Teachers as Project Managers
Creating Positive Teaching Environments and Accountability
It was the last week of the semester when another teacher asked me, "I have to create a new curriculum—can I talk to you about it?" She already knew that curriculum development was an important part of my postgraduate program. I was eager to help and share what I had learned. We moved to the big table in the main office because bigger tables lead to better ideas.
In the middle of our probing analyses about cognitive development and behavioral learning, another colleague entered the room. Having much more experience in the classroom and a great passion for teaching, she joined our roundtable discussion. Her practical understanding of the administrators' expectations and the school culture were very useful.
By the end of the one-hour meeting, the inquiring teacher was clearly excited to have so much feedback. She sprinted away to begin working on her new curriculum. And I walked away with a flashback.
Project Management in the Corporate Domain
Like many teachers, I worked several years in my professional field before becoming an educator. As a project manager, each week began with a spirited project managers' meeting. The accountability meetings were directed by an administrator or group leader who listened to the managers' progress reports. Sometimes making reports was like stepping through a ring of fire. Beginning, mid-level, and master project managers all participated. Sometimes the flames rushed into the middle of the ring when we challenged our management strategies. But by the end of each one-hour meeting, we all had important feedback for successfully completing our tasks.
Project Management for Teachers
In schools, small groups of teachers working on special projects may have meetings among themselves. However, administrators and group leaders may hold broader meetings that encourage every teacher to talk about curriculum development and the art of teaching. Like the roundtable discussion around the "big table," such meetings may be used to promote positive teaching and learning environments by spurring three kinds of reports: status, outlook, and challenge.
Status reports. With status reports, every teacher may explain how their classes are progressing. Some of the elements in the status report might consider the following:
- Assessing student performance
- Dealing with difficult students
- Encouraging innovation and creativity
- Managing difficult parents
- Increasing effective professional development
If beginning and mid-level teachers have classroom concerns, then they can seek direction from the master teachers. Subsequently, the status reports function as excellent ways to support new teachers.
Outlook reports. With outlook reports, teachers may share their future plans for resolving problems or creating positive learning environments. This report is important because teachers get to hone their problem-solving skills. Furthermore, future-focused administrators get to explain whether or not the problem-solving plans are consistent with the school's vision. Subsequently, the status reports function as excellent ways to build group accountability for school outcomes.
Challenge reports. The challenge report is crucial feedback. With challenge reports, every teacher has an opportunity to receive comments from their peers. Having necessary conversations about the art of teaching ensures that the worst ideas are scrapped and the best ideas are implemented. These reports are driven by questions like these:
- Has anyone ever successfully done that before?
- What research reports support your ideas?
- Where will you find enough materials and resources?
The skillful administrator or group leader will make sure that discussions are civil, focused, and useful.
Altogether, the three kinds of reports give teachers the opportunities to collaborate and work together on common education goals. The reports also promote correlated subjects and the development of interdependent learning experiences advocated by John Dewey. Furthermore, administrators have the means to evaluate and support beginners, mid-level, and master teachers. Ultimately, participants around the "big table" are encouraged to be accountable for their work, the work of their peers, and the success of the school.
Jon Patterson is a college lecturer and instructional designer in Chicago, Ill. He is an advocate for online learning and instructional practices that develop critical thinking skills.
ASCD Express, Vol. 7, No. 15. Copyright 2012 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.