If you were to visit our school in Waldheim, Saskatchewan (a K-12 school of almost 400 students that is part of Prairie Spirit School Division) you would not hear one grade 3 student say to another: “Hey, have you noticed how the collective efficacy of our school staff really accelerated exponentially once they established a collaborative culture?“ Nor would you be likely to hear the second student reply, “Yah, and my parallel perception that every adult at Waldheim School has a deep and thorough understanding of me as a learner cannot be attributed to coincidence, although I know you’ll say that correlation does not equal causation.” You probably wouldn’t hear these conversations until at least grade 5…kidding.
When we say that we have stumbled toward collective efficacy there is some truth in that. Our successive administrative teams have purposefully invited our school to create a collaborative culture; as we became aware of the concept of collective efficacy it dawned on us that we had fortuitously collected many of the puzzle pieces. We already identified with the statement that “in schools, when educators believe in their combined ability to influence student outcomes, there are significantly higher levels of academic achievement” (Bandura, 1993), but then what? What do we do when we encounter a challenging 1000-piece puzzle that is partially assembled? First, let’s examine the invaluable puzzle pieces that we had “stumbled upon” at our school.
Our adult learning journey included the following elements:
- We participated in peer visits to our colleagues’ classrooms to observe their teaching and engaged in mutual coaching conversations.
- We implemented staff book clubs where we selected professional reading and shared how the reading impacted our instructional practices.
- Our EAs also participated in a Zones of Regulation book club and are excited to attend a “Zones of Regulation” conference in Vancouver in November.
- Our division has each school team do a Learning for Life presentation in the spring; we have included EAs, our caretaker, and administrative assistant in these presentations.
- During staff meetings, each teacher has presented their learning that emerged from their professional goal for that year.
- Many staff took control of their own professional development by participating in or hosting division sponsored Inspired Learning Opportunities (ILOs).
- We had focused on the creation of learning spaces that reflect the values contained in the My Prairie Spirit Classroom (MPSC): Big Ideas, Choice, Side-by-Side, Next Steps, Collaborate, Construct, and All Learners.
In addition to the deliberately planned practices outlined above, we cannot deny the value of the incidental collaborations that occur daily in the staffroom and after school at the informal Pop and Chips Club hosted by Mrs. Wilton. The question became, what can we do to capitalize on this momentum and take next steps toward having a deep and thorough understanding of every learner that we work with (part of our school goal)?
For this school year we have committed to collecting the following assessment related puzzle pieces:
- To explore and refine our thinking around assessing the whole student, we are involved in an all staff book club; Katie White’s Softening the Edges has already provoked a great deal of constructive discussion about how our assessment practices impact our students.
- Our Director of Education posed the question “How do you know?” which challenged our assumptions about beliefs that influence practices. She has tweaked the question this year to “How are you doing…?, which is both an encouragement to care for one another as well as an invitation to fill in the blank (ex. How are you doing assessment?)
We have accepted this invitation and begun to share our “sacred” assessment tools with one another; this could not happen authentically without the atmosphere of vulnerability, transparency, and risk-taking that has been nurtured in our school as we stumbled toward collective efficacy.
About the authors:
Steve Kitchen is a teacher and learning facilitator at Waldheim School. Follow him at @stevekitch1
Jesse Reis is the vice-principal and a classroom teacher at Waldheim School. Follow him at @mrjreis
Shantel Strasky is a grade 1/2 teacher and learning facilitator at Waldheim School. Follow her at @SStrasky
Brenda Wilton is a Special Education Resource Teacher at Waldheim School. Follow her at @bmgwteach