Would you rather see a movie with no sound, or hear a movie with no picture? Frankly I would rather do neither. I want to experience a full movie with pictures and sound for myself.
Sometimes schools think that all staff members will have profound learning experiences by hearing about (or seeing pictures of) a few staff members' learning experiences. School leaders sometimes mistakenly think that by sending 'some' staff to a conference, or on a tour of other innovative schools, that those left behind and who then get to hear about and/or see the photos will have the same learning experience as those who went away in the first place [credit to Tony Burkin from Interlead for that great analogy].
'Everyone or no no one' is our mantra when it comes to re-visioning our school site in a new post-quake master plan. If we shift towards flexible, team teaching environments then every employee needs to understand why (and what it might look like) here is how we rolled...
After tireless fundraising (assisted by parents and the wider school community) the whole staff and BOT reps from Waimairi have returned safely from a week long study tour in Melbourne.
The mission was to look at, and reflect upon, a wide variety of learning environments. The study tour was not about the buildings. It was about looking at the underpinning values & beliefs about learning and associated pedagogies in each school. The secondary consideration was how the architecture supported and/or hindered the realisation of the former.
The final day of tour consisted of Dr Julia Atkin, Richard Leonard and Lisa Horton facilitating a reflective and visioning workshop with our team. This work will feed into the next master planning workshop for our cluster of schools.
What did we see?
-A school created by merger working in a brand new building.
-A school only a few years old working with purpose designed modern flexible learning spaces
-An old school with a clear pedagogical vision making magic happen inside ageing buildings.
-A school that has been open plan in the 1970s, walled up as single cell in the 1980s and then reopened as flexible learning environments in the 1990s.
What did we learn?
-A clear set of values and beliefs about learning (developed by and owned by the whole staff) are essential.
-When planning for change the whole team need to take part. BOT members and teachers are only 1/2 Waimairi's total payroll - why would only 1/2 of the team have inspiration and reflection before making decisions about the school's future?
-The New Zealand Curriculum ROCKS! It is the missing element in some visionary Australian schools' success.
It is not all about going on an overseas trip - the principles of andragogical learning and vicarious learning for staff & BOT members can be realised by a team visit to almost any learning environment. Just down the road or just over the Tasman Sea.
Why educators should get to see other educators in acton.
Teacher Self efficacy has a huge effect on student achievement.
Vicarious experience provided by social models is a way of creating efficacy. Some believe it to be pure imitation without actual learning, but nothing is further from the truth. 80 to 100% of what we know is learned vicariously, or by observing others do something and remembering what was seen. That's why doctors have Residency and Internship, mentors have to do practice-teaching, and that's why society exists at its core; we all learn from one another.
Vicarious learning is learning by observation (aka modeling, social learning, or just the 'monkey-see-monkey-do' phenomenon). We now know that social learning is the most salient type of learning we possess.How does this occur? Social learning is mediated by the Mirror Neuron system in the brain. The mirror neuron system appears to be responsible for the mediation of musical experience (Molnar & Overy, 2006). This finding replicates what musicians have known all along; that they need exposure to other musicians to flourish in their art.
This is why we make sure as many of our staff as possible get to see other teachers at work. 4 minute walk-thrus or whole staff tours - the brain science is the same.