Recently, Holly Chesser, Director of Member Engagement at SAIS (Southern Association of Independent Schools), interviewed me about Pedagogical Master Planning. SAIS published the interview in the March 2013 edition of their SAIS Headlines newsletter.
The original Internet source of the interview is here, and I’ve embedded the PDF below. For those of you interested in the development of Pedagogical Master Planning, Chesser’s interview provides an overview and update on the radical rethinking of strategic planning.
Many thanks to Holly, Damian Kavanagh, and everyone at SAIS for all they do in education.
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WIth Mike’s permission, I am pasting in a reply that he sent in our email exchange about Pedagogical Master Planning. I think his note contains some strong insights about school transformation.
Wow. That’s amazing. I can see the logic and the process behind PMP more clearly now, and thinking about it one of the key drivers of the project’s success will be how accurately the meta-teams that are formed reflect the genuine beliefs of the school community. The members of the meta-team will clearly have to be representative of the school as a whole, but have that larger sense of purpose and desire for genuine change. What I often see in schools is a core group of people who desire change, and would genuinely love to put a process such as the one you’ve described into place, but they then run into the shoals of larger indifference within the larger school community. It seems like you’ll be working with schools where there is a much more global sense of the need for change in how they “do business”, so to speak.
This, as I said, looks awesome, and I appreciate your sharing the document with me. I am definitely looking forward to hearing of your successes with PMP in the future!
I love your thinking here as it is some of the most comprehensive I have seen. There is one area that I offer that would flesh things out a bit more. The metaphor of an ecosystem that you and Grant Lichtman use is particularly useful. In describing this ecosystem of seven interrelated and interconnected parts, I think there is one thing missing. It is big and “marshmellowy,” and some might say that it is assumed or can be equated to the ecosystem, but I disagree. This concept is culture. If we look at an ecosystem as a community of organisms (living and non-living) interacting as a system, there are internal and external factors that control it– one of them is climate. So, I will extend the metaphor to suggest that the climate of the ecosystem to which you refer is the culture. This culture has a profound impact on any and all of the seven parts you mention. Indeed, many changes or reform efforts that have occurred in schools can be seen as the disruptive species that enters the ecosystem or the weather disaster that occurs. Still, the culture of our ecosystem of school should be a part of the analysis. This reminds me of research I conducted several years ago in my doctoral years (published in two articles in the Journal of School Leadership) that analyzed the concept of “reculturing” rather than “restructuring” being the most important factor in sustained school change. The assertion from experts I studied (e.g., Mike Fullan) and from my own study asserts that sustainable school change– I prefer sustainable evolution in the ecosystem– can only occur if reculturing occurs. Reculturing is an open examination of the underlying assumptions, values, and beliefs of an organization. My research further defined this construct. Your Pedagogical Master Planning is an extension of this work, I believe, that takes us further down the road!
Thank you so much for this rich and thoughtful comment. While I agree with you about the critical importance of culture, I would argue that the culture cannot be a separate entity or something that can be worked on outside of these seven parts of the pedagogical ecosystem. I believe that it is the integrated nature of PURPOSE, LEADERSHIP, INSTRUCTION, CURRICULUM, ASSESSMENT, PROFESSIONAL LEARNING, and LEARNING ENVIRONMENT that mesh together to create and sustain the culture of a school. That if one hopes to affect culture, it is these seven parts that must be addressed and attended to.
What cultural element or attribute would exist outside of these seven parts?
Thank you so much for challenging and stretching my thinking. I’m not convinced yet, but I am very open to the dialogue, exchange, and co-thinking.
I am going to say that both/and come into play here, Bo. I am 100%in agreement that the seven parts you operationalize “morph” together to define the culture and that an intentional focus on each of these separately as well as in combination is exactly where schools- wait, learning organizations to use Senge’s term– need to be. My point focuses more on the origin of these discussions. I think we can all admit that our schools– which for the most part are not learning organizations– need to get where we desire them to be. A culture already exists that in many institutions isn’t anywhere near as sophisticated (although simply beautiful in essence) as you describe. Before (I say this deliberately) and during this evolutionary process, if professionals are not openly and collaboratively questioning the underlying values, assumptions, and beliefs of their organizations (aka reculturing), then any discussion or movement toward what you are asserting will not be sustained in the long run because those underlying values, assumptions, and beliefs will end up creeping back in (like kudzu!) and smothering the enlightened thinking on your seven parts. Your design depends on the seven interrelated parts being dynamic. Existing cultures (including the parts you describe) mostly are static. Adding culture as a deliberate component of active study- like I read your other components- shifts culture to dynamic.
Thanks for the pushback. I understand what you mean, and I am a devotee of Senge’s. And I agree with you 1000% (yes, 1000 percent) about the importance of culture. And PMP is set to be dynamic and to evolve with implementation discernment and discovery – it will improve with practice, as is the true nature of design-strategy work. However, our current position is that certain key elements permeate all of the sub-parts of the ecosystem. For example, we have gotten a lot of pushback about “students” not being a named component of the ecosystem. Of course, students are a part and not apart. They are in ALL of the parts. The humans are the only real change agents in the whole darn system. Likewise culture is a glue or thread that holds all of the parts in harmony, and it MUST receive much attention, as you say. But we just don’t see it as a named component like the other school-operationalized pieces: purpose, leadership, instruction, curriculum, assessment, professional learning, and learning environments.
Maybe it’s a bit like anatomy. If we named the major categories of anatomical science, we would name things like respiratory system, skeletal system, cardio-vascular system, etc. We might not mention blood and air at this level of nomenclature. Yet these two elements are integral and essential to the life of all the systems. We see culture in that light, and I think that is what you are saying, too, if I am reading the emerging dialogue correctly.
For quite a while I’ve had the vision of a school (or district) as a true system percolating around in my head. Many of the books and articles I’ve read lately have emphasized the fact that in order to solve problems or address issues in an organization, it’s not enough to focus on the proximate causes, but to consider the interlocking pieces that make up the organization itself – in our case as educators, all of the pieces you’ve described in your interview. I think what you are putting together is fantastic, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops!
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