Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Superstructing: R&D and T&L

I've heard the word "superstructing" many times at ASB, but only this morning did I come to appreciate how this concept ties everything together.  In a presentation by Madeleine Heide to the new teachers this morning, we came to see how superstructing has evolved at ASB so that it underpins the way the school is fulfilling the mission, the core values and the strategic plan.

One of the things that we talked about in small groups right at the beginning is the mindset, skills and tools that are needed for ASB to achieve its strategic plans.  This got me thinking about a blog post from Silvia Tolisano last year where you will find some great graphics that describe how important all of these are.  I was interested to hear that Heidi Hayes Jacobs is going to be using the work ASB is doing on superstructing in her new book.  The term superstruct originally came from a game designed by Jane McGonigal - her TED talk was about how she believes playing games can lead to solutions to real world problems  (see this blog post).  Jane explains that superstructing involves putting a whole new structure onto a prior structure to do something new that you couldn't do before.  Jane writes:
Superstructing means reinventing our tools and processes, our organizational structures and even our concepts of cooperation and collaboration.
Jane's blog gives details of the outcomes you can monitor as indicators that you are on your way to the kind of reinvention necessary for success in the next decade:
  • achieving more and different participation
  • implementing once inconceivable possibilities
  • inventing and testing smaller and bigger practices
  • creating stranger and more shareable products
  • designing and participating in new world-changing practices
Click here to find a PDF version of this with more details on Jane's blog.

It is highly unusual for a school to want to do all these things - to want to superstruct - but ASB is doing just that.  It is removing outdated models of committee work, giving people choices in the way they participate in the changes, facilitating everyone learning leadership skills as these are the skills teachers need to get good at to move forward, using time differently (which is difficult as schools function in very traditional ways) and prototyping.

ASB is superstructing through two core teams the R&D (research and development) and the T&L (teaching and learning) teams.  The diagram below is taken from ASB's Superstruct blog and explains the relationship between the two core teams: 

Madeleine explained how the T&L team's role is to make end results happen now, while the R&D team is looking ahead of the curve at what was possible or what could be invented to make a difference to education in the future.  The T&L team set up different task forces to look at current issues such as 21st century skills, high student achievement, assessment, differentiation and so on - these are the things that ASB has to implement now as they impact on the teaching and learning of today's students.  The R&D core team set up other task forces to look at project based learning, multi-age classrooms, online/blended learning, BYOD, games based learning, green education and so on.  These are the things ASB is prototyping for possible implementation in the future.  These teams are open to anyone who wants to join, and there are are no other committees at the school.  In this way ASB has been superstructing: using what existed from before, but organizing things differently in order to achieve the strategic plan.

I was curious to hear the feedback at the end of the first year of superstructing.  It seems clear that the faculty loved being given choices and loved the way they could participate at whatever level they chose.  They also loved the ambitious goals, the collaboration across all areas of the school and the learning that was going on.  Teachers felt they were part of a school that was moving forward.  Some of the challenges teachers identified was that there was too much going on and that made clarity, communication and decision making hard.  Teachers commented on the challenges to do with the processes, but not the actual work that they were engaged in.

So - that's the history and this is where I have arrived.  How do we move forward from here?  Well this year the focus is on simplicity.  We need to be focused on our work and move away from the investigating and talking to looking at the impact we are making - this after all is the measure of our success - how all these new initiatives are having an impact in the classroom on teaching and learning. 

This year there are 2 goals for T&L, as follows:
  • personalizing learning - high student achievement and individualized learning  It's not just about differentiation, it's looking at the individual child!
  • mastery of 21st century skills - through standards, curriculum, instruction, assessment PD and learning environments
In addition there are 3 areas that the R&D core team wants to go into on a much deeper level:
  • project based learning
  • games based learning
  • alternative schedules and structures for the school year.
There will be collaboration with university researchers and divisional prototyping of these and ASB has set up an international research collaborative with a few other leading international schools.

These are exciting times to be at ASB, and I'm blessed to be a part of them!

Photo Credit: sueƱos...del futuro by Ruurmo, 2005   AttributionShare Alike 

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