We have all been around small children at ages 2 and 3 and their favorite word is ‘why’? They are curious in exploring the world and trying to make meaning of all the things around them. We are constantly answering their questions of ‘why’. There were times when my daughters were two and three years old that I just wanted to say “because that is just the way it is”, but I knew that their cognitive growth in vocabulary and in concepts about the world depended upon my answers to them. How they handled future events in their lives also depended upon my answers and how they understood events and concepts in the world. There were times we had to dig into books and the internet to find the answers to their questions so that their understanding would be accurate and clear.
We are no different as adults. When we understand the things around us we can make better decisions and do a better job in the work we are doing. The same is true with facilitating school improvement. The research tells us that employees that are engaged are more productive and happier at work. When stakeholders understand the true “as is” state of their schools and the implications of their actions, they are more likely to ‘get the doing done’.
As school improvement facilitators we can help adults see that they may not have all the information needed for a valid decision or that what they perceive may not be totally accurate. Facilitating the gap between what they know or think they know and actual performance is a critical step for engaging others in the work. We have to create that curiosity to understand the current state, the performance factors affecting their work and the implications of their actions. We have to help them dig into the data and understand the data so that the ‘why’ of the work is clear. You will then increase the chances that stakeholders will understand what needs to happen next.
ESSA will require the engagement of all stakeholders in the planning process. How are you facilitating deriving meaning and engagement in your district or school?