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School Design Process

During this time of tumult, I wanted to share the School Design Process. It is a consistent, inclusive pathway for making decisions as teachers plan during this time of uncertainty. 

The school design process shared here is based on the work of Stanford University’s Design School, The Collective Impact Forum, The Institute at CESA #1, Otto Scharmer, Peter Senge, and my experiences developing learning organizations in several schools and districts.  This process replaces the traditional school improvement process. It helps staff to be forward thinking and gives them permission to design the teaching and learning system to best meet the needs of all students. It is what is needed as we quickly retool our schools to meet the needs of students.

If we are to retool our schools to meet this crisis and continue our ability to provide robust, rigorous, engaging learning opportunities we must collaborate and work together today more than ever. The bridge that connects what we were doing two weeks ago to the reality we face today as we shift to strictly e-learning is a strong integrity of purpose coupled with shared commitments and obligations to one another and our students. 

This integrity of purpose and shared commitments and obligations allow staff members to share autonomy, to build organizational trust, and to communicate in open and direct ways. Together, we may create a new reality for our learners. It is imperative that we understand the needs of our students and staff to maximize and build the capacity of all stakeholders.  As we design educational opportunities, it is important that we do so from the perspective of our learners and then work backward to align our behavior, and that of our system, to meet the unique needs of all learners during this unprecedented time. 

As we strive to meet the unique needs of all learners, all of of us should keep one goal in mind: To maximize  student engagement and learning guided by the following three core strategies: 

  1. Provide quality instruction by integrating literacy skills, being creative with our learners  and providing opportunities to think critically by designing authentic real world learning lessons. Think about grade level themes or products that integrate curricula. 
  2. Design personalized learning opportunities for students to meet their needs as you integrate curricula and focus on the key outcomes for students to demonstrate their knowledge in innovative ways. Grades may not be the best assessment today so look for alternate assessments that use students’ strengths to demonstrate knowledge. 
  3. Today, technology will leverage all educational experiences as teachers integrate existing technologies in meaningful ways so students are learning in an engaged manner despite not seeing their teachers face to face. You may never teach the same after using these tools.

The School Design Process is based on the following philosophy: 

Schools should operate in a collaborative and interdependent manner, engaging staff and community with the leadership of the school. A school community should communicate in a clear and timely way with staff and community to develop learning environments that support the learning and engagement of each learner. 

The School Design Process is built upon the following three principles: 

  • An integrity of purpose where we share values, beliefs, and commitments; 
  • Shared autonomy with responsibility where we operate as a school system and build organizational trust within a culture of accountability;
  • A commitment to the truth where we collect and analyze data to make an honest assessment of our current reality and how it supports our shared vision and strategic plan.

These principles are even more important today as we work in a digital environment but need to trust one another and our school district. Throughout this time where we teach from an e-learning platform, we must collect data and feedback to adjust our teaching and provide what our learner needs and quickly.

The School Design Process includes the following areas that we ask you to review and reflect upon as you design learning today:  

  1. Develop and implement a shared vision for this uncertain time . 
  2. Understand the context of the organization, the community and its needs, continue to collect and analyze the data. 
  3. See the possibilities of a desired future for all learners. Take some risks to design lessons that are personalized and integrate curricula, are rigorous and engaging.
  4. Design the future I realize time is of the essence but please continue to work in collaborative grade level or department teams or PLC collaborative teams by setting goals and priorities and prototyping possible solutions as you design and implement your learning ideas.  Think differently and be creative as a teacher.
  5. Finally, our design teams complete a School Profile providing information to our community outlining student outcomes and determine the effectiveness of our work together.

Please monitor your work and the work of your collaborative team as you collect data where each school and collaborative team records its goals and its formative and summative assessments.   Then as a staff, track student progress to inform decision making during this time period. Keep striving to design learning in efficient and meaningful ways for all of your students.. 

Blane McCann

Blane McCann

Author Blane McCann

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