Thursday, November 6, 2014

Leadership PLC - part 3

This morning we had another Leadership PLC session.  We moved on from our previous discussion about Jim Collins' "hedgehog concept" and started to think about other writers and how their ideas connect to his.  For example, in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers he writes about the 10,000 hours of practice that is needed to become an expert, about opportunities based on when and where you were born, what your parents did and the circumstances of your upbringing and educational experiences, and something he calls legacy which is a mixture of religion, culture, tradition and attitude. We then also talked about Daniel Pink's book Drive which describes the most important factors of motivation being autonomy, mastery and purpose.   I have tried to add these into the previous diagram that I was making about the hedgehog concept and the 4th circle.

So here is what we went on to talk about: what does 10,000 hours look like in teaching?  For a subject teacher (let's say history) this devotion to one subject will give a very different sort of mastery than being an elementary teacher who teaches lots of different subjects.  At what stage could we say a teacher has "completed" 10,000 hours of "practice".  What about if the practice they were doing was "wrong" and teachers are simply practicing "bad" hours/habits?  In many schools novice teachers are left pretty much to themselves and don't have a coach or mentor to help them to improve their practice - so how do they get better and become experts?  School leaders, who were once classroom teachers themselves and then moved on to become administrators are often not really focused on the practice of those teachers still in the classroom - so who is making these 10,000 hours of practice valuable for the teachers?

I started thinking about something else during this meeting too - a little known study by Bloom about the romance and the rigor.  Apparently he too studied "outliers" those who were excellent in their own field, and discovered they had had 2 types of teachers - first the warm, fuzzy ones who got them to love their subject and develop their talent ("the romance") and then at some point later, each of these experts changed to a more strict teacher who built up their skills ("the rigor").  It seems you need both types of teachers to become an expert.  We also talked about the fact that the 10,000 hours may not apply to teaching - because rather than a simple mechanical repetition or practice, every day is different and we need to think on our feet rather than follow a particular pattern.  All interesting stuff.  As I began to dig a bit deeper today after our meeting I discovered that Anders Ericsson, the psychologist at Florida State University who came up with the 10,000 hours theory, actually stated that you only get benefits by "adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal."  Clearly it's the feedback that matters, not simply the hours of practice - and this brings me back to teaching again.  Let's throw in the observations of another expert, Daniel Goleman, who states "The secret to smart practice boils down to focus on the particular feedback from a seasoned coach."  You can imagine how pleased I was to read the work coach there!  

What questions come from this research?  Well I guess the first question that needs to be asked is how do you, in your busy life, find the time to pursue the 10,000 hours of whatever it is that you are most passionate about?  We talked about what it is in our daily work that we don't need to do anymore - and whether we can empower someone else to do those things to give us the time to focus on developing our passions.  Certainly an interesting idea to explore further!

Photo Credit: Atos International via Compfight cc

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