For us, IDEAS started with a need to change some of the ways the centre operated in order to improve student outcomes. This was a teacher directed concern. A need was also expressed by teachers that the centre needed to align better with what schools teach. A number of solutions arose to meet these needs, such as changing the way schools booked into the centre, and changing how programs were staffed so that teachers could spend more time with students before and after their Maroon programs.
It was very fortunate that staff had these pressing concerns because IDEAS was introduced as a way of dealing with these issues. Furthermore, the issues were teacher concerns, so the need to enter into a school renewal project was not driven by the administration. This was significant because teachers felt they would be working on something which was important to them and the school as a whole and, The administration saw the IDEAS project as a way for teachers to become more involved in broader school issues.
After completing the Diagnostic Inventory and collating the results of the written suggestions, a list of staff concerns was compiled. Many said they wanted to have a vision of what we were about before they could think about what we should do. This was a major step for us all as we now were led along the path of visioning. At this point the interesting thing was that no one knew what direction we should take. This seemed natural (though frustrating), and was viewed with some annoyance by some staff. In fact the whole adventure to date has been a learning process in terms of facilitation. Certainly the IDEAS Facilitation folder had some guidance, particularly in using the Researched Based Framework.
Leadership in the project took some getting used to. The facilitator's role, I believed, was to provide support, not to direct. The direction came from the group. The relationship between the teachers and administration was discussed, and it was resolved we would work in an atmosphere of trust and no blame, and as equal partners in the project. We are still getting better at being equal partners.
Talking about what Maroon could look like helped everyone to think about the things we do well and what we could do better, as well as what completely new things we could do. Although we talked a lot about improvements to the current situation, we had a lot of difficulty thinking about any major departures or innovations beyond what we already do. Even so, people were starting to think about an ideal Maroon, which led us to thinking about a vision.
We had done a lot of work on what we do well and how this fits into the total picture of a student's education when we developed our Showcase (2001) presentation. This was a whole staff effort. The presentation considered our best practices and related them to theory in outdoor education. This information helped in the writing of our pedagogy.
Teachers felt that at Maroon the depth of learning is different to what schools do (in terms of socialisation) because of the intensity (immersion) of what we offer.
We later did some reading on authentic pedagogy and productive pedagogies to bolster our understanding of best practice, and to see if our SWP encompassed the intent of productive pedagogies. Much of this was new to most teachers in the formats and terminology presented. However, after unpacking the language and meaning, we discovered that our teaching practice was indeed covering most of the field. This was a reassuring revelation.
Personal pedagogies were not something on which we had considered working, until I read the discussion pages. which described how some schools were using personal pedagogies to extend teachers' understanding of how their teaching related to the school wide pedagogy. It was inspirational stuff for me. We needed something to re-energise us towards thinking about IDEAS and pedagogy specifically.
It took some time to consider what a personal pedagogy may be, and more time to discuss how it may be written concisely. However, after a slow start we were able to make some useful contributions. Some teachers were able to write and discuss aspects of their personal pedagogy. A list was written of all the facets mentioned. This was distributed for further comments.
We started with a look at the Kingston experience, and their 9 principles of KEYS. Discussions centred around the SWP and what people had contributed to personal pedagogies. The professional dialogue and debate from the working party was inspirational. Each point on the notes was scrutinised and discussed in terms of the vision and whether it was a pedagogy statement or something else (eg curriculum). A draft SWP was written.
At Maroon I've found the facilitator's role is finely balanced between providing enough impetus to start processes without guiding them. Keeping the whole team informed along the way has also been a challenge. When viewed from a distance, our path thus far seems to have been logical, but from a facilitation point of view it has often been difficult to know where to go next.
The IDEAS folder is an excellent resource in helping to guide thinking, look at examples and understand current theories. In the true sense of facilitation it provides the framework and opportunities for progress, but not the actual path.
The path taken by individual schools is unique to each school. So it has been for Maroon.
Rob Lans, Facilitator and member of the IDEAS School Management Team.