Thursday, October 24, 2013

Systemness - Working and learning together

Yesterday I think I witnessed something new in my education career.

In the past I've participated in many educational 'launches and lunches': several curriculum reforms, two vocational education reframings, three education restructures, several ICT strategies and numerous learning/teaching/assessment professional learning programs.

In each case these generally involved meeting with leaders, practitioners and researchers in the area in focus.

Yesterday I saw all of the department's senior management meet in one place - Schools, Colleges, LINCs, CFCs, Skills Tasmania, GETI, Learning Services, Curriculum Services, Business Support Services, IT Services, Marketing Services, Legal Services, Policy and Planning, and more... You can do that in a small state.

'Learners First', the new DoE Strategic Plan 2014-2017 was launched by the Premier, the Minister for Education and the Secretary for Education.
But new to me was to hear the invitation to "work and learn together across the whole agency". No new big reform or restructure or framework (apart from a new funding model). Just the notion of a whole department coherently working and learning together - and in partnership with those outside the organisation who can help.

Working together and in partnerships isn't new to the department - there are many great examples as the following opening video demonstrated. But doing this in a coherent, focussed and systemic way using proven collaborative processes is now possible.

Michael Fullan (@MichaelFullan1) led several sessions talking about the success of open and transparent collaborative approaches involving integrated teams focussing on achieving agreed outcomes. He also outlined the success of New Pedagogy and Deep Learning programs in raising achievement in 21st century literacies including literacy and numeracy.

Geoff Masters (@GMastersACER), CEO of ACER spoke about effective partnerships. The Professional Learning Institute launched an extensive range of 2014 professional learning options for the whole agency.

The Secretary spoke about education for Tasmanians and Tasmania - a whole of agency approach that puts learners first.

In addition a whole of agency eStrategy (staff link only) is under development.

Our challenge then, is to coherently work and learn together as a whole agency focused on the 2014-2017 Learners First Strategy.

To me this sounds and feels different from the top down or bottom up reform agenda we have seen in Australia and overseas. Michael Fullan believes that as a system we now have the collective capacity to succeed in the systemic and sustained improvement of whatever we focus on.

He spoke of 'systemness' as the ability to identify with parts of the system beyond one's normal role. My challenge is to think about my participation within and beyond both the Marketing Team and my 'Digital Media and Engagement' role. And for that matter within and beyond the state...

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