Education leaders at all levels need to grapple with key issues and the tensions as they strive to meet learners’ needs, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We explore three of these topics in Education in the Balance: Tensions Affecting Education’s Futures: leadership focus, strained systems and contested power.
Facing extreme uncertainties and grappling with challenges that have no easy solutions may seem overwhelming. However, if leaders co-create spaces to explore these issues and the tensions that they raise with inclusive groups of stakeholders, they can find focus and can clarify how to influence the future of learning.
In a recent webinar, three KnowledgeWorks leaders – Jason Swanson, Robin Kanaan and Virgel Hammonds – focus on the role of leadership during this moment of tension. Having adapted quickly adapted to the pandemic, learning communities face a critical point of choice.
Will system leaders bring people together to reimagine education? Or will system leaders focus on returning to what used to be normal?
The conversation in this webinar focused both on moving forward and on not leaving good work behind.
How are you seeing this tension play out in learning communities?
KnowledgeWorks learning communities, Kanaan noted, were already poised to whether COVID-19’s systemic impact. The group talked about the need for, and success of, tapping into the collective genius of the community. The answers are often in the room and within our community, Hammonds said. “How do we become much more intentionally inclusive of, not just individuals, but those closest to our families, systems closest to our families?”
What do we want to preserve from the past and bring to the future of learning we want?
That should be top of mind in every conversation about education between now and when school resumes in the Fall, said Kannan. For instance, one piece that many educators are experiencing is a loss of opportunity to create deep relationships between students and teachers.
Kanaan shared an example from Goosecreek, South Carolina. At Westfield Elementary, the challenge this year has not been blended learning or mitigating learning gaps, but how to keep classroom culture going via hybrid and online learning. How do you “continue to build on that rich, deep, robust culture that the power of place kind of brought to the game?” Their culture of growth and collaboration needs to continue as they think about the future of learning. Top of mind for Hammonds was the need to listen to and learn from our communities to create more inclusive, intentional spaces with a shared vision.
How do we as leaders remove barriers to learning?
Many times policy is a barrier. We need to humanize education to demonstrate the power of personalized, competency-based learning to policymakers and redefine success and the metrics to measure it. “You have to imagine and believe the future can be different,” said Swanson. That vision needs to extend education stakeholders to engage the community. This point was reiterated by Kanaan as well as the need to develop strategies for implementing change. Change cannot be decided by one person. Through collective buy-in, a shared vision can be created and implemented.