My colleague, Dr. Maurice Elias authored a recent blog titled The Power of Collective Wisdom (link: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/power-collective-wisdom-maurice-elias). He discusses successful strategies to effectively implement education programs in high-risk environments.
According to Elias, “We increase our chances of success by tapping collective wisdom. That refers to the wisdom of our own school community, of other implementers of the same program, and of the wider implementation world.”
“Collective wisdom—referred to by such names as professional learning communities (PLCs), communities of practice, and networked improvement communities—allows each of us to benefit from the experience of many of us. Success is in the ongoing process, in being able to adjust to the inevitable and numerous deviations from the plan that will befall any school-based intervention attempt, even with the best evidence-based program,” continues Elilas.
I believe that engaging others in our implementation strategies is a critical element to deepen and broaden an education program and corresponding practices. However from my experiences there are inherent challenges to creating and sustaining effective collective wisdom communities in schools.
First, schools are not consistently organized to support school wide collaboration often structured on grade level and/or academic subject partnerships.
Second, teachers, staff and administrators are not always aware of the range of attributes of their colleagues and thus less able to maximize their contributions to collaborative strategies.
Third, schools may not create and sustain a safe environment for teachers, staff and administrators to share their experiences, ideas, strategies and resources.
Fourth, as we focus on the wisdom of our school community we do not always consider students, parents and community partners as potential members of our communities of practice.
Overcoming these challenges is not impossible as evidenced by the increasing number of schools committed to and trained for sustaining professional learning communities. I believe schools can make creating and sustaining collective wisdom networks a priority if they:
- Focus on all school constituents;
- Ensure each is supported to contribute to the network;
- Understand the many attributes of colleagues and constituents and maximize their diverse knowledge, skills and dispositions;
- Measure and improve the school’s climate (quality and character) to provide a safe, equitable and engaging environment for each member of the network to effectively contribute; and
- Frequently monitor the progress and success of the network to continuously improve each participant’s attributes and the positive impact on students.
Maximizing the collective wisdom in schools can and should become a normal part of engagement, implementation and sustainability strategies ensuring each member of the school community contributes and benefits from these formal networks.