This post is one in a series related to using Learning Sprints as described by Agile Schools and Dr. Simon Breakspear. The purpose of sharing these experiences is to help other school leaders in putting in place Learning Sprints by sharing triumphs and lessons learned throughout our experiment.
We are launched into the Learning Sprints world as of Friday. I presented the concept to the group of teachers that we have chosen to run our incubation with and are now on to defining and understanding our Sprint. The group our school has chosen to experiment with is the grade 7-9 teachers. Our large focus is going to be literacy. Here are some things that I learned and that I am thinking about after a few days of reflection.
The biggest help that I found when presenting to the group of 7 teachers was that I had incubated my incubation. Incubating in the Learning Sprints world is to start with a small group of teachers that will act as an experiment and facilitate a school-wide adoption of Learning Sprints. What I chose to do is to start by speaking with a teacher who is in this group in advance to get feedback and to refine with another perspective. I found this to be valuable when presenting to the other teachers. This teacher spoke up a few times when I was presenting to clarify areas from a teacher perspective and made the process much easier. One suggestion I would have to any school starting out on this Learning Sprints journey is to incubate your incubation.
The other big contributor to the teacher’s understanding of Learning Sprints is the visuals and videos that are available on the Agile Schools website. I like to think I do a pretty good job of communicating, but I don’t come close to the concept knowledge of Dr. Breakspear who appears in the videos. Also, just like a class, providing multiple ways of accessing knowledge (in this case a visual to support my speaking) is beneficial. I would suggest any team to use them.
The aspect of this presentation that I found taking the most time was getting the teachers to know that they are in charge of defining the particular strategy or intervention. I want them to make decisions based on their knowledge of the students at our school. A teacher came to me and shared that they were confused as I had explained that our focus was to make small changes, yet I had defined a broad goal (literacy across subject areas). They felt as though this was unaligned. How I explained this was that it is a leader’s role (with help from staff) to set the broad focus area using data and through knowing our students. It was the teacher’s job to attack the problem (literacy) using their lived experience and knowledge of the students in their grade as a filter. The teacher chose the small changes, the administration chose the large goal.
I also feel an important piece of our setup was ensuring that strategies and interventions will be based on research and evidence. The main source I suggested for our incubation group is Visible Learning for Literacy by Hattie, Fisher, Frey. The source of this information needs to thought out beforehand. I chose this particular book because of the easy to access strategies and because I think it is based on high-quality research. Making the research-based strategies available easily is important when they become busy. I don’t want the to resort to pseudo-science or worse, make no change at all. Make accessing quality strategies and interventions easy for staff.
I was extremely happy when the group decided to try to make one change right away, before our next meeting. They understood this was about small differences being put in place right away to test them for efficacy. In the words of one teacher, “Why wait?”. Agreed. Why wait? Let’s get on this journey from day one. Let’s try to get better right away.