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The Learning Organization

One text that leaders of all organizations should consider consulting is Peter Senge's (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization. This text is heavy reading; I found myself going back and forth rereading sections and piecing together its meaning. One thing that struck me was Senge's assertion that organizations cannot become learning organizations until schools change: "Learning organizations are possible because deep down, we are all learners" (Senge, 1990, p. 4).

While the whole text is applicable to the work we do in schools, Senge has one section devoted to education, with the subheading "Education for the 21st Century," that is particularly relevant. In this section he calls for learner-centered schools. We use this term and others such as "studentcentered," "personalized learning," "student collaboration," "projectbased learning" or "learning environments" to describe a way of teaching focused on each learner's needs and strengths. Senge's book highlights its importance—if people don't acquire the skills in school to become lifelong learners, other institutions will suffer.

Michael Fullan's "New Pedagogies for Deep Learning" initiative coincides with the concepts in The Fifth Discipline. "Deep learning" is all about changing the way our education systems operate so that children can become active learners with global competencies who understand the world as a system. The job of the school is to cultivate that curiosity, collaboration and problem solving. What better sector to lead the way as a learning organization than our schools?

Current teacher evaluation systems are dead. The individualistic, observational evaluations never worked anyway. Educational leaders should demand of policymakers that the work teachers and principals do to increase student achievement turns into the new evaluation, leveraging the power of collective efficacy and increasing student achievement.

Good formative assessments are developed by teacher teams. Good feedback for teachers comes from being a part of a learning community. To create success, leaders must put in place systematic structures to encourage those behaviors and get rid of structures that discourage those behaviors.

However, what if we could develop a system that evaluates learning organization and professional learning community principles as broad constructs to engage teachers in an unprecedented era of professionalism?

 
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