The other thing the leader would do is “use
the group to change the group.” Teachers are less
likely to fall back into that pedagogical legacy
if a whole bunch of teachers—helped by the
principal—are pushing for what’s more effective.
For example, Park Manor, a grades 6–8 school
just west of Toronto that I worked with, uses this
procedure: Every Friday, the three grade 6 teachers
sit down together—as do the three teachers in
grades 7 and 8—and use a protocol to examine
the progress of one student from each of their
classes. Let’s say one of the grade 6 teachers says,
here’s Student X and here’s what I’m trying with
Student X. This is working, but I need some advice
on that. Over the course of an hour, they discuss
one student from each of their classes, every
Friday, week after week. When you do that, you’re
pushing one another for what works. You pull out
So it’s changing the culture—and I want to
use;the word culture—of the school and the
culture of the district. Such a culture establishes
the conditions for sustainability.
“Seeking balance between autonomy and
cooperation” is one of the four important actions
for change you mention in Freedom to Change.
What does it look like when teachers in a
school are both autonomous and connected?
First of all, we want to bring it into the open, to
name these principles of autonomy and connectedness as two crucial aspects of the organization.
We don’t want to be, like, “I want people to be
autonomous and collaborative, but I’m not going
to tell anybody.” This means that everybody
knows that people have a degree of autonomy
in this culture—they can be their own person—
but they also have a responsibility to interact
with one another.
The schools and districts I’m talking about think
this way. The checks and balances that occur
between the individual’s degree of freedom and
the interaction of the group are quite strong. They
allow you to sort out what is effective.
At Park Manor, a high-technology pedagogy
school, teachers are in fact doing their own thing,
but they share when they discover something
promising and begin to develop even better solutions together. They have many mechanisms to
engage in collaborative professional learning.
For example, they have each of the school’s nine
teachers demonstrate two things he or she is
doing with technology that are highly effective.
So each teacher has his or her own ideas and their
colleagues can recognize what each of the nine
teachers are doing that’s working. This makes it
likely that people will be drawn toward things
that are working better. So the dynamic between
individual initiative and group processing is
You mention feedback as another guidepost for
this constructive “freedom to.” What kind of
feedback leads to motivation to change?
Feedback is one of the hardest things for humans
to get right. People will say, “I like feedback. I
don’t get enough of it. But I only want feedback
that’s positive.” That’s a natural human tendency.
Even under the best of circumstances, we don’t
want feedback that feels, to us, judgmental. So in
our work we try to help schools reduce inappropriate, negative, judgmental interventions, those
that really decrease the possibility that feedback
will be heard, and instead emphasize collaborative
cultures. A collaborative culture has all kinds
of feedback built into it. Teachers visiting one
Once you have trust, transparency,
specificity, evidence, and nonjudgmentalism,
you get a constellation of conditions that
really make progress possible. “ “