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Ronald_R._Edmonds / Donnelley and Lee Library Archives and Special Collections at Lake Forest
Training for Implementation
Ron Edmonds in the 1970s and early 1980s both had articulated the basic premise that all students can learn in the context of Effective Schools and then gone on to begin to outline the conditions or correlates to make this possible. The mission, goals and objectives represent the tasks at hand, though this must be matched by the means of achieving these, the processes that will lead to a chain of accomplishments. While much of the literature of school effectiveness focuses on the tasks, the Effective School ProcessSM (ESP) almost uniquely turns the focus on process, on training participants at all levels for implementation of the objectives for the goals and for realization of the mission, in general, that all students can learn.
The ESP’s attention to the details of how all the stakeholders – principals, teachers, students, parents, school boards, etc. – work together to educate all students is rooted in a generic change methodology found also in other fields including business, health care, churches, libraries, etc. This generic methodology, organization behavior and organizational development, has been defined as “‘organization improvement through action research.’” Action research, a term first employed at MIT by Kurt Lewin in the mid 1940s, moves beyond abstract theories to engage collaborative teams in site-specific mission and goal setting, data gathering and other assessment, strategic planning, and follow-through. The process unleashes the stakeholder team’s own knowledge resources to arrive at the most appropriate solutions to specific problems. The outcome is driven not by the researcher’s agenda, testing an hypothesis, but by the agenda of the team itself.
In the various fields such as business, health care, etc. manuals of modules to aid teams in their work, usually with a consultant or trainer guide (the change agent), outline the stages of action research. Following this process the first input, or “unfreezing,” stage includes a preliminary diagnosis or working hypothesis, data gathering, and feedback of results. This is followed by a “changing” or learning and transformation stage, where there is much learning by the team and organizational behavioral changes. The third, or results and output, stage, “re-freezing,” is where the changes in behavior are implemented and data-gathering continues to monitor the effects.
It is this dynamic, particularized, individually-tailored process to achieve school effectiveness that is the core of the Effective Schools Process (SM). Modules specifically designed for school settings were developed by the early 1990s by the National Center for Effective Schools Research and Development and then implemented by expert trainers, NCESRD’s cadre of fellows, in some three-hundred specific districts and schools across the U.S., as described in Keepers of the Dream. An outline of these modules for guiding action research in these educational settings is listed in the archives plan.
One generic module can serve as an example of the more general, established methodologies brought to bear specifically on school settings. Team development for group performance, as in the 1991 NCESRD manual’s “Improving Teams for Teamwork,” tab number four (pp. 123-44), draws on generic team-building strategies employed in organizational development as well as in sports settings. (This is the most recent manual on file in the archives, but more recent versions are available from consultants such as Janet Chrispeels’ TIDES group, shown on the Links page.) The goals of the module are to “establish a collegial relationship,” gain a better understanding of working in teams, and to “learn and practice group skills in a supportive setting.” The module includes descriptions of group work stages, effectiveness, roles, development and meeting behaviors drawn from a wide range of recognized organizational development sources. This provides a basis for proceeding as a team to work on establishing a clear sense of mission, settling on goals and priorities, gathering information and then processing this toward a new culture to achieve the mission. Indeed, it immediately precedes in the manual the tabs for “Affirming Mission and Beliefs” (pp. 145-54) and the biggest tab, “Gathering, Analyzing and Reporting Data” (pp. 155-233). The “Improving Teams…” NCESRD module illustrates the way the Effective Schools Process (SM) draws on a rich tradition of action research experience and structure across types of organizations.
To see examples of this methodology applied in other settings — health care, churches, libraries, and businesses — create Google searches combining those terms with “organizational development,” “action research,” “team-building,” “planning,” etc.
Arthur H. Miller
November 26, 2010