MyNotes - Leading for Learning (Chapter 2)

Isn't it ironic that some of the key ideas in this blog post have a negative perception on my part because I happened to see one of the books being used as a monitor stand prop? Yes, believe it or not, I walked into a colleague's office (not my current workplace) and saw the  Influencer: The Power to Change Anything book being used as a prop. "That must not be a good book," I told myself, and then dismissed it. What a short-sighted perspective on my part!  

The ideas in that book--even though I haven't read it fully (it's on my reading list and I just bought a copy)--come to mind as I read Schlechty's book, Leading for Learning.
Note: This is a second in continuing blog entries where I keep track of some of my notes and take-aways while reading Philip C. Schlechty's  Leading for Learning book.
One of the most surprising things about Schlechty's book is the recognition of technology. Often, I read leadership books that only give lip service to the power of technology to transform teaching, learning and leading (TLL) environments. In fact, the "big disconnect" in seeing change happen in schools has been how quickly school leaders have ignored technology, or worse, tried to bend it to their will to enforce existing policies and approaches to TLL.

Six Sources of Influence

In the first item in the list--what happens to innovations that are introduced into incompatible classrooms and/or schools--I'm reminded of the Crucial Conversations/Confrontations six sources of insight-- Influencer: The Power to Change Anything--, which J.D. Meier explores in multiple blog posts. Identifying the six sources of influence is powerful stuff, involving this proces below:

The key is clarifying measurable results, finding vital behaviors, and analyzing six sources of influence. Most change efforts fail because they look at only one source of influence or they don’t focus on the vital behaviors.  Vital behaviors get specific on what actions to take that produce exponential results.  Change efforts also fail because they don’t identify crucial moments which are when the right choices matter.  When you know these things, and you have a model, you can dramatically improve your effectiveness.  It’s skilled change.  (Source: J.D. Meier's Sources of Insight blog)
The problem is what happens when you try to introduce innovations...we often try to just introduce one thing--"hey, let's do BYOT!"--without clarifying measurable results, finding vital behaviors and analyzing the six sources of influence. How many times have you heard, "Start with one technology at a time, then start trying out different ones to see how they work in your classroom?" I've given that advice myself multiple times, but it may be that I've been going about it all wrong.

I would bet that, like Schlechty points out, we are trying to introduce innovations into our schools and that they are being "killed," not because of how good they are, but because of the corresponding friction and tension that arises. Being aware of the crucial moments and having a model, as Meier points out, enables you to be more effective. 

  1. What happens to innovations that are introduced into an environment not compatible with existing social arrangement in the school or classroom:
    1. The innovation will be modified to fit existing patterns of behavior and thus not affect student learning.
    2. The innovation will meet resistance and will eventually be abandoned because it is thought to be "inappropriate to the local situation."
    3. A final consequence of lack of structural support for innovation could be that the tensions created by the innovation will cause the social structure of the school or classroom to shift in ways that will accommodate the change (desired circumstance or result)
  2. Schools are organized as bureaucracies...which are...change-inept organizations.
  3. Clayton Christensen suggests (Miguel's Note: You can read my notes on this book here) that technological innovations fall into two types:
    1. Sustaining innovations meaning innovations that are congruent with existing social systems and therefore require little in the way of change in these systems to support their successful implementation.
    2. Disruptive innovations, meaning innovations that are incongruent with existing social systems and therefore require fundamental changes in these systems if the innovation is to be properly installed and sustained.
    3. Digital learning technologies are the disruptive technologies that should be of concern to educators, for these are the technologies that are now transforming the way the world learns.
  4. Government-sponsored efforts to empower schools and teachers through the process of strengthening centralized evaluations and decreasing regulations...[have] the effect of diminishing the authority of local school districts. 
  5. Formal organizations like schools have at least six critical systems:
    1. Directional systems - goals set, priorities determined, corrective action
    2. Knowledge development and transmission systems - formal and informal systems that define how knowledge related to norms that shape behavior and school districts is developed, imported, evaluated and transmitted
    3. Recruitment and induction system - define the way new members are identified and attracted to the organization.
    4. Boundary systems that define who and what are inside the organization and subject to the control of the organization (and those who are not) and all the relationships.
    5. Evaluation systems that define the way measures of merit and worth are assigned, status determined, honor bestowed and when/how negative sanctions are applied.
    6. Power and authority systems - by which use of sanctions is made legitimate.
  6. When innovations threaten the nature and sources of knowledge to be used or the way power and authority are currently used and distributed, innovation becomes are difficult.
  7. When an innovation threatens existing patterns in the operating systems most directly affected by the way power and authority are arranged, the way value is assigned, and the way boundaries are defined, the odds of the innovation working are limited.
  8. Innovations that have failed in the past and why:
    1. They thought the only changes needed were in the operating systems and the skills of the operators. Simply making the materials available and offering proper training and leadership development for teachers would be enough. (Miguel's Note: Uh, no.)
    2. They assumed that the logic underlying their innovations would provide opportunities for a fair and sustained trial of their products and that the results would be sufficiently impressive to ensure that needed systemic changes in the power and authority system, evaluation and boundary systems would be forthcoming.
  9. Creativity, insight, and the ability to frame problems, as well as to solve them, are difficult to measure in standardized fashion.
  10. In schools as they are now organized, any change that erodes the traditional base of teacher authority erodes the entire control structure of the schools.
It's funny how I see these two books intersecting. On the one hand, Schlechty's book highlights what needs to happen, but Influencer highlights how to go about accomplish it, the nuts-n-bolts so to speak, of the conversations that have to take place. Even Schlechty acknowledges his efforts in the 1960s at curriculum reform were derailed by the failure to recognize existing systems. This isn't a new concept; consider Peter Senge's work on systems. Being aware of those ideas, though, isn't sufficient.

Here's an excerpt from Meier's blog which highlights some of the main points from Influencer. Note that the various sources of insight move through 3 main areas, including 1) Personal; 2) Social; and 3) Structural. We have to take each of these into consideration when bringing about changes. 

  • Source 1 – Personal Motivation – Do they want to engage in the behavior?
  • Source 2 – Personal Ability – Do they have the knowledge, skills, and strengths to do the right then even when it’s hardest?
  • Source 3 – Social Motivation – Are other people encouraging the right behavior and discouraging the wrong behavior?
  • Source 4 – Social Ability – Do others provide the help, information, and resource required at particular times?
  • Source 5 – Structural Motivation – Are rewards, pay, promotions, performance reviews, perks, or costs encouraging the right behaviors or discouraging the wrong behaviors?
  • Source 6 – Structural Ability – Are there enough cues to stay on course? Does the environment (tools, facilities, information, reports, proximity to others, policies) enable the right behaviors or discourage the wrong behaviors?
Recognizing sources of influence …
Vital BehaviorResult
Source 1 – Personal Motivation
  • “I don’t like …
  • “That’s not fun for me …”
  • “I don’t enjoy …”
  • Source 2 – Personal Ability
  • “I can’t.”
  • “I don’t know how.”
  • “I keep trying, but I can’t figure it out.”
  • Source 3 – Social Motivation
  • “The boss told me to do this.
  • “She has been praising this for months.”
  • “Everyone is doing this.”
  • Source 4 – Social Ability
  • “John didn’t get me this material.”
  • “When I needed help, everyone disappeared.”
  • “I needed my boss’s approval, but she wouldn’t sign off on it.”
  • Source 5 – Structural Motivation
  • “That won’t affect my performance appraisal.”
  • “Of course I would never pass the ball. My dad pays me $20 for every soccer goal I score.”
  • “They talk a lot about quality,but you could lose your job if you stop the line.”
  • Source 6 – Structural Ability
  • “It’s hurry up and wait with all the bureaucracy around here.”
  • “Drugs are available within a mile of every house in the city.”
  • “Bosses get their data from analysts, not customers, so they don’t care about quality.”

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    Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


    Unknown said…
    i "see" some of the reasons why technology integration has been a major struggle (if not a failure) in schools .

    this also reaffirms my thoughts that the structure of school needs to be very different from what it is given todays society, culture, needs

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