Collective Impact

As the month of May approaches schools and all the stakeholders within are met with a slew of emotions, thoughts, and feelings.   Personally, I find myself looking forward to the ability to begin to planning for next school year.  Having a year in the books in my new position has afforded me countless opportunities to learn and grow, and one area in particular that has garnered a large bit of interest is the idea of collective impact.  In other words how can small contributions by all have a larger impact  student achievement academically, socially, and emotionally.

Traditional education has segmented much of the education process over the last 60, 70, 80 years.  The complex changes that have been brought on by the fourth industrial revolution are leading very quickly to some major challenges for our antiquated education system.  Many leading educators, economists, scientists, etc. tout “21st century skills” as one of the core elements of prepping our students.  These skills are vastly different then those that many of us were trained to use in our undergrad and even graduate experiences.  How we teach these skills needs to be approached from a different angle in comparison to the silos of traditional education.  In the post I want to explore my thoughts on 3 simple steps we all can take to have a bigger collective impact.

  1. This list has to start with collaboration.  Without collaboration we lose the idea of the collective.  Collaboration needs to be seen as a vast network, and not merely group work.  Collaboration needs to connect students to students, students to teachers, and students to the outside world.  Anything less takes away from the authenticity of working relationships that one experiences in the real world.  In particular the connection to the outside world is critical.  Each school is operates in a bit of a bubble. In order to help build a broad range of experiences students must be connect to other people, places, and cultures that challenge what they believe and know about the world.  Engage other schools, other students, other adults and professionals, other business; bring the world of the students you teach into the classroom.

    Additionally there is a added benefit of collaboration, and that is leverage.  Collaboration allows us to benefit from the best that everyone has to offer.  As a Social Studies teacher there is no way that I could have the capacity to prepare engaging and thought provoking work on every topic.  The breadth of this topic forced me to collaborate and utilize the work of others as a stepping stone for my growth and by extension the students I taught.  This practice helps set the stage for my second thought.

  2. In order to truly connect with those in the world around them, students must have the capacity to understand the dispositions and values of those around them.  Empathy is a necessary component of a well rounded individual as our world has grown much smaller with the advent of the internet. Within our classrooms collaboration naturally fosters the opportunity for students to communicate, listen, and constructive debate with those who may be different.  providing these opportunities provides authentic experiences that mimic the real world.  Breaking out of individual silos is necessary as academic intelligence means little without the ability to place it in the context of collaboration.  To that end to really make an impact it is important that we strive for incorporation authentic experiences by leveraging the world around us.  By making small connections we can make a big impact.
  3. Build a common focus and language.  A compelling vision is an essential of any organization.  In order for a collective impact to reach it’s true potential, it is key that members of the organization rally behind the cause.  It is intrinsic motivation that compels and builds passion for growing or developing a school culture.  This common language needs to be developed by all stakeholders to truly have a collective impact.  It is the varying perspectives of all that draw people to the why.  Being consistent and persistent is what moves the needle.  Though this may seem to resonate at a macro level in a district, the same is true of our classrooms.  How do our students have a say in their classroom?  Are we sharing in the development of a common language?

As I wrap up this article I would like leave you with a question and that is, what are you doing to start or contribute to collective impact in your classroom, school, district?

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