Belief Systems.

Reflection and review is a key part of any modern school. At times, it seems that schools are in a constant state of self review. We are no different.

One area that is often reviewed is that of teacher positioning and attitudes. Increasingly this has included looking at the various personality types that exist within a staff room.

This is important as teachers operate in an increasingly collaborative world and so understanding hoe to form and function in a variety of professional teams is vital to the educational well being of a school.

As we came together last year we did look into our personality types as part of our staff development, we id this so that we could come to a greater self awareness about our own personalities but also gain a greater understanding of the varied personality types that we were working closely with.

We aso examined our expectations of ourselves and those we were working alongside. The results of this later exercise can be seen in the diagram below.

expectations final

 

Recently I thought it was an opportune time to revisit this concept in a slightly different guise. I was inspired by an article I read on the Edutopia web site written by  Elena Aguilar titled, “Teacher Collaboration:When Belief Systems Collide.”.

The entire article can be read here,

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/educational-beliefs-collide-teachers-elena-aguilar

I was keen to investigate and examine what drives us as teachers, what ideological, pedagogical motivation drives our desire to be an educator. In other words what is our individual and collective educational belief system.

I wanted to do this to see how we perceived ourselves and how we saw the drivers motivating those we worked with. I wanted to see what synergies were there, what similarities and also what differences. I wanted to get a picture of our pedagogical motivations.

 

 

 Belief Systems

In his book, Cognitive Coaching, Robert Garmston (with co-author Arthur Costa) identifies six predominant ideologies that influence educators’ decision-making:

  1. Religious Orthodoxy: This ideology aims to teach the habits and values that will lead to that religion’s realization of how life ought to be lived in accordance with that faith. Educators driven by religious orthodoxy strive to help students learn appropriate norms and morality and to conduct their lives according to these norms.
  2. Cognitive Process: Educators who are primarily aligned to this stance believe that the central role of schools is to help students learn to think, reason, and problem solve. Cognitive processors select instructional strategies that involve problem solving and inquiry.
  3. Self-Actualization: Those who believe in self-actualization believe that the purpose of teaching is to bring out the unique qualities, potentials, and creativity in each child. They value student choice and self-directed learning and are keen to provide for students’ unique and multiple needs, interests, and developmental tasks.
  4. Technologist: Technologists place strong emphasis on accountability, test scores, learning specific sub-skills, and measurable learning. They might be “driven by data,” and frequently use terms such as accountability, time on task, mastery, diagnosis, and prescription. This is an ideology which as been adopted by many policy-making bodies in recent decades and is associated with external assessments, high-stakes testing, and teacher performance.
  5. Academic Rationalism: Academic rationalists believe that knowledgeable adults have the wisdom and experience to know what’s best for students. They often deliver teacher-centered instruction, are drawn to the Classics, and use instructional strategies such as lectures, memorization, demonstration, and drill. They evaluate students through summative exams and content mastery.
  6. Social Reconstructionism: Social reconstructionists believe that the purpose of education is to help students become good citizens who can help take care of the world. They view learners as social beings who ought to be concerned with social, political, and environmental issues. They believe that education is an instrument of change and that schools are an institution charged with the responsibility of bringing about a better future and world.

I asked staff to rank these ideologies from 1 to 6 based on their personal drivers. 1 was their main driver 6 was the least important. This was not to say that they weren’t all important but i asked staff to make the hard call of actually providing a ranked list. This was not easy as most staff saw most, if not all, as important.

I then asked them to do the same for how they perceived the driving ideologies of their colleagues. Again ranked from 1 to 6 with 1 being the most important. Thirdly I asked them to complete the same exercise for how they saw me, the principal.

 

Let me be clear about one thing — it’s not “bad” for a staff to hold different ideological positions. In fact, it can benefit a school staff to hold diverse perspectives. It’s just that when we’re not clear about where we’re all coming from, or which beliefs are determining our decision-making, conflict can arise.

Results.

The collated results are reproduced below. The first column is the collated data for how the teaching staff saw themselves, this was self perception. The second column is the collated data for how the staff saw their colleagues. The third column is the collated data for how the staff saw the principal and the last column is my self assessment.

Self Staff Principal Principal self
Social reconstruction

1

3

3

3

Self Actualisation

2

2

1

1

Cognitive Process

3

1

2

2

Technologist

4

4

4

4

Academic Rationalism

5

5

5

5

Religious Orthodoxy

6

6

6

6

Explanation.

The results in the chart above are based on 21 returns. 19 could be used 2 were incorrectly completed.
The lower the number the higher it was ranked .

Conclusions.

There was a clear division across the board between the three that are at the top of the table and the three that are at the bottom of the table. In other words the first three are the three dominant shared beliefs.
The red highlighted results are the three with the lowest scores. In other words where there was the greatest agreement of importance and the green results the highest scores overall, in other words where there was the highest agreement at the other end of the scale.
The fourth column is my own personal reflection. You will see that staff see me as I see myself. There is complete alignment in how staff see which beliefs I hold important and the ones that I personally see as important. Like many of the staff I found the ranking of the first three quite difficult.
When the reflection on the staff’s own belief systems is collated you will see how close it is to how collectively they see the belief systems of their colleagues. As a group of individuals they do see their own adherence to Self Actualisation as being more important to how they see its importance to their colleagues and the inverse is true when it comes to Cognitive Process. Here you see staff adherence to this belief system as being of higher priority than their own.
It is important to emphasise that there is no right or wrongs in this listing but it is interesting to note the commonalities that are evident across all rankings. In general terms what staff see as important you see reflected in their colleagues and in the Principal.
The greatest numerical difference between the first two columns was in the self reflection for Cognitive Process and the total for how important staff as individuals saw this in their colleagues. The spread here was a total of 18. The closest alignment between these two columns was for Technologist where the gap was 0 and Academic Rationalisation and Religious Orthodoxy where there was a spread of 1.
I think I can safely can conclude that there have a shared set of belief systems. This does not mean that those ranked from 4 to 6 are not important to us at all. Ranking anything is always problematic but this exercise does give a good overall perspective.

How does this Effect Learner Outcomes?

To function effectively as a staff as we move forwards there has to be an understanding of what drives us as a group and as individuals. It is important to identify and recognise differences when and where they occur as well as identify what we have in common. It is important that we reflect how these personal drivers align to the school vision, in this case there is a very very strong correlation.

To meet the needs of our learners we have to be able to identify what we think is important to us as significant adults regarding educational beliefs. To help others we have to understand ourselves and our colleagues and this exercise is part of that self awareness and collective awareness process.

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