A study that has inspired us and laid a foundation on which we hope to build in our research programme is Bryk et al’s longitudinal study of school reform in Chicago. Check it out here…well worth a read.
In 1988, the Chicago public school system decentralized, granting parents and communities significant resources and authority to reform their schools in dramatic ways. To track the effects of this bold experiment, the authors of Organizing Schools for Improvement collected a wealth of data on elementary schools in Chicago. Over a seven-year period they identified one hundred elementary schools that had substantially improved—and one hundred that had not. What did the successful schools do to accelerate student learning?
The authors of this illuminating book identify a comprehensive set of practices and conditions that were key factors for improvement, including school leadership, the professional capacity of the faculty and staff, and a student-centered learning climate. In addition, they analyze the impact of social dynamics, including crime, critically examining the inextricable link between schools and their communities. Putting their data onto a more human scale, they also chronicle the stories of two neighboring schools with very different trajectories. The lessons gleaned from this groundbreaking study will be invaluable for anyone involved with urban education.
The Centre for Systems Learning and Leadership has emerged from several strands of research, development and social enterprise based in and around the Graduate School of Education at the University of Bristol. It goes back to 2003 when our research into learning power demonstrated that an individual’s learning power is powerfully influenced by factors internal to the learner and external – in the culture and community of which they are a part. For example, we discovered that teachers who were most highly controlling tended to have classes with the lowest levels of learning power, and factors like ‘trust’ ‘affirmation’ and ‘challenge’ made a real difference to how a person engaged with their learning.
We explored teachers learner centred practices, leadership, the sequencing of students encounters with knowledge in the curriculum and a school’s emotional climate. From there we began to explore beyond schools – prisons, communities, higher education and most recently, the corporate world. Our ideas were put to the test in an Institute for Advances Studies seminar series in 2008, resulting in a special issue of the Cuirriculum Journal – themed as ‘integrating the personal with the public’.
Our relationship with the Engineers in the Systems Centre began to provide us with tools and ideas with which to explain and develop our core understanding that ‘everything is related’ and technical systems are always integrat to soft systems. We’ve developed an MSc in Systems Learnign and Leadership and our work with Learning Futures has focused our attention on ‘learner engagement’ or ‘deep learning’ as a key theme. Our connections with the Knowledge Media Institute at the Open University have deepened our understanding of the application of new technologies to enhance sensemaking – we have developed two learning ‘apps’ which support deep learning and enable culture change through the way they scaffold sense making. Watcht this site for details of projects and forthcoming events. Our learning conversations take place with colleagues from around the world on http://www.learningemergence.net (see link on the right) and if you want to join in, check us out there.