2015 | Focusing, taking action, change, & future focused innovation in clusters & networks

In 2014 I worked with three clusters made up of primary, secondary and early childhood leaders and teachers. I facilitated the cluster leaders through a process to rethink their cluster vision, goals and plans using the Spiral of Inquiry to guide us, plus a number of other frameworks and resources depending on the cluster context. We explored the terms "future focused education" (there is not one definition of this!) and "transformation" and we started to consider definitions for learner agency and whānau (family) agency. We used design thinking for innovation, poutama planning tools, resources for creating visions, and story mapping tools to seek other perspectives and input. We also used definitions of effective collaborative practice to check on the ways we behaved, communicated and did things. Learning Talk resources came in very handy.

The Spiral of Inquiry helped us to slow down, to "back up the truck" in some instances and review what we'd done and what we were doing. In relation to the Spiral, all three clusters remained predominantly in a Scanning and Focusing space at the cluster leadership level. They began to rethink roles, to include people other than principals and to consider a wider range of evidence and viewpoints about their learners' strengths and needs.

This year, those three clusters will be continuing to work with me to move through the Spiral of Inquiry as they continue to scan, while moving their focus to Learning and Taking Action and following up on hunches. All clusters have goals that are future focused, according to their definitions of that, and they all want to enable innovation.

Their focus this year will be to ensure that plans are coherent, manageable and that there are processes, clear roles and practices in place. They will also need to enable the checking of agreed practices, not just with teachers, but with all learners in their networks, including whānau (family), leaders and students. The work of Argyris and Schon will support us as we start to check that what we say we do is what we actually do - building the bridge from theory to practice.

As a facilitator, I will be working with over five clusters this year using similar frameworks and approaches. I will be creating case studies to share about some - a bit like what I wrote with Hereora last year. I am hoping to publish more stories online with more voices included.

I will also be looking to improve and add to my work with clusters by engaging with other educators on future focused education, innovation, change and ideation and Spirals of Inquiry.

Being future focused still involves thinking about what works and use of spirals of inquiry in my opinion. Claire Amos has said a lot to practitioners in this blogpost about what can drive change, how to focus on your own practices rather than pointing the finger or blame and developing growth mindsets, mindfulness and design thinking etc.

Innovation is more than ideation - ideation is the easiest part - testing, prototyping and failing forward are the hard parts. Matt Ives is a neat teacher who blogs his practice and thinking and embraces the messiness of design thinking - I hope to swap more notes with him this year as I continue to work with leaders on innovative ideas in clustering.

Early Childhood educators and leaders have been exposing me to a lot of thinking from the Te Whāriki curriculum and Guy Claxton's work that is all about looking at preparing learners for unknown futures, developing their resilience and focusing on the whole person. I can't wait to dig into this more in 2015.

Me facilitating an ideation session from McIntosh's book with the Hereora cluster leaders last year

Part of my role this year is as a team leader for the Future Focused Inquiries team and I am loving talking about professional practice with them (Togi, Suzi, Merryn and Rowan). We observe each other and provide feedback as we all scan our facilitation practice. Later next term we will come up with a joint practice goal to work on as we move into the Focusing phase of the Spiral of Inquiry. We are practising what we preach!!

I look forward to sharing on this blog, my experiences with the clusters I work with and my growth as a facilitator and mentor.

Shout out to the Hereora Cluster, the Porirua East Group and the Masterton Cluster for committing to another year with me to build strong future focused networks beyond their school and service gates through Spirals of Inquiry and Innovation processes - and who knows what else!!

Shout out also to clusters who started out with me this year, either for one session or the whole year: Parklands, Waimakariri Rural, Te Atatu South, Burnside and Upper Hutt. I look forward to joining dots between you all at some stage!