From leader-as-hero to leader-as-host

Resurgence magazine (January/February 2011) recently featured an article by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze based on their new book Walk Out Walk On: A learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now. In this excerpt they make the point that the only way we are going to be able to find solutions to the many challenges we face is if we recognise that we are all in this together, rather than depending on an heroic leader. Because the issues we face are complex and interconnected there are no straight forward answers – and it’s certainly more than one individual can take on. The days of command and control are past because we now realise that we live within a complex system.
And this is where the idea of leader-as-host, as opposed to leader-as-hero, comes in. Such leaders are wise enough to know that they don’t have all the answers, but what they do know is that other people within the organisation, when invited, can be just as creative and committed – and that together they can get things moving. So not only do we need to be patient with our leaders but we also need to be prepared to step up.
The leader-as-host is someone who has realised that within a particular organisation or community there are people who have the skills, capacities, knowledge and insight to contribute. They also know people are more likely to support what they have had a part in creating, and so they create meaningful conversations – and a lot of other things – that bring together a range of different people.
‘Hosting leaders create substantive change by relying on everyone’s creativity, commitment and generosity. They learn from first-hand experience that these qualities are present in just about everyone and in every organisation. They extend sincere invitations, ask good questions and have the courage to support risk-taking and experimentation’
WHEATLEY, M. & FRIEZE, D. 2011. Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now Berrett-Koehler.

Learning Futures Collaborative Learning Event

Here’s what we hope to achieve in our collaborative learning event on March 8th.

You  bring a story of change from your Learning Futures work, with evidence of student learning and engagement. Your  story will be selected to re-present an aspect of the Learning Futures approach, ideally School as Basecamp or School as Learning Commons.  We are interested in YOUR learning about your students’ learning and engagement through these Learning Futures approaches.

You may use powerpoint, video or flip charts and please  bring some evidence from students work to ground it in the classroom.  Please let Vicki know if you need anything special.

Please see the sheet below for a summary of the four themes and the main findings from last year’s evaluation study which unpack these from the perspective of student experience. You can use these to help decide what story of change to bring.

As you  present your story and the evidence of student learning, your colleagues will  identify key themes or ideas or principles which they think are important to your story, and write these on ‘post its’ – blue for ideas which relate to school as learning commons, pink for school as basecamp and yellow for  anything else.  After each presentation we discuss these in groups of three and identify any additional ideas for the ‘post it’ pool.

At the end of the presentations, the whole group does  a fishbone exercise to organise and group the ideas which have been generated, and look for overarching themes. These  should then provide some material for discussions about quality in the Learning Futures approaches.

Learning Futures Approaches

Extended Learning Relationships: The 21st century heralds the possibility of a system redesign that can genuinely respond to the needs of learners and the demands for anytime/anywhere learning, collaborative and independent learning, and personalised learning.

Enquiry-Based Learning: Enquiry-based learning is a key component of the Learning Futures model. Its premise is that how students learn is as important as what they learn, because learning is a skill they can carry with them for their entire lives.

School as ‘Learning Commons’: During the first year of Learning Futures, students have begun using school as a ‘base camp’ for enquiries that take them into the community, thereby expanding their learning relationships. At the same time, the number of people with a shared interest in the life of the school is growing and relationships within school are becoming less hierarchical.

School as ‘Base Camp’: A genuine 21st century school should be a base camp rather than a single destination – a place where students meet to explore learning opportunities that take them into their communities, onto the web, and to local businesses and employers. It should also be a hub that creates connections with families, and with learning partners beyond school.

Research from Learning Futures 2009/10 uncovered the following learning design principles which map onto the four main approaches

A Language for learning: a rich language for learning through which we can talk about ourselves as learners and develop and own our own learning story.

Authenticity: the personal involvement of the learner in selecting a focus for their enquiry which has meaning and relevance to them in their lives beyond the classroom.

Active engagement: the production of discourse, products or performances that have relevance to learners beyond school and require more active engagement than simply repetition, retrieval of information and memorisation of facts or rules.

Enquiry: the co-construction of knowledge through disciplined enquiry which involves building on a prior knowledge base, striving for in-depth understanding and expressing findings through elaborated communication.

Coaching and Mentoring: learning relationships which are facilitative and empower the learner to take responsibility for their own learning over time.

Authentic assessment: both formative and summative which moves seamlessly between the personal and the public and is meaningful and real to the learner, their subject matter and their community.