Education Opinion

What is Your Department Discussing and Doing

By LeaderTalk Contributor — April 04, 2009 3 min read
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While I often discuss systemic change and the need to break free from the complacency that is pockets of innovation, these talks perhaps fail to provide guidance on all levels instead usually focusing on the role of upper adminstration (oy! I dislike the sound of that). Thus, this is the first in a series of posts with secondary department heads/instructional supervisors/team leaders in mind.

Driving Questions
For the past two years, I’ve talked about the need to focus on the essential questions of what does it mean to be well-educated in the 21st Century and what does that mean for teaching and learning. While the discussions and ideas that come from these discussions provide a foundation and vision for schools, these broad items leave much room for interpretation.

In many ways, this is a great thing BUT departments must also engage in specific questions focused on their content:

  1. How do we best approach (content) in the 21st Century?
  2. How does our (content) curriculum align to create learning opportunities for the creating well-educated 21st Century citizens?
  3. How are our (content) instructional methodologies fostering the development of well-educated 21st Century citizens?
  4. What pedagogical shifts should be explored to best align with student learning and achievement in the 21st Century?
  5. What assessment strategies will best address the 21st Century student profile?

In much the same way that the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, Apple Classroom of Tomorrow - Today, Horizon Report, ISTE’s NETS, Knowledge Works, Core Knowledge (a bit of balance), National and State Standards, MIT New Media Literacies, Connectivism, School 2.0 and many others serve as foundational readings on the district and whole school level discussions, the national content association for teachers offer position statements that can serve to frame the discussion.

Here are the position statements released by some content areas:

National Council of Teachers of English

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

National Science Teachers Association

National Council of Social Studies

National Association for Sport and Physical Education

Begin. Focus. Develop. Act!

While I would argue that these conversations should be at the heart of departments all the time, the reality is that may be easier said than done. But, now is the time to begin: late arrivals, department meetings, team time, etc. But, focus these conversations on teaching and learning. Yes, debates are going to happen. Yes, not everyone will agree. The key is to honor all points as adding to the direction of the department.

However, discussion is not enough unless it leads to the development of an action plan. In fact, I would recommend that the discussion moves towards the creation of a department position statement using the aforementioned questions. Regardless, strive to move the discussion towards action items not just academic exercises.

Most importantly, act! Don’t just create your action plan, position statement, and binder documents (love those! created those!) for dust gathering purposes. As you create action items, move on them.

Moments in Time well... stink
This isn’t something that can happen overnight nor is there a checklist or template to complete. It is actually a time engage and lead your tribe as an instructional leader. Remember, we must guide, listen, push/pull, adopt/adapt, and change. We must value creativity, innovation, play, risks, and disagreements. We must understand chaos, fear, and professionalism. We must see this as a start with no true end but a natural part of what we do - evolve!

By Ryan Bretag

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.