Saturday, May 23, 2015

How we came to real consensus

The Teacher Evaluation Committee (stay with me...) has been working for months on revising our Teacher Evaluation Plan.

Doesn't sound like the most exciting thing ever, I know. (And it's not.)

Probably sounds downright excruciatingly boring. (But it's not that, either.)

But I have to say, this time, it needed up being kind of exciting.

Here's why:

I'll spare you the boring details, but we all came into the meeting with different ideas about how administrators should score the three "informal" observations currently required for tenured teachers. (Don't worry about the details, I just want you to see the flow.)

We all started at different places: I wanted to simplify the form and make it more of a flow-chart. Other's wanted it to be more quantitative. One veteran teacher suggested we allow the informals to build on each other, recording them all in the same form. Another suggested we replace one informal observation with a formal observation, using the other two informal observations as formative, rather than evaluative, tools.

Many liked that last idea, but then we went back and forth on what to do with the two informals until a new teacher suggested we just use the informals only to flag problems or to allow a teacher to move up a level from their formal.

Then an administrator suggested we just record comments (not scores) from the informals and use them to adjust the scores from the formals.

We played idea ping-pong again for a while, but found ourselves drawn to that final model, and ended up voting unanimously for it.

To me, it was an exciting example of "ideas having sex." That's Matt Ridley's term for what happens when people get together like this to really collaborate: Ideas combine in unpredictable ways and we get a sum that's greater than the whole of it's parts--something that wasn't there before in any one person's mind. It's a self-organizing process.

It was a great example of Pink's "Yes, and.." approach--a great example of how humans work best.

That's the power of collaboration. And that, to me, is more than kind of exciting, because in my mind, if we can unleash that power within education as a whole, we can change things.

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