I recently sat down with Brian Torrance, the Director of Ever Active Schools. In case you have not heard of Ever Active, they are a provincial initiative designed to create and support healthy school communities. Brian, as always, was articulate and shared his great perspective on different health initiatives that are under way around Alberta. We talked a lot about health and how schools can be a positive influence on the health of students, but the subject that I am thinking the most about from our conversation is the importance of community.
A quote that is still resonating in my head is “We are one piece of the puzzle. So as much as we can drive some very good things, it doesn’t happen without good partnerships.” This has me evaluating how we are building community with the different people and organizations that help our students. Do we all know each other’s roles and are we pulling in the same direction in a coordinated way? What would happen if we worked together more?
I relate this community building thought to the collective efficacy conversation that some schools are having. Collective efficacy was the most important factor related to student achievement in Dr. John Hattie’s 2018 meta-analysis on learning. Collective Efficacy “refers to a staff’s shared belief that through their collective action, they can positively influence student outcomes, including those who are disengaged and/or disadvantaged.” (Donohoo, 2017) Imagine if we were able to build this same shared belief in a larger community.
It has me thinking about learning, but even more about the overall goal of helping students achieve their potential. When students and their families run into problems, whether it be around academics, poverty, physical health, etc, do we each believe that we are a part of a solution and that by working together we can have a positive influence on the situation of those effected? I believe the answer is usually yes, but often times our response is uncoordinated or underfunded.
Take the example of after-school programs in physical activity (Ex. a school basketball team). What happens when a student wants to join, but cannot (for financial, time, transportation reasons) or is not allowed (because of a lack of space or lack of developed skill). What happens to this child? What do they lose? Can we as a community work collaboratively to find the resources to allow this child to play? If so, what would be the benefits?
I don’t have answers, but I am committed to having more conversations around this topic. It is time to bring the collective efficacy conversation to communities.
If you would like to hear my entire conversation with Brian, here are the links: