Brandt (2003) offers ten ways to determine if a school indeed meets the criteria of a learning organization. The first characteristic of a learning organization is that it encourages adaptive behavior in response to differing circumstances. The second is that the learning organization has challenging, but achievable objectives and goals. The third is that members of the organization can accurately identify the organizations' stages of development (Brandt, 2003).
The learning organization can collect, process, and act upon information that fits their purposes (Brandt, 2003). Learning organizations have the knowledge base for creating new ideas. The learning organization has the ability to grow and adapt. They are dynamic and in a constant process of evolution. Learning organizations frequently exchange information with external sources (Brandt, 2003). This happens in educational workshops, in-services, and conferences.
Another feature of the learning organization is that is seeks feedback on their products and services (Brandt, 2003). In the school system, this means more than simply raising standardized test scores. It means gathering detailed feedback from teachers, students, and parents about their experiences in the school system. Learning organizations continually refine their basic process and integrate the information that they obtain from these various resources (Brandt, 2003). The learning organization creates a supportive, rather than a restrictive organizational culture where people are allowed to grow and express their ideas (Brandt, 2003).
The final characteristic of a learning organization is that it represents an open, rather than a closed system (Brandt, 2003). Old paradigms viewed the school as existing in a closed system where tradition often determined school policy and the integration of new information. This type of environment created followers, rather than leaders. The new learning organization emphasizes the development of leadership potential in every individual within the system. Every member of the staff is seen as an important member of the learning team with valuable experience and input to share. This new paradigm is the basis for team leadership development in school systems.
Under older educational paradigms, the student was viewed as a recipient of the educational system. The new school model views the student as an important part of the learning team (McLeod, 2003). Under this new paradigm, diversity is revered, rather than discouraged. The diverse attitudes and views of the students are taken into consideration in curriculum development and teaching methods (McLeod, 2003).
Messages from popular culture have an impact on students and the way in which they learn. Pop culture has an impact on student achievement and attitudes. Students in today's schools are concerned about rap music, social injustice, and resistance (Gause, 2004). Including the students as part of the learning team means the development of a curriculum and methods that are relevant to the student population and that reflect their interests. They are much more likely to want to learn if the material is interesting and relevant to the world in which they live.
Team Teaching and School Effectiveness
Team teaching is the latest trend in curriculum development and cooperative education. Team teaching refers to a course that is taught by two or more teachers. In this model, both teachers take turns presenting the material and assisting with classroom duties (Leavitt, 2006). This teaching style forces teachers to come outside of their own walls and explore new methods of teaching material. They must interact with other members of the teaching staff. They cannot remain isolated inside of their classroom. This model of classroom learning encourages staff development through active sharing of ideas and techniques.
Team teaching places all members of the staff on an equal level and encourages the development of leadership skills among all staff members. They become active contributors to the evolution of teaching skills within the school system. Principals that encourage team teaching develop greater team cohesion and a sense of importance among staff members (Leavitt, 2006). Team teaching is an excellent way to encourage the development of leadership skills among staff members.
The concept of team teaching is not new and has been around sine the mid-1990s at the height of educational reform (Berenstein, 2006). However, in practice, team teaching is relatively new, as are many of the ideas expressed in research into school administration and the new leadership paradigm. Research is just beginning to appear regarding the effectiveness of these new educational approaches. Carpenter, Crawford, & Walden (2007) compared team teaching with solo teaching and found that there were no significant changes in student test scores between the two methods. However, this study did find that students were more comfortable with the team approach.
Several models of team teaching exist. The model references in the previous study involved the teaching of a single subject by one or more teachers. However, collaborative teaching has many forms. In some cases, it can mean integrating subject matter in courses so that there is consistency in the topics (Berenstein, 2006). It may mean the development of "themes" that help students to gain a whole, rather than wandering throughout their day to seemingly unrelated studies. The principal can play a key role in achieving integration between various academic subjects so that they flow together to create an integrated whole, rather than a series of disconnected pieces. This approach to curriculum will help students to develop a sense of how the information relates in a real-world setting.
Leadership and Empowerment
The effective school leader has an understanding of the overall vision of the school system. Teachers are often more focused on what happens in the classroom. It is a matter of perspective that must be reconciled if team leadership is to be achieved. The principal that wishes to enhance the leadership skills of other staff members must keep these differences in perspective at the forefront of structural changes within the school system. Research shows that the old style of authoritarian leadership is no longer an acceptable method of school administration. New leadership models encourage the development of a team model of leadership within the school.
This new approach of school administration means sharing leadership roles with many other members of the organization. Teachers and students are considered to be an integral part of the school leadership team. This means that the principal must be willing to listen to other opinions besides his or her own. They must be able to integrate information from others into the school vision and make it work as a whole entity with all of the parts connected so that they function as a unit moving towards a common goal. This is not always an easy task, yet school administrators must face this challenge on a daily basis to make the new team leadership approach to school administration work for everyone.
Stakeholders are always a concern in the introduction of new technology or innovation into the school system. Under a program called Participatory School Administration, Leadership, and Management (PSALM), various stakeholders participate in management of the school system (Gamage & San Antonio, 2006). Research found that allowing teachers and other stakeholders to participate in school administration resulted in higher satisfaction, motivation, morale, and self-esteem (Gamage & San Antonio, 2006). Participatory management gives teachers as sense of ownership in school performance (Gamage & San Antonio, 2006).
When discussion regarding administrative issues turns to stakeholders, it begins to sound more like a corporate boardroom than the traditional view of a school system. However, research has demonstrated that some of the principals that apply to effective corporations also apply to effective school systems (Beasley, 2008). Team approaches improve teacher retention by giving them a greater sense of job satisfaction, just as it does in the corporate world (Beasley, 2008). This allows schools to keep the brightest and best, allowing them to grow professionally for the long-term (Beasley, 2008). Teacher retention improves student outcomes by building relationships and a support system (Beasley, 2008). This new focus on the collective good, rather than on the individual is a part of a larger social change that is occurring within society (Moos & Huber, 2007).
How can Principals Create Greater Levels of Leadership in Their Schools?
The principal or other school administrator must be certain that the results of new leadership paradigms are quantifiable. Community involvement was and participate in school leadership improved test scores among primary schools in the United States (Anderson, 2008). Research into collaborative leadership in schools highlights the benefits of this type of learning and instructional environment. Collaborative leadership that includes every member of the school as a leader with skills to develop has positive outcomes that reach beyond the school walls and into the community. The importance of honing leadership skills in students and staff should be apparent by now. Recent research contains several unique perspectives on how school administrators can develop the type of cooperative leadership environment that this research project discusses. We now understand the history…