Leadership magazine May/June 2018 V47 No. 5 | Page 37

Startup models and schools
So , what do these models have to do with education ? Schools are the perfect place for this model , because customers ( students ) are sitting in the seats every day to test the product ( teaching ). This classroom environment allows for MVP testing , data collection , learning and pivoting . Every day is a dream setting for an entrepreneur .
At this point some educators may be thinking , “ Wait a second . We have been talking about analyzing data in education forever . What is the difference here besides some new trendy terms ?”
There are a lot of similarities between startup models and current educational organizational models , but there are also some differences . Sometimes these differences are subtle and contextual . The entrepreneurial context forces educators to reframe their thinking just enough to make radical change for students .
The pivot
The term pivot suggests a turning point . For me , the term pivot is most easily associated with basketball . It is a move where the holder of the basketball picks up one foot and turns on the other one . And in this case , we are not talking about a small movement . I am talking about a big 6-foot-10 Bill Russell pivot . I am talking about radical change .
And therein lies the difference . Most educational models analyze data and make small changes within the paradigm of everything already accepted within the educational context . Entrepreneurs evaluate information and make radical changes when necessary .
It is not only a small shift of instructional delivery , it is the opportunity to radically disrupt , change , move , rebuild the system , model , structure , etc . There are no limitations , it is about finding out what students are teaching us . What can we do to change to meet their needs , even if it means an entire shift in how we think about the product , service or the way we teach ?
We started our program with a period of the day that was a flexible blended learning period . I was really excited about this program . The idea was that students would be able to use the time to accomplish tasks from other classes and take some classes online .
When we treat students as customers , we create a process that values them
and their desired outcomes .
Early on , the data showed that it wasn ’ t working and that it didn ’ t really fit into the rest of our program . We scrapped the period and went back to the drawing board to find something that really met our student needs . The data we collected from the failed experiment gave us a new direction to explore . Eventually , we developed an advisory period for student business teams .
Successful entrepreneurs spend a lot of time ideating or brainstorming . They look at problems and think through multiple potential solutions . They don ’ t just go with the first , most obvious answer .
Sometimes as educators , when we identify a problem , we automatically go to a tried and true solution . Ideating and pivoting based on data can allow us to see different solutions and to test them out . There are so many tools at our disposal . An issue with a traditional solution around instruction might have an alternative solution through scheduling , arrived at through the ideation process .
Teachers as entrepreneurs
Our teachers were tentative to adopt the change mentality . It took a while to earn their trust and help them believe that we really wanted to see something different when we came to their classroom . And that failure was OK , as long as we learned from it .
We had to get them away from questions like , “ Is this OK ?” and shift to explanations like , “ I am doing it this way to see how students will respond and based on their reaction I am going to make changes .” Administrators have to be open to experimentation . If teachers do not believe they will be supported in innovation , they will stick to what they know .
Over time , we began to see a stronger investment from our staff . They identified with their part in the process and they owned it . Fear turned to tentative expectation and finally to great anticipation . Our coaching changed from questions about what they were learning from their action to reacting to teacher suggestions . We didn ’ t have to draw the process out of teachers any more . Administrators became mere sounding boards for teacher ideas . And those ideas were inspired and supported by real process data .
Radical change is possible . We can pivot . We just need to get over the fear of failure and empower teachers in the process . We need to try new things every day . How we deliver content , how we schedule classes , how we group students , how we define teachers , how we do everything .
Students as customers
Look at the shifts in business over the last 50 years and compare them to the changes in schools over the same time period . The contrast of innovation and change in the business industry to the maintained status quo in education is mind-boggling . We could talk about political , economic and historic reasons for the educational stagnation , but one major difference is that entrepreneurs are bound to a market .
Lack of change can lead any company to extinction . American education has never had the pressures or need for such change because it is compulsory . Our customers show up every day . We clock in , we do our work , and we get paid . But if we start to see our students as customers and become customer-service oriented in our delivery , we can see a difference in the way they respond .
When we treat students as customers , we create a process that values them and their desired outcomes . They become the actors in their education and our job as educators is to deliver the best possible educational experience . In this context , we treat the student with great respect , seeking their feedback on the experience they are receiving .
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