By Dr. Harry Tennant


by Harry Tennant
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Entries with keyword: challenge
Posts 1 - 2 of 2

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What schools can change

In order to improve, schools need to change. Where are the opportunities?

Mission, Vision & Strategy: The real question is, what should be important to us as a school? School missions typically include enabling student achievement. I recommend an addition: continuous improvement of student achievement. We should always strive to do better. 

Technology: What are the opportunities that new technology offers in support of our mission? And the flip side, let's not get distracted by new technology toys unless they help us meet our most important challenges.

Human-Behavior Changes: We can change knowledge and skills of the staff to better address our mission and challenges. We must take in-service training seriously, in alignment with our challenges.

Process Design: We can change the processes for how we do things, from the way classrooms are cleaned to the way we ensure alignment with state learning objectives to the process for curriculm renewal. By changing the processes we make changes that last.

Organization Stucture: We can change how we work together to accomplish our mission. For example, while we now have teachers isolated in their classrooms, we may find that team teaching or project-based learning with cross-curriculum objectives better addresses our challenges.

Organizational Culture: Changing the school's culture comes down to changing the values and beliefs that give rise to our challenges and guide our choices and mission. In many cases, the first step is to articulate the values and beliefs that drive the school. In many schools, that's never been done.

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Keywords: continuous improvement, challenge


Monday, August 8, 2011

Challenge comes before improvement

I've been talking a lot about continuous improvement recently in this blog. But before we get improvement, we must have something else:


Challenge is what motivates improvement. It is the "why" for improvement. Here's how it fits into a program of continuous improvement.

The Five Questions

  1. What is your target condition here? (In other words, what is your current challenge?)
  2. What is the actual condition now?
  3. What obstacles are now preventing you from reaching the target condition? Which one are you addressing now?
  4. What is your next step?
  5. When can we go and see what we have learned from taking that step?

Challenges may come about in different ways. For example, a challenge may be taking advantage of an opportunity. Online formative tests, for example, can be checked and provide specific and immediate student feedback. We may see applying online formative tests as an opportunity to improve results on summative tests. So, the process is to acquire the ability to do online formative tests, provide the tests to the students and then review the results at the end of the unit.

More commonly, challenges arise from what we want to achieve for our students. A common challenge these days is to raise standardized test scores. Of all the possible ways we might address that challenge, we might first focus on aligning our courses with the standard learning objectives.

Challenges of opportunity are good when they align with the goals of the school and they address the highest priority changes to be made. Otherwise, challenges of opportunity may be distractions from the work that really needs to be done.

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Keywords: continuous improvement, challenge

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