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Published in The HOW2 tools and Professional Learning

Team of Teams

How organisations are structured directly influences how its workers learn and develop. Flatter, networked teams collaborate and produce more than those in hierarchical structures. Discover what an MIT professor found out.

Learning Communities

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. 

Idea Flow

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. 

Progressive Structures

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.

From article on Team of Teams, Fast Company magazine (June 2015), page 38

The Skills Exchange

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. 


Cognitive Load

We all soon become overwhelmed by too much information. Our working memory is our weakest cognitive link. Knowing how this happens and how to avoid it gives teachers more control over the impact of their work.

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Do you remember sociograms? Well, I guess only if you taught as far back as the 1970s when they were quite popular. According to expert Roger Banerjee, they help teachers understand more about their class’s peer relationships.

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