In their book Innovation, Curtis Carlson and William Wilmot talk about the difficulty many organizations have with adapting to change.
They point out, “A fundamental reason for this failure…to keep up is that they are, by definition, built to fight the last war. . . . They have well-defined organizations and processes designed to achieve those earlier objectives, but these very organizations and processes now resist the changes needed to exploit the new opportunities.” (p. 36)
One of the important components for innovation that they define is the importance of collaborative teams working together on key problems. Collaboration is a skill we spend a lot of time talking about in education. We work on identifying collaborative opportunities both offline and online, learn how to design more collaborative lessons and develop rubrics to evaluate collaborative efforts of our students.
And more and more, we talk about the importance of professional learning communities in our schools and the powerful learning that can take place when teachers work together.
Yet, as Carlson and Wilmot illustrate in their book, are our “systems” aligned with the goal of teacher collaboration?
They share an anecdote about an attempt by a university dean to create a center for joint research. The center ultimately fails, because the professionals can’t seem to work together on a common problem. The authors point out:
“. . .The university was not aligned with his goal. The reward systems in his university, such as getting tenure and salary increases, recognized individual contributions, not team performance.”
As we ask teachers to work towards learning in professional communities, are we doing anything as a system to recognize or reward teachers for “team” work? Is there any compensation, professional evaluation or reward system related at all to group efforts? Certainly, the intrinsic rewards of learning are important, but what are ways we can support that sort of team effort systematically?
If we are expecting to change the way teachers work together, then how do we align our systems to support our goals for professional development?