Learning is defined as the acquisition of knowledge. In the education industry learning is measured with a focus on student achievement. However, neither student achievement nor learning in general can be measured without assessment. Classroom assessments are important but they do more than just measure learning. What we assess, how we assess, and how we communicate the results send a clear message to students about what is worth learning, how it should be learned, and how well we expect them to perform. However, assessments are only one part of the process of acquiring knowledge. Establishing a culture of learning is critical to developing the requisite focus on outcomes, assessments, and achievement in any organization.
The Argyris (1996) book, Organizational Learning II, offers several principles that explain how organizations learn. Argyris defines double-loop learning as “learning that results in a change in the values of theory-in-use, as well as in its strategies and assumptions” (p. 21). This means that analysis of ones past actions should produce learning that changes present actions. This is the essence of the learning culture. Neither a culture of learning nor the assessment thereof can be developed in a “single-loop” learning model because it does not create a change in present methods. Given the challenges educators face, education does not need to be reformed; it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions. Learning happens in the minds and souls of individuals, not in the databases of multiple-choice tests. Student achievement is waiting on the assessors to reassess assessment. If we change the way we assess and therefore the way we teach, we will transform education in such a way that will make student achievement inevitable.
There are many resources that explain how students learning and how to assess their learning. In the second edition of their book, Understanding by design, Wiggins and McTighe (2005) talk about learning in terms of establishing essential questions. They define essential questions as “questions that are not answerable with finality in a brief sentence… Their aim is to stimulate thought, to provoke inquiry, and to spark more questions — including thoughtful student questions — not just pat answers” (p. 106). Assessment-based curriculums written with a backward design and lead my essential questions are the most effective way to promote student achievement. This method is student centered from beginning to end and aids teachers in engaging students in a variety of learning exercises that promote their achievement. It encourages the establishing the culture of learning alluded to in the Argyris text. Thinking in terms of essential questions leads to the development of enduring understandings (knowledge). This is only accomplished in a double-loop learning environment. An environment that is ripe with a learning culture.
Argyris, C., & Schon, D. A. (1996). Organizational learning II: Theory, learning, and practice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Booth, Wayne C.; Colomb, Gregory G.; Williams, Joseph M. (2009). Craft of Research (3rd Edition). Chicago, IL, USA: University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/capella/Doc?id=10288700&ppg=71
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. ISBN: 9781416600350.
I found this photo online by accident one day last year (Source: Secret Entourage). I don’t remember what I was searching for initially but once I read the caption I immediately knew that this would be my motto for the next year or so. When I was in high school I dreamed of working for myself and starting multiple companies. While in college I studied business and learned what that would take. Post-college I did what most people do, I got a job. I mean it does take money to make money, right? I’ve been chasing my dream for well over ten years now and there is one thing that is absolutely true. Entrepreneurship is HARD! Let’s just be honest here, unless you have the support and resources to fully capitalize your business at conception, there is an enormous amount of work that goes into it. Because I knew that I was grossly unprepared to do most of the things that I really wanted to do in business, I focused on my education. I began working in secondary education but the passion for entertainment never left. I sang in my every music ministry my church had to offer but I was still missing valuable portions of my need to express. Knowing this, I enrolled in an Entertainment Business degree instead of a music education degree for my masters program. During this time I reshaped my entrepreneurial goals and developed a solid business plan for the Bailey Boy A.D.E. Foundation. Although I have several business ideas filed neatly in folders on my MacBook Pro, I chose to focus on the business that would help other people more than myself. Some days I think that this was a foolish decision but when I see the joy on the faces of students in one of my programs it is hard to think about doing anything else. I have lived in three cities over the last two years chasing opportunities to do the things that I love and finish my education. Did I forget to mention that while working in education for so long and laying the foundation for the Bailey Boy Academy, I decided that I would pursue a doctorate degree in education? My wife and I have made sacrifices that even I question at times. I have had many sleepless nights and felt like the work would never end. My passion for writing and even establishing this blog came from the fact that I’ve been in school for so long that writing is all I know how to do. Sometimes I think about all of this and say, “What are you doing?” “Why are you doing this?” In those really tough times I run across this picture and remember that in these years of difficult decisions and sleepless nights I am not alone. There are others that have decided to live there lives in such a way that most people would call foolish. Most people would simple decide that it was not worth all of this. I remind myself that if you really want something then you have to work hard for it. I may not know exactly when the payoff will come but I am certain that it will. If you are thinking about being an Entrepreneur, know that you will be committing years of your life to a lifestyle that others may not understand or agree with. But if you are willing to live those years like most people won’t then you will be well able to live the remainder of your life like most people can’t. GOOD LUCK!
In the article I read opposing Collin’s book Good to Great the author states that Collins’ team did not properly conduct their research, that the research fit inside the “Corporate Barnum Effect”, and that the entire book can be summed up by making good business decisions. He states that the error in research existed because Collins used the “good to great” concepts to analyze the comparison companies. He argues that they were not judged by none-bias standards and the research did not reflect the possibility that companies could have exemplified the “good to great” concepts but still did not become great. The Barnum effect is such that a concept is so generic that we all can apply them from our own viewpoint to make them true. Lastly, he claims that all concepts in Collins’ book can be summarized by “making good business decisions”.
A few companies cited in the book are still great today. Companies like Hewlett-Packard and Wal-Mart are still one of the most powerful leaders in their industry. These companies are still great. Collins even suggests that these companies were built to last for their inception. Their sustainability was a result of a different group of concepts, which he discusses in his previous book, Built to Last.
I enjoyed this book and believe strongly in the concepts contained therein. However, I do not believe that cumulative stock returns should be the only measure used to define greatness. This would automatically prevent non-profit organizations from participating in the conversation. I believe that Collins and his research team used these returns as a basis for studying their success. The very nature of the concepts contained in the book leads me to believe that he too believes that stock returns are only a part of what made those companies great. The stock returns were a result of their greatness and not a requirement for it.
Prior to reading Collins’ book Good to Great I had not really thought extensively about comparing good companies to great companies. On the other hand, I have always believed that the right people working in the right company model would produces monetary results. I think that great companies are those that care more about people than profits. I do believe that the “Good to Great” concepts can apply to education. Weather an educational institution in nonprofit or the new for-profit, it is a company that offers goods and services to clients. The concepts in this book can help the institution raise the quality of the services offered and therefore establish themselves as a great educational institution. If you are in the non-profit sector then I recommend the book Forces for Good. It presents very similar advice using similar rigorous research methodology as Good to Great.
Collins, J. C., & Porras, J. I. (2003). Built to last, successful habits of visionary companies. Harper Paperbacks.
Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t. New York, NY: Collins Business.
May, R. (2006). Why “Good to Great” Isn’t Very Good. Business Pundit. Retrieved from: http://www.businesspundit.com/why-good-to-great-isnt-very-good/