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Moving school governance forward October 15, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in International education, New releases.
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David Watson wonders what boards can learn from the 21st century classroom. This is the first half of an article that first appeared in the autumn 2010 issue of International School (is) magazine.

Now that the 21st century has already completed its first decade, there seems to be less emphasis in the literature of international education upon situating the 20th century classroom in the newly emerging 21st century context; examining the skills and competencies needed by teaching professionals in the classrooms and corridors of the new millennium.

We hear a lot about the organic nature of schools, how all parts should reflect and inform each other so that the institution as a whole can progress and succeed on all levels. To what extent therefore might it be possible or even necessary for the values and practices of the international school classroom to inform the skill sets and procedures of other branches of the school; like, for example, the board of trustees?

The seasoned school Head will know by heart some version of the CEO’s mantra that ‘boards make policy; administrations implement policy’. Boards ought to have three roles: to select the head; to approve policy and to ensure that there are sufficient funds for the administration to carry out that policy. (In the United States there is a fourth: the near sacred role of fundraising, of course.)

In a sense therefore, established boards tend as a rule to be passive, working often in collective isolation, not often collaborating with others outside their circle (even in their committee work) and rarely meeting either formally or otherwise with board members from other schools.

In order to make decisions, board members need to be presented with data they can understand, with facts they can comprehend and with options they can select. They focus on the lower end of Bloom’s Taxonomy (knowledge, comprehension etc) and, rather than being outcome-based, are time-based, in the sense that members serve out their terms, sometimes largely regardless of their own individual performance, provided they attend the requisite number of meetings.

Indeed when the ‘p’ word is uttered at all in the context of school boards, it tends to be measured in terms of a either a ‘class average’ or an individual, informal rating, rather than by looking at what was actually achieved (or learned) by the board as a whole.

In the 21st century classroom things are very different. Teaching and evaluations are outcome-based. Learning (ie work) is active, not passive; students work collaboratively with peers and with others from around the world. Their learning, exercises and skills are concentrated on thesis, analysis and evaluation; that is to say the upper level of Bloom’s. Moreover their teachers guide them, based on what was learned, what the outcome was, rather than a subjective boil down of impressions.

Click here to visit the International School (is) ezine to read the rest of this article.

Dr David Watson is Director of The Deira International School in Dubai. He currently serves as treasurer to the Board of the Council of International Schools (CIS)

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