The same trend that Vicente discusses in “Management Matters: Building Learning Organizations” very strongly reflects a current shift in teacher professional development. Instead of working in isolation and solving problems of pedagogy and curriculum on an individual basis, teachers are asked to work as collaborative teams around improving student learning. The purpose of this work is to learn together and to analyse the successes and failures of the students. “The goal is to find out what’s to blame, not who’s to blame” (Vicente, p.201).
Teacher growth towards current best practice can be a difficult process. Under the guise of accountability and the provision of of meaningful data, media outlets and certain academic think tanks provide school rankings based on standardized provincial data. Even though teachers know that there are many indicators of student performance that are more useful , the public nature of these results can impede a teacher’s willingness to grow and change. “Blaming and shaming aren’t irrelevant; they’re worse than irrelevant because they can contribute to errors. Looking for an individual to blame when something goes wrong, regardless of the conditions that person is working under, is tantamount to creating a gigantic “invisible hand” that’s ready at all times to point an accusing finger at anyone who makes a mistake” (Vicente, p. 215).
Learning communities are one way to address this issue. “Each team can be doing an excellent job of coordinating its internal activities and each individual within the team can be doing an outstanding job of performing the mental and physical tasks for which he or she is responsible, yet the organization as a whole can flounder miserably if the various teams pursue conflicting objectives” (Vicente, p.189). In a professional learning community, teachers recognize that they don’t individually have “all of the answers.” Student performance data is analysed by the team and collaborative decisions are made about developing common instruction and assessments. Individual teachers no longer fear the data, rather they use the data to inform future practice. “Fear isn’t an effective way to combat error. A punitive system only makes people try to cover up their mistakes, removing important opportunities for improving the health care system” (Vicente, p. 223).
Our students are each someone’s child. As a parent, the thought that your child is being disadvantaged by the class they have been placed in is unconscionable. “We all feel that if wrong has been done, those responsible must be held to account. From this perspective, the prosecution is clearly justifiable. In fact the argument is so compelling that there doesn’t seem to be any room for an alternative. What else can we do: let the culprits off scot-free”(Vicente, p.211)? By ensuring that poor performance can be a source of rich data for school improvement and by enabling teachers to collaborate about how best to address the learning needs of their students, “schools that are truly committed to the concept of learning for each student will stop subjecting struggling students to a haphazard education lottery” (DuFour, 2004, p. 6).