Open Way Culture

So many education reforms, although well intended, ultimately fail. Many reforms are overwhelmed by the institutional inertia of the status quo when educators do not first attend to establishing an enabling culture for the change to develop and flourish. There are cultural essentials that are necessary for Open Way Learning to take root and thrive. These essentials include a clear and concise mission and vision that elicit a sense of urgency and action by all members of a learning community; a shared leadership model that uses the collective autonomy and talent of the entire team to make better and more empathetic decisions for a school; a culture of radical collaboration that quickens the pace of incremental and step-change improvement; open sharing of resources and knowledge based on trust and transparency, where the best ideas float to the top, not based on title or rank, but on merit; and a culture of rapid prototyping through the design process to produce customized innovations that meet the specific needs of your students and the community you serve. Each of these is foundational to establish a true OWL culture, and cannot be ignored. But they are not beyond the reach of anyone who has the passion to positively disrupt the legacy inhibitors that either limit or undermine the type of powerful education every student needs.

How To Implement

Easy

Are teachers empowered to make collective decisions quickly in the best interests of the students?
A Helpful Resource

Easy

Are teachers creating a cohesive team where they are more willing to openly share their resources with each other?
A Helpful Resource

Easy

Do teachers regularly use resources from other teachers outside the school?
A Helpful Resource

Easy

Is experimentation, risk taking, and failing forward encouraged regularly?
A Helpful Resource

Medium

Is mutual trust omnipresent in the organization’s culture?
A Helpful Resource

Medium

Are inter-school rivalries kept in check so that teachers can freely collaborate with peers in the same district, network or region?
A Helpful Resource

Medium

Do teachers have sufficient time and structured activities that help them reflect on their practice?
A Helpful Resource

Medium

Are teaching practices oriented towards cultivating innovative, outside-the-box thinking in students?
A Helpful Resource

Hard

Are teachers and students free of undue pressure relative to high-stakes tests that leads to unhealthy competition?
A Helpful Resource

Hard

Have teachers shifted their focus from information dispensaries to learning guides who curate resources and validate student knowledge?
A Helpful Resource

Hard

Do teachers have time and space for co-planning and peer observations?
A Helpful Resource

Hard

Are teacher evaluations based on a wide variety of criteria so that tests aren’t seen as overly emphasized and collaboration is viewed as essential?
A Helpful Resource

The above links and the video tips below are examples from the resources used in the research and development of 'Open Up, Education!' They, along with the references cited in the book, are intended to be used with the following Discussion Tips to allow you and your peers to adapt the key elements of Open Way Learning to your own school's context. A more comprehensive listing of such resources can also be found in the Open Way Learning course on the Odigia online learning platform.

Discussion Starter Checklist

Video Tips

Other owl ingredients

Collaboration

Creating innovative teaching and learning environments requires an intense level of collaboration organized around a crystal clear shared vision. Radical collaboration that relies on a diverse set of perspectives and the collective creativity of the entire learning community - students and faculty - as they bring creative prototypes to bear on the often messy challenges we deal with in education. This also applies to modified governance frameworks where distributed leadership is highly encouraged by using teacher-powered schools frameworks.

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Free Knowledge

We learn more from each other and are able to respond to the needs of our learning community when information is open. The information age has changed the paradigm regarding the acquisition of knowledge. No longer dependent on formal institutions, today’s learner can easily find what she needs, when she needs it. Rather than fighting this current, educators need to learn to leverage it by shifting away from hoarding tendencies, shifting from being “teachers” to “learning guides,” and encouraging open, transparent sharing in their classrooms.

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Innovation

The challenges facing our world demand innovative thinkers that use creative problem solving to tackle messy problems. But the term “innovation” has been thrown around so much that it has lost its potency. Open Way Learning focuses on true innovation that thrives in an environment of radical collaboration and open, freely exchanged ideas. It is within this environment that educators and students are able to use the Design Process to develop continuous improvement mindsets that help them solve pressing problems in their schools.

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