to an alternative strategy and accompanying tactics for engaging in dialogue with the faculty. The assumption here is that an autocratic, bureaucratic, command, control and comply [ABC] approach does not characterize leadership in a democratic society. Rather, the assumption is that leadership is open to strategies for collaborative leadership and faculty involvement in the decision making process. [Those who are to be affected by a decision ought to be involved in the process of making, implementing and being held accountable for decisions made – Creedon].

What follows is a schema for:

  1. Faculty involvement in determining their professional development needs.
  2. A Benjamin Bloom Cognitive Taxonomy based format for structuring faculty meetings and professional development

The Process

  1. Faculty ought to be involved in determining professional development activities including faculty meetings. The agenda for such meetings ought not to be closed domain of those who in administrative or managerial positions. Concerns related to curriculum and instruction ought to be addressed.
  2. Five factors ought to characterize the curriculum – instruction concern.

2.1 Maintenance of Previous Initiatives: This assumes that the approach being promoted here to professional development and faculty meetings is already in place and operational. If so then a first concern is to maintain what has previously been initiated. A concern of practitioners is that initiatives introduced one year are either abandoned the next or allowed to wither away in subsequent years. This gives credence to the criticism that educators are faddists rallying around the latest “silver bullet” and then allowing the initiative to wither away while jumping on the next band wagon.

A result can be doing the same thing over and over and over again while expecting a different result. Self help groups term that a definition of insanity. I offer as an example of that ASCD’s [Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development] periodical SmartBrief. Repeatedly SmartBrief reports on “new initiatives” when in reality the new is frequently the same old stuff re-packaged. SmartBrief is not necessarily at fault in that it reports on what is. The fault lies in the initiators promoting the old as new. Two more recent examples in the area of curriculum are:

1.Backward Design: In this “innovation” the premise is that curriculum development begins with stating the learning objective first and then proceeding from there as to content, method, etc. There is nothing new or innovative about identifying your objective/purpose first.

2. Blended Curriculum: In this “innovation” the idea is to combine [blend] classroom activities with individual electronic based ones. There is nothing innovative about that. My personal experience in this approach was with Project PLAN [Program for Learning in Accordance with Needs] back in the early 1970s. The effort was developed by John Flanagan of the American Institutes for Research, Palo Alto, CA and funded by Westinghouse Learning Corp. Like many initiatives it ultimately was abandoned when Westinghouse withdrew development funding.

 

2.2     Analysis: Assessment and Evaluation: There is a concern among practitioners that once what is promoted as an innovation or new program and has been put into operation [frequently by mandate] it is not subject to subsequent analysis for appropriateness and effectiveness including assessment/evaluation. The “new’ is assumed to be better than what has been and indeed it may be or it may be old wine in new bottles.

2.3     Implementation: Once an innovation or new approach has been put into place and is operational there needs to be a process for monitoring its implementation consistent with the expectations for it and its stated objectives.

2.4     Development: The pursuit of excellence is a never ending continuous journey. Long term excellence is in the on-going quest. No matter how exemplary an innovation may be a guiding mantra must be: To do better is better than doing one’s best. In continuous fashion specific components of the curriculum and the instructional program must be systemically reviewed for relevance. A systemic approach recognizes that an initiative or action taken in one area or segment will affect the rest of the system. For example, should a child-centered approach to ECE be abandoned in favor of skill-centered structures in the elementary school and in turn should that be abandoned for content-centered secondary skills. When and why does the orientation of the school change from where human development is primary to one where skills and content surmount human development?

Who Does What?

Obviously all faculty cannot be directly, simultaneously or continuously involved in each of the four factors cited above. However, each of the four can be operational at the same time. Faculty members can volunteer according to interest and apply their expertise to one specific component of the four. Professional development would simultaneously reflect the collaboratively identified needs of the institution while honoring the interest of individuals and utilizing their expertise.

A one size fits all approach to faculty meetings and professional development would be a thing of the past. Faculty members would have renewed opportunities to be all they can be on behalf of the self-fulfilling learners they serve.

Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy as a Structure

The six components of Benjamin Bloom’s et al Cognitive Taxonomy can serve as a structure for faculty meetings and professional development activities. Each of the six or combinations of the six can be applied to maintain the focus of a faculty meeting or professional development activity clearly on one or more of the six cognitive endeavors. The six Bloom components are:

  1. Information [Or what Bloom called Knowledge]
  2. Comprehension/Understanding
  3. Analysis: Compare and Contrast
  4. Synthesis
  5. Evaluation/Assessment
  6. Application

Bloom and his colleagues held that every holistic cognitive activity included all six components. Information and comprehension always came first, but after that the remaining four could be addressed in alternative order depending on purpose.

If professional development sessions and faculty meetings followed the six component structure of Bloom then:

  1. Faculty members would come to each session knowing beforehand the specific purpose of the meeting. For example, I once was called upon to offer a professional development activity to the entire administrative staff of a small school system. As the dozen or so administrators began to assemble in the conference room the last to arrive was the middle school principal. As she took a seat around the conference table while unburdening herself of the folders she was carrying she casually and to no one in particular asked: “Does anyone know what this one is all about? My desk back at school is piled high with work!”  Clearly she saw me passively sitting there waiting to be introduced and to begin the scheduled all day session. And just as clearly I heard her message. Inadvertently she had roll played a great opening for the theme of the workshop: “Structuring Professional Development.”  She claimed she did not know why she was there.

2. Participants would know ahead of time how the topic or issue at hand would be addressed and by following Bloom’s components of cognitive development which of the components would be before them for consideration and/or action. Reflective of Bloom’s taxonomy would the purpose of the session be:

2.1        Information sharing,

2.2     Reaching a common understanding of what was being considered,

2.3         Comparing the proposed with that which was already in place,

2.4         Strategy and tactics for applying what was being proposed,

2.5     Synthesizing the proposed with existing practice identifying areas of compatibility, reinforcement and development,

2.6     Assessing and evaluating the merits of the proposal or the effectiveness of what had been recently implemented.

Professional development or faculty meetings structured in this fashion would result in identifying a clear and direct purpose of each session. Comments such as: “What’s this one all about” would be a thing of the past. Certainly more than one component at a time could be considered in a single session. The purpose is not to extend an issue out over six meetings, rather it is to give structure and order to each session. Bloom’s taxonomy is a time honored process for identifying and focusing on a respected approach to the development of cognition.

Furthermore by the leadership structuring its meetings in this fashion it would be role modeling an appropriate application of Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy. It would demonstrate and reinforce the notion that cognitive development is not random, that it has structure and is applicable to wherever and whenever the purpose of instruction and learning is cognitive development. It fits for pre-school through the entire educative process, it follows a logical path for cognitive development, it is a strategy for all seasons.

If you disagree and yet consider yourself a professional educator, then how do address cognitive development among your learners?

Theory not applied is useless. Application not based on theory is reckless.

What say you?

Ipse dixit.  

Lawrence P. Creedon  www.larrycreedon.wordpress.com Honduras 2010: Collaborative Leadership and Participatory Decision Making September 2010

 

 

Professional Development: What It Is and What It Ought To be

December 18, 2009

Professional Development
What It Is and What It Ought To be
It is in professional development activities where educators ought to do
their thinking rather than being further indoctrinated in an on-going
reinforcement of what is and has been.1.
Lawrence P. Creedon
It is hard to find a study related to education that does not call for the professional
development of teachers. While it stands to reason that on going professional
development ought to be a continuing concern seldom is new ground broken in how to go
about it. All too often the witticism that notes the folly of doing the same thing over and
again while expecting a different result applies to professional development for teachers.
A case can be made that an initial concern in the area of professional development is the
very use of the term “teachers.” Teachers are depicted as vessels of knowledge and as
‘tellers” of what needs to be known. It is not common to visualize the “teacher’ as a
practitioner in the same way as are physicians and attorneys. Implied in the term
“practitioner” is the notion that the individual is constantly inquiring into the foundations
of his/her profession, updating self and modifying practice as necessary. That does not
seem to characterize what is called teacher professional development. For the purposes of
this paper the terms “practitioner’ and ‘educator” will replace the more common term of
“teacher.” The distinction is that professional development for practitioners and
educators focuses on inquiry, exploration and discovery while professional development
for teachers reinvents the wheel by doing the same thing over and over again.
What It Is
Professional development sessions played out in school meetings and workshops are
generally with out honor among those required to attend them. They are seen as having
limited value including little to do with classroom realities. Frequently they are viewed as
perfunctory administrative meetings called by administrators for the purpose of informing
faculty of administrative and managerial matters. Seldom are concerns related to
curriculum and instruction seriously considered. For the most part those affected by
whatever decisions are made or handed down are seldom seriously involved in
determining what ought to be considered. Rather than being seen as organized
opportunities for colleagues to come together in order to think and reflect on what they
are currently doing with the intention of doing better, they are all too often viewed as
mandated sessions where what is and has been is reinforced regardless of merit.
The time committed to professional development is another indication of limited value
placed on it. Professional development sessions are not a priority as is evidenced by the
fact that they are infrequently held and of short duration. A normal situation would be
once or twice a month or a few hours each. Frequently their number and time allocation
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is influenced by collective bargaining agreements. This in itself can be an indication of
the distain in which they are held by the union which frequently sees them of little value.
Alternatives to What Is
While there are alternatives to what is common practice these too can be of limited value.
One is to arrange for an outside authority to present a workshop on some “new”
technique that is currently popular in journals and at conferences. However, seldom is the
faculty involved in determining who the “guru” will be or what the topic will be.
Teachers are ‘talked at.”
Still another source of topics for professional development sessions is accreditation. As
schools prepare for accreditation reviews it is not uncommon to plug in a few workshops
on something current in order to demonstrate to the accrediting body that professional
development is ongoing. Many times such “evidence” is required as part of the review
process.
Neither of these tactics address what ought to be going on in professional development.
What It Ought To Be
The school in a democratic society ought to be a microcosm of that society; therefore,
those who are to be affected by a decision ought to be involved in the process of making,
implementing and being held accountable for decisions made. This maxim includes
practitioners being involved in determining, developing, implementing and assessing
professional development activities that impact on their practice. The reality is that more
times than not the school is an autocratic, bureaucratic organization with top down
decision making. The words found in the school’s mission statement may stipulate
democratic ideals, but often reality is otherwise.
Determining professional development activities ought not to be a fiat accompli of the
administration. Nor should practitioner involved be limited to a select group of faculty
members either assigned to the responsibility by the administration, appointed by the
union or made up of volunteers. The entire faculty ought to be involved and contrary to
what might be an initial reaction to such a statement to do so is not unrealistic. It is
doable and has been done in my practice scores of times over several decades. The steps
to such an undertaking are laid out below
Step One: A Priority and Faculty Involvement
Professional development needs to come out of the closet and be ranked as a priority. Lip
service needs to end as does the practice of periodic faculty meeting of short duration
masquerading as professional development. On an annual basis five to ten full days needs
to be devoted to involving the entire faculty in professional development. This is not a
luxury but a necessity if quality is the goal.
The best time for such an undertaking is during summer recess or at other times when
classes are not is session. For the most part the time committed to such activities ought to
be under local and peer leadership. Depending upon the activity or activities under
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consideration it is certainly appropriate and sometimes necessary to bring in outside
expertise. However, be extremely cautious about bringing in an outside expert committed
to promoting his or her solution to your needs. You identify your needs first and then
provide the outside expert with an opportunity to suggest how his or her program or
product addresses your specifically pre identified needs.
Step Two: Your Needs Assessment
Of priority consideration ought to be the expressed needs of the faculty. Strange as it may
seem they often go unaddressed as faculty suppress their needs in order to remain in
frustrated compliance with the less than valued programs presented to them by the
administration.
A procedure for braking the cycle is to engage the entire faculty in a one to two full
working days in a needs assessment. This is a summer time or other time activity
conducted when school is not in session. It ought to be done annually.
Dead on Arrival
The quickest way to end a consideration of what is being suggested here is to prematurely
raise the issue of cost. Such a tactic can all but guarantee a result of Dead on Arrival.
Quality cannot be bought on the cheap. Indeed there will be a cost involved; however, it
is extremely doubtful that it will be even equal to the cost of doing the same failed
approach over and over again while expecting a different result. That is a definition of
insanity.
An Example
By way of an example a school numbering about 50 faculty members will be used as an
example. The level – elementary, middle school or high school – is not a significant
factor.
Each faculty member as a pre workshop activity develops a list of personal Expectations
indicating what the professional development workshop ought to focus on. Each faculty
member comes to the first workshop session armed with his/her list of Expectations.
Once in session the faculty is divided into small groups of not more than four members
each. Groups can be formed around subject area, grade levels or randomly. Each group
considerations the Expectations from its members. After a period of approximately 20
minutes reviewing one another’s Expectations the small group turns its attention for
another 15 minutes or so to creating a composite listing of Expectations for the group.
Each small group goes through the same process.
Once all groups have completed this step the group Expectations are collected and one
person from each group joins an “Expectations Consolidating Group.” The purpose of the
consolidating group is to bring the composite listings from each small group together into
one cohesive composite whole for the entire faculty. My personal experience has shown
that faculty members will identify a common set of Expectations as well as express their
own particular needs based on grade level or content area. It is common for faculty to
identify approximately 10 to 15 Composite Expectations. In practical application a
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faculty can move forward on several fronts simultaneously. Ten to fifteen may be too
many and a procedure for prioritizing them may become necessary. The procedure for
addressing several Expectations simultaneously will be addressed later on in this piece.
While a subset of the entire faculty is engaged in developing the Composite Expectations
list the rest of the faculty can be engaged in a variety of other professional development
pursuits such as reviewing the school’s mission statement and commenting on the extent
to which it tell’s it like it is, and is a reflection of what is really happening at school. Or,
is so much window dressing divorced from reality?
Also information can be shared as to previously initiated Expectations based professional
development activities. Certainly there should be no scarcity of faculty initiated
professional development concerns that can be addressed for the 30 to 45 minutes when
the Consolidating Group is doing its work.
As soon as the Consolidating Group has completed its task they report back to the faculty
as a whole. Discussion ensues followed by the entire faculty voting on the Composite
List of Expectations as reflecting the professional development program for the next
period of time such as the upcoming school year.
Step Three: Prioritizing Expectations.
The next step in the process is or the entire faculty to engage in an exercise aimed at
prioritizing the identified composite Expectations. Undoubtedly the Expectations will
consider areas from across the spectrum of the school curriculum, instructional program,
classroom management concerns and managerial matters. Individual faculty members can
form small groups around the issue that is of most interest to each practitioner. The
criteria for prioritizing ought to focus first on those issue can be addressed locally and
with existing resources such as people, places, things and money.
Step Four: Developing Outcome Statements and Related Rubrics for Prioritized
Expectations.
In the same small groups established for prioritizing expectations practitioners ought to
develop outcome statements for each of the prioritized expectations. Outcome statements
clearly and distinctly indicate what is the anticipated outcome. What is the anticipated
result. From the outcome statements each group [now becoming a team] develops rubrics
for measuring the extent to which the outcome has been met. See the Creedon
monographs on Outcomes and Rubrics for additional information on this.
Step Five: A Plan of Action
It is generally recognized that practitioner determined and led Action Research is a very
promising way to go about bringing about meaningful and lasting positive change in the
process of education. Action Research is more than a haphazard approach or a quick fix
solution to a vexing issue. There are alternative approaches to Action Research. The
procedure being recommended here is the ten step process laid out in the Creedon
monograph on Action Research.
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The development phase of professional development ought to go during summer recess
or at other times when classes are not in session. During the school year that which was
previously developed ought to be carried out, implemented and applied. Assessment of
what has unfolded and is in place is deferred until the next development session.
Step Six: A Student Centered Design for Learning
Learning is more than a random process. As such every school ought to operate in
response to a design for learning and be learner centered. The design for learning is
synonymous with an architect’s blueprint for a building. The design for learning being
proposed here is the ten component Student Centered Design for Learning found in the
Creedon monograph by that title.
Conclusion
Professional development must be a major concern of any learning community concerned
about the pursuit of quality education in order to serve the learning and developmental
needs of its clients. If professional development is a marginal, perfunctory activity then
that sends a signal that the pursuit of quality is marginal as well. Professional
development must respond to the needs of practitioners. And, practitioners must be
intimately involved in determining what it ought to be.
Ipse dixit
Lawrence P. Creedon
Krakow, Poland, January-February 2008.
1 This assertion is adapted from a statement of the Reverend Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh, former president
of the University Notre Dame, USA. [Kenneth L. Woodward, New York Times, “God and Man at Notre
Dame,” April 16, 2008

Three Techniques for a Formative and Assisting Peer Approach to Professional Development

December 18, 2009

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Three Techniques for a Formative and Assisting Peer
Approach to Professional Development
Lawrence P. Creedon
Considered here are three techniques for a formative and assisting approach to professional development. Each is
consistent with the concept of involvement in the decision making process by those who are to be effected by and
held accountable for decisions made.
Critical Friends
1. Critical friends groups help educators to work together collaboratively in democratic, reflective communities.
Trust is the underlying key.
2. Critical friends groups meet periodically [monthly] to review the work of colleagues as well as the output of their
students.
3. Groups can number up to 12 individuals.
4. Groups engage in feedback
5. Authentic assessment techniques and rubrics are utilized
6. As critical friends groups dialogue among themselves relative to the professional performance of a colleague that
colleague sits quietly and takes notes. The colleague does not at this time participate in the discussion.
7. Groups work collaboratively on common issues. They design instruments and procedures for their common use.
Examples include portfolio assessment, and a lesson plan journal. The journal is in contrast to the traditional
procedure for lesson planning.
8. Critical friend groups facilitate reflective learning communities.
9. Critical friends groups create opportunities for colleagues to challenge their own practice as well as that of their
peers. The work involves friends who share a mission, offer each other strong support, and nurture a community of
learners.
Reference: ASCD, Educational Leadership, Deborah Bambino, March, 2002
Tuning Protocol [TP]
1. Tuning Protocol provides a process for educators to examine student work and performance in a supportive,
problem-solving environment. It is a form of collective inquiry. It allows participants to work together on improving
student learning.
2. TP groups number about six individuals
3. The group session lasts one hour.
4. Following a 15 minute presentation by one member of the group the other group members ask questions for
clarification and more information. They do not engage in evaluation.
5. Te presenter and the group members then engage individually for five minutes in writing responses to the
questions raised.
6. This is followed by a 15 minute discussion period by group members. Te presenter is not included in the
discussion. Te presenter sits and listens. Te purpose is to prevent an offense-defense attitude to develop.
7. Participants comments should be warm and cool. Warm feedback pinpoints what works well. Cool feedback is
more critical, but not criticizing.
8. Next the presenter has 10minutes to orally reflect on and share with the group what as been heard as warm and
cool.
9. The group facilitator gives a 10 minute debriefing
10. Adjourn
Reference: ASCD Educational Leadership, Lois Brown Easton, March, 2002
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Linguistic Coaching [LC]
1. LC focuses on partnership, open dialogue, and continuous learning. It helps novices through the challenging first
days in the classroom. It is also helps seasoned teachers improve their performance.
2. LC can be a comprehensive approach to effective communication. It helps performance.
3. LC is a system of conversational analysis and communications. Te premise underlying the approach is that all
speaking, promising, requesting, asserting, declaring, deciding, and replying – all in which the speaker makes a
commitment with the listener.
4. LC includes the premise tat all speaking arises from a pre-existing background of beliefs, attitudes, experiences
and emotions…. Personal and cultural interpretations influence teachers frames of reference for understanding and
reacting to each teaching situation.
5. To communicate effectively, communication must be free of sarcasm, argument and manipulation. There must be
a rigorous distinction between facts and interpretation.
6. Communication problems can stem from conflicting perceptions of the issue itself.
7. LC exists in name only unless the coach and the person being coached share a continuing trust and sense of
purpose.
8. Tree tenets of LC are:
a. Identify the performance to be improved
b. Establish the interpretation behind the performance
c. Intervene by coaching for new interpretations and actions
9. In LC the coach must strive constantly to improve his/her own performance
10. LC can serve as a practical model for implementing site-based management, improving school climate, and
achieving many of the goals of educational reform.
Reference: ASCD, Educational Leadership, Paul F. Caccia, March, 1996
Compiled by:
Lawrence P. Creedon
June, 2002

Professional Development:Outside Gurus or In house Competence?

December 18, 2009

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Professional Development:Outside Gurus or In house Competence?
Lawrence P. Creedon
It is common place for school authorities to look to the outside for expertise when embarking on a
professional development activity or program. Also it is common place to send one or more staff
members to attend a seminar or conference at a distant location and somehow or other assume
that those sent will return with new information that will have a positive impact on their
colleagues back home. Frequently overlooked is the competence of those already on staff.
In my several decades of experience in the United States as well as internationally I have found
this to be the case. Time and time again an outside authority is brought in to a local situation to
tell the home folks how to do something. Something that the outside guru is noted for ranging
from motivational input to the latest tactics in implementing what frequently turns out to be a
new twist on a long established theory related to how learning takes place. The cost alone of
inputting the guru or sending a few faculty members to a conference can put a hole in any
professional development budget. And, in my experience the return on investment is minimal. I
am not aware of many significant lasting changes in the process of education that come about as a
result of such efforts. However, there is an alternative.
The Alternative
Extensive expertise resides within the faculty of a school. The trick is to recognize it and tap into
it for the benefit of all those affected by what goes on in the learning community. Unfortunately
the approach is not to simply send around a notice or make an announcement inviting those with
expertise in a given area to come forward and share their wisdom with colleagues. This approach
will be ignored and met with resistance. Those who do come forward or who are designated by
those in authority to share their expertise with others run the risk of being singled out for scorn
and criticism by their colleagues. Such behavior might be less than professional, but it can be a
reality of life and human behavior.
What is needed first is a commitment by those in positions of authority to involving those
affected by a decision in the decision making process. In this scenario that means that faculty
ought to be involved in determining and implementing professional development needs. Once
again, involvement does not mean resorting to a quick survey of some sort.
Involvement begins with faculty participating in determining professional development needs for
a whole academic year and beyond. The needs can be categorized in terms of things that focus on:
1. Revisiting initiatives from previous years
2. Reinforcing initiatives from previous years
3. Considering new initiatives in any area of the school’s mission
4. Focusing on individual or team areas of specialization or academic competence
5. Engaging in Action Research in an area of specific interest
At a specific time during the school year the whole faculty ought to participate in determining the
professional development program for the next school. Doing this early in the school year avoids
the issue of lack of concern by departing faculty as well as lack of input by newly arrived faculty.
The approach to involvement ought to be characterized by the strategy of human and group
dynamics and the many tactics that are associated with that approach to involvement in the
decision making process. The Internet is rich with descriptions of such tactics. In addition several
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Creedon monographs such as those associated with Involvement in the Decision Making Process
and Action Research address the process [See: http://www.larrycreedon.wordpress.com].
Faculty ought to be provided with opportunities to share their professional development activities
periodically with colleagues. Here again group dynamics tactics ought to be applied to such
sharing activities. I do not envision a whole faculty assembling to listen to individuals and groups
present on their efforts. Rather a series of mini-sessions can go on simultaneously and being
repeated a few times to allow colleagues to hear or participate in more than one presentation. The
approach can emulate that which is common at traditional off-site conferences.
Undoubtedly and unquestionably there will be occasions when school authorities need to engage
the entire faculty on specific matters. These occasions need to be worked into the professional
development calendar. However, the method of presentation must reflect what is regarded as best
practice in group dynamics. School authorities cannot promote “Best Practice” in professional
development among faculty and then perpetuate something else when it comes to their turn and
obligation to present. Best practice needs to be modeled at the top.
Outside Authorities
By no means am I suggesting here that there is no place for involving outside authorities in
school based professional development. Of course there is. My position is that local expertise
ought to be tapped first. Increasingly the research indicates that lasting positive change comes
about when those affected by a decision are involved in making, implementing and being held
accountable for decisions made. Being held accountable is not a punitive factor; rather, it means
a commitment to stay with an issue until you get it right. Outside authorities can be utilized when
the local people conclude that they have reached their level of expertise and need additional input
related to specific concerns identified before hand by them. The outside expert is tapped to
address specific needs rather than plant a new garden of his/her favorite plants..
Action Research
Action research is an approach to professional development that provides for involving those
affected by a decision in the process o making, implementing and being held accountable for
decisions made. See the Creedon monograph on the ten steps for an Action Research program.
Ipse dixit!
Lawrence P. Creedon
http://www.larrycreedonwordpress.com
Korea [Flight home] 12-15-08

9/11 Findings and Public Education: Intelligence, Focus and Response

December 18, 2009

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9/11 Findings and Public Education
Intelligence, Focus and Response
by
Lawrence P. Creedon
The world has been witness of late to a situation with a universal impact that has resulted
from faulty intelligence, and a questionable, if not wrong focus, that has resulted in an
unanticipated response from those affected. I am referring to the Middle East and in
particular Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the focus of this essay is not on world affairs,
but rather what goes on behind the classroom door.
The three factors of intelligence, focus and response are by no means limited to macro
issues such as those alluded to above. In microcosm they apply to education as an
institution as well as to the practice of individuals.
In education inadequate intelligence translates to a failure to adequately diagnose the
learning needs of learners. Inadequate intelligence relates to the failure of the school to
be organized in response to what is known about how students come to know and what it
is that they need to know now and why.
A wrong focus in response to individual needs, to what goes on behind the classroom
door, or in the school as a whole, can occur as the result of several pervasive influences
including a combination of several of them. A wrong focus can stem from:
􀀂 Adherence to an ideology or a practice that does not value introspection. Such a
focus honors the status quo. It accepts on face value: “What is.” Classroom
practice as well as the organization, administration, and management of the
school remain unexamined.
􀀂 A failure to appreciate the value and findings of recognized research. Or, an
adherence to selected research that supports the stated or unspoken ideology.
Research is used to support a predetermined conclusion and current practice,
rather than to influence future direction.
􀀂 A failure to relate and apply the findings of research to current and specific
practice.
􀀂 A focus on protecting the status quo for reasons based on self interest, fear or
indoctrination. Challenging “What is” can be personally and organizationally
threatening. It can be interpreted as admitting wrongful current practice as
opposed to personal and organizational professional growth and development. It
confronts indoctrination with inquiry.
An unanticipated response in school can come in the form of learner academic failure and
youthful behavioral problems expressed as rebellion. It can come in organizational
dysfunction leading to a lack of trust and confidence in the administration and leadership.
Without trust not much of what is worthwhile will take root and flourish.
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The impetus for stating all of the above comes from studying the 9/11 Commission
Report that chronicles in detail failings of the United States Intelligence Community as
well the political leaders in the United States for at least the past decade. Those failings,
while they did not cause the 9/11 terrorist attack, paved the way for it to happen.
Extrapolating the Commission’s findings to the plight of education is a simple task. It is
an example of where the same factors can be applied to situations in education.
A Case in Point
It is not a difficult task to identify examples of situations where specific school practices
can be characterized as functioning in response to the three factors under consideration
here. An example is a recent four day in-service professional development workshop in a
pre-school to grade eight school in Central America. The school is under the leadership
of a seasoned and dynamic female principal who is a life long resident of the community.
It is an American International School where English is the language of instruction and
an American approach to curriculum and pedagogy is followed. About one-third of the
faculty are young, highly motivated Americans. The other two-thirds are experienced,
competent, local residents. In organizational development the school is moving toward
developing and implementing a design for learning where all those who are to be affected
by a decision are involved in the process of making, implementing and being held
accountable for decisions made. In addition to the professional faculty participating in the
workshop were teaching assistants, office staff and the school nurse. I served as
workshop presenter and facilitator.
The topic of the workshop was to consider Benjamin Bloom’s six category cognitive
domain taxonomy in all dimensions of the school from management and leadership
procedures to curriculum and instruction concerns. It included all grade levels and
content areas.
Inadequate Intelligence
In that I had worked previously with many of the faculty and we had spent time
considering Bloom’s taxonomy, I assumed I had an adequate understanding of their
readiness to move immediately to amore in depth consideration of Bloom. I planned to
proceed by “teaching” Bloom to the whole community and then moving quickly to small
task teams organized by grade levels, specialization areas, and subject area disciplines.
Then, the teams would spend the next three days applying Bloom to their areas of
competence and concern.
I was not aware that recently the school had adopted a standards and benchmarks
program in response to an accreditation requirement.
Many of the faculty immediately began to have concerns about the relationship between
standards, benchmarks, and Bloom. For the first day and one-half this concern festered
below the surface. Participants struggled to find a connection. Their level of frustration
rose and during the second half of day two it surfaced. Fortunately the principal had
established a climate free of fear where doubts and concerns could be openly expressed.
The faculty expressed its concerns quizzically and not in a confrontational mode.
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Wrong Focus
I had unwittingly contributed to a wrong focus for the workshop due to inadequate
intelligence.
Unanticipated Response
The unanticipated response of frustration and confusion by the faculty was based on the
problems related to faulty intelligence and thus wrong focus.
A Constructivist Approach
In that the basic approach to the workshop and to my previous interaction with many of
the members of the faculty was constructivist, the focus of the workshop was redesigned
in flight by its participants and preceded to a satisfactory conclusion.
As evidence of that “Happy Ending” the participants all but unanimously [a few
remained non-committal] recommended that the first in a series of follow up workshops
be scheduled.
Follow up is occurring. The intelligence issue has been resolved. The focus is where it
needs to be. And, the participant response is on message: Applying Bloom’s taxonomy to
all areas of the school program.
It works if you work it!
Ipse dixit!
Lawrence P. Creedon
lpcreedon@aol.com
http://www.larrycreedon.info
September, 2004.
Footnote: It is now March 17, 2008 and this piece was originally written three and onehalf
years ago. The track record for sustainable initiatives in education has historically
not been very good. Things slip back and what was reemerges. It is time to contact the
school and get an update. Lawrence P. Creedon.