Pat is at a mid-sized high performing suburban school, check out her quote on stakeholder involvement:
Alan is a principal at a large suburban school, listen to how he describes his role in service of stakeholders and how he frames resistance:
Having a like-minded thought partner at work is invaluable. Lisa feels fortunate that the other physics teacher helps push her practice:
Alan proactively gets in front of parental resistance by inviting them to participate in discussions and ask questions around school change:
When there is lack of support from stakeholders, the path of least resistance is to go with the status quo.
In our research, we learned about the complex ecosystem of stakeholders that can impact what an educator is able to do. Creating opportunities for students to learn more deeply is not a unilateral decision that an educator can make. We heard about the lack of students’ willingness to “go with” teachers’ unfamiliar approaches and the time it takes to build an environment in which they are willing. Teachers and principals, mostly at suburban schools, talked about high parental involvement and expectations. Deviation from the norm can be met with resistance and concern that non-traditional approaches may negatively impact their child’s potential college acceptance or scholarship. Some parents and students see high school strictly as a means to get a diploma and into college, where acceptance is based on writing skills, test scores, and GPA. We spoke with educators who said colleges aren’t explicitly looking for deeper learning competencies in their acceptance process, making the incentive unclear for teachers, students, and parents. The phrase “don’t mess with success” is something we heard from educators at high performing suburban schools when talking about stakeholders’ point of view and hesitancy to take risks. We also heard of instances where fellow teachers explicitly prevented an opportunity for deeper learning, based on concerns about efficiency or appearances.
Strategically involving and building authentic relationships with stakeholders can create support for deeper learning.
While speaking with teachers and principals, we learned about the significance of collaborating with stakeholders as well as strategies where educators have found success. Creating a culture and community within the classroom takes time and effort, however, once established it can make it easier for teachers to introduce opportunities that deepen learning. Teachers talked about the significance of being engaging and relatable. Getting to know your students as people, potentially through assignments, and letting them get to know you. Establishing meaningful relationships with community members provides an unparalleled level of authenticity for students, however, it requires significant support and effort. We spoke with a principal who developed a mini-cohort with progressive and like-minded teachers. He also strategically invited a group of various stakeholders, such as the superintendent and head of the teachers union, to a site visit of a school with a non-traditional approach. Another principal instituted a communication methodology to help bring parents into decision making and an understanding of school change.