We’ve known for a while now that learning communities are probably the most powerful factor in developing the teaching profession. One of the reasons put forward is that such professional communities are not run along the command-and-control lines of traditional organisational charts.
So, how interesting that these highly productive networked communities, based on collaboration, aren’t mirrored in everyday school organisational structures.
Sandy Pentland is an MIT professor who specialises in studying the effects of information flow on organisations. He found that sharing information and collaborating in what he calls horizontal relationships improved effectiveness in business, governments, cities and communities. He didn’t mention schools or colleges, so let’s examine his findings and ponder the implications.
As you can see in the above diagrams, there are far more connections between people in the bottom configuration. Pentland found that idea flow happens far more in this last structure. Idea flow is the ease with which new thoughts permeate the group.
And the two biggest factors that determine the rate of idea flow are engagement and exploration. Both involve frequent contact with colleagues within your team and members of other teams. The figures backing this up are impressive. Pentland collected a billion measurements from a number of companies, totalling 1,900 hours of data. Engagement was the central predictor of productivity. What does that mean for education?
Leaders must find a way to empower their teams to find a way.
The HOW2 Skills Exchange offers teachers a flat, collaborative network that transcends whatever organisational structure is in place in their school or college. No one leads, no one directs and no one is the star. Teachers engage with each other and explore the meaning and effectiveness of their teaching approaches.
For colleges this means teachers can collaborate with teachers working on different campuses. Or even faculties and subjects. Equally so for chains of academies. Unrestricted by time and place, the Skills Exchange offers teachers the ability to learn as much as they can by participating with their colleagues in joint explorations.
Here in the HOW2 team, we have plans to extend the range of the Skills Exchange by allowing teachers to communicate and collaborate with teachers in other schools and colleges. We’ll keep you abreast of this very exciting development.