Over the last couple of weeks, we have narrowed our problem statement down to something that reads like this:
Our learning culture is relevant to us now and in the future. It helps us create meaning. Student success is at the core, providing opportunities, support and tools to meet our academic and personal needs.
You might have read this over a couple of times and are thinking, “What’s the problem? These all sound like good things!” Precisely. The problem is that in most traditional K-12 settings, these are not occurring consistently for every child. Additionally, teachers, administrators and parents don’t necessarily believe it’s true across the board. That’s not to say that some good and even great things aren’t going on in our schools, but the vision reflected here is not the everyday norm. Our problem is framed by how we look at the gap between reality and this vision to determine what needs to change.
But before we start designing new systems and processes for our K-12 structure, we have a lot of work to do validating, supporting, revising and refuting all or parts how we’ve framed the problem. This will involve several months of interviewing a variety of people and groups who are part of our district or connected in other ways. We want to know how these constituents think, feel and even do related to our district. To what extent do they value our schools, how do they see education as impacting them, and what do they envision education should be?
We create healthy and resilient communities by relying on the wisdom and wealth available in our people, traditions and environment. ~ Wheatley & Frieze, “Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now. Berrett-Koehler. 2011.
We won’t be able to interview everyone, so the team’s coming challenge is to identify appropriate and inspirational participants representing a wide spectrum of views and ideas, beliefs, behaviors and perspectives. At the same time, the team will identify the types of research methods that will be used to gather this input while also mining available research to help inform the process.
There are many people associated with our schools in some capacity or other. The most obvious are students, teachers, administrators and parents. But as the the following initial “stakeholder map” illustrates, when you take time to really think about it, our education system is impacted by hundreds! Each has their own viewpoint, beliefs and vision regarding what school is about and each are able to weigh in on what they feel is the problem with education today.
Many of these stakeholders can be grouped into related areas with similar connections, such as: students, parents, teachers/coaches, teacher interns, school board, school administration, support staff, early childhood, elementary, middle school, high school, community partners, community neighbors, investors, post-high school institutions, government, employers, health care providers, vendors, social services, churches, local and regional businesses, cultural groups, online social-networks, municipal services, and even destinations for student field trips. The stakeholder map is an initial attempt to identify specific individuals and groups within each of these, including what we believe is a summary (thought-bubble) of thoughts or feelings that represent their point of view. The next step will be mapping linkages by connecting each through various relationships and interactions, the goal being to ensure that each grouping of similar people are ultimately represented during the interview phase.