Friday, July 10, 2015

Accelerating R&D Work in Schools

Around a year ago I read the book Accelerate by John P Kotter.  One year on from this, our R&D Department has published the book R&D Your School, and one of the chapters in this book is about accelerators for school R&D work.  Here, then, are Kotter’s 8 Accelerators as applied to R&D work in schools:

  1. Focus on high impact opportunity - to meet important learning needs.  One example of this at ASB is that we have focused on improving our existing teaching and learning practices by new innovations in professional learning and technology integration.
  2. Attract and maintain an inquiry coalition - our R&D Department and the various Task Forces are made up of people with shared interests who wish to pursue them.  These are people with diverse viewpoints, a hunger to learn and an openness to creating novel ways to meet learning needs.
  3. Envision impact and design a prototype - our R&D Department and the various task forces prototype - it’s the single most important thing we do.  A prototype is a first model of something from which later forms are developed.  Prototyping allows us to come to new understandings and insights that let us develop new approaches, practices or systems that meet the needs of our community.  It is completely different from piloting which selects, takes on and assimilates a pre-existing practice.  Prototyping, on the other hand, drives continuous development and improvement.
  4. Attract voluntary inquirers - this is an important job of the R&D task forces, along with opening up the prototypes to others in the school community.  Everyone on these prototypes is a volunteer who wants to contribute to researching the impact of the new idea.  These volunteers give feedback for improving the prototype.
  5. Remove barriers to inquiry - Prototypes lead to new learning, visions and impacts, which can come up against the barriers and resistance of fixed mindsets, existing systems and structures, or people who do not support change.  Removing these barriers is essential to maintain the energy and momentum of the volunteer inquirers.
  6. Generate and celebrate early impacts - celebrating short-term wins energizes the volunteer inquirers, and draws interest and attention from others in the school.
  7. Keep learning from evidence and experience - be careful as early successes can result in “taking your foot off the accelerator” before the prototype has reached its conclusion.
  8. Institute change - New innovations need to be instituted by the school’s Leadership Team - they will need to further lead and manage the new innovation so it is effectively and reliably instituted to meet learning needs.

Would you like to read more about how ASB has used accelerators to promote innovation throughout the school?  You can purchase a copy of R&D Your School on Kindle to find out more (it costs just $5).

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