Since this seminar was taking place right outside my office, I was lucky enough to be able to engage in some of the activities. One discussion that took place early on was about how many occupations have gone through transitions in recent years. Examples are:
- Librarians have evolved from resource providers to learning facilitators
- Hospitals have evolved from healers to health promoters
- The police force has changed from law enforcement to focus on public safety
- Schools are changing their focus from teaching to learning - and not just for the students.
Following this the participants were invited to consider the difference between the terms adapting, adapted and adaptive. Adapting refers to making shifts to changes in the environment, but there are different sorts of adaptations. One example that was shared was of the monarch butterfly which has evolved and adapted to very specific conditions. Another example was that of deer or monkeys who have moved into urban areas and are now adapting to eat different food. The butterfly is adapted, the deer and monkey are adaptive. We talked about how schools need to be adaptive and how the goal of the seminar was to develop our capacity as collaborators and inquirers in complex systems. Schools need to adapt to changes in order to deal with constant learning. They are complex systems as when one thing changes it leads to a change throughout the system - we can't just come up with a technical fix for one thing. Complicated systems are different from complex ones - they also have many parts, but in those systems it is possible to "fix" the parts.
A technical change will extend or refine a past practice while still maintaining the organizational way of working. These sorts of changes can be implemented with current knowledge and skills. Many changes in education have been these technical changes. Adaptive changes, however end past practices and require new practices and new ways of working. These changes require new knowledge and skills and often challenge our values.
Teachers discussed the need to support the professional community in school to continually develop to improve student learning. There is the need to ask on a regular basis who are we? why are we doing this? and why are we doing this this way? We know the power of adult communities to impact student learning, and so important to develop a collaborative culture so that there can be a communal application of effective teaching practices.
Look out for more posts on Adaptive Schools.