I will never forget the words, “Stop talking about it and do it,” coming from my supervisor and long-time mentor Dr. Doug Buchanan, about plans I was making to improve the school where I served as principal. I liked talking about things, and talking about them is much easier than making them happen!
Over the past three years, Urbandale has been in the mode of “preparing the soil” for the transformation of our district. Moving from an education model that has been in place for 150 years to a new one that is intended to prepare students for their future and not our past, requires a great deal of learning. Consequently, while learning has occurred, implementation of the new ideas (quality/continual improvement) has been, by design, voluntary and random.
Now, into our fourth year we are beginning to “do something” in a systematic manner across the entire district. Our team of high-quality teachers, with the appropriate support, are moving forward to transform their “learning systems,” (classrooms) with goals of increasing student engagement, developing lifelong learning skills, and raising levels of student learning.
Transformation of our system begins with an eight-step process. While there is still a great deal of latitude for teachers, there are common elements that should be evident in every classroom. Click here to view a PDF of our eight-step process.
These steps are not meant to be an “event.” Our intent is for these steps to serve as a foundation for learning in classrooms to which students and teachers refer on a regular and ongoing basis. A constant focus on learning goals and the PDSA process provides greater focus for students and teachers regarding “what’s most important” in the classroom.
As I look back (way back) to my time as a student, I don’t recall ever knowing exactly what I was supposed to be learning either short or long term, how I was doing (until the end of the quarter), or being provided an opportunity to be involved in improving how the classroom functioned so I had better learning results. It is our intent in Urbandale to provide greater opportunities for student engagement and give students the information necessary about their own performance so that they can help determine how to best reach their learning goals.
Gaining greater ownership of the learning process also means greater responsibility for students. This type of learning system, in addition to improving student learning, is meant to empower students and help them to practice and understand the value and importance of responsibility. Supporting our students to be “response-able” will help them to become people who will have the knowledge, skills, and tools to improve any situation in which they may find themselves. Continual improvement, in the classroom and in life, is a journey…not a destination.