The staff is currently testing the strategy, “Read, Decide, Explain,” across the majority of their classrooms. To explore if the strategy is influencing student work, they are looking at high, middle, and low samples of student work coming out of IAKTs where this strategy is being applied. Teachers are reviewing how different content areas are adapting the strategy to suit their needs. They’re then analyzing whether students actually used the provided strategy-related organizers to support their work. In a recent round of looking at 9th graders’ work, there was clear evidence that the strategy was being applied by students, based on how the writing was structured as compared to writing samples on the same task that were produced last year.Addressing Adaptive ChallengesIn The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, (Heifetz, Linsky, & Grashow, 2009) the authors describe the significance of diagnosing your system to better understand the loyalties and alliances that the individuals hold within your organization, as well as the risks and losses they might face, as you undergo change. With that guidance in mind, Heifetz and others would’ve likely predicted that every staff member at the school would experience this improvement effort differently. In fact, the Director states that while several teams truly believe that this effort is going to help their students, others are driven a bit more in this effort simply by compliance and a possible fear of accountability for not following along. She also has a staff member or two who are generally struggling to remain confident in the school’s adopted approach to instruction, Project Based Learning, when it comes to meeting the needs of a challenging group of kids, many of whom are reading at a 2-3rd grade level. While several staff members have been deeply invested in this focus from the start and have worked hard to win over those that may still be unsure of this approach, not everyone has been so easily convinced (Director, personal communication, January 13th, 2016). This is the reality of adaptive change and the school is no different than many other schools or organizations in this regard.Following the guidance offered by The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, a diagnosis of the school system offers some evidence of the loyalties and risks that may be at play for some of the staff. At the start of the process, the majority of the staff recognized reading support as a need in their discipline and could point to several examples of students struggling to access content information as a barrier to learning in their course. However, as it became clearer in the data that their students also needed significant support in the development of their writing skills, and that each teacher would need to provide support in both reading and writing practices, fewer staff members were willing to see that as something that they should spend time developing in content areas outside of Language Arts. Not only did teachers express concerns about the amount of time it would take to add writing support to their curriculum, they also worried that they might lack the necessary teaching skills to help students improve in these areas. To some staff, this work seemed to represent a threat to loyalties they held around their content area as well as a risk of potential failure.In response to these adaptive challenges, the Director took a strategic and personalized approach to tackling these issues by identifying the different issues that each of her staff members were struggling with. To help those that wanted support from peers in the teaching of writing, she restructured staff collaborative work time to allow teachers with a range of confidence in this area to work together. She also identified specific professional development opportunities that would help individual staff members who preferred a more formal level of support for their needs. And, in some cases, she made efforts to help teachers see the significance that these skills hold for individual students and their future success, creating an emotional and purposeful appeal to the work.While she admits that this adaptive work continues, the Director is quick to credit her staff for their efforts to engage in this learning and overcome their personal challenges. However, those same staff members have pointed to the shifts in structures that are outlined in next section, the personalized support they have each received, and the relentless pursuit of a focus as key ingredients that the Director has championed and that have greatly contributed to their ownership of this work (Director, personal communication, January 13th, 2016).
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