The Organization of Learning


This picture has nothing to do with the post, but I took it when I was hiking this summer in Switzerland and my head was really, really clear and uncluttered by my “to do” list. Maybe it is related!

According to Wikipedia, “high performance teams can be defined as a group of people with specific roles and complementary talents and skills, aligned with and committed to a common purpose, who consistently show high levels of collaboration and innovation, that produce superior results.”

With all the talk about disrupting class, innovation, and re-inventing structures for learning, I am fascinated by the conversation brewing around the organization of learning. I’m not talking about what happens inside the classroom. I’m talking about everything that surrounds it. We talk about ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning yet the days in most schools are subdivided into discrete, immovable parts that cause people to dash from one thing (class) to another (meeting).

Schools are really hard places to work because we can never tell if we “got it right” and are always in disagreement about what the final product should look like. Do they have similar conversations at Apple? Maybe. But one thing that I bet they have at Apple that we don’t have in schools is time.

I’ve never been to Apple, but I’m fairly confident of this fact; 90% of their best employees are not giving direct service to clients 70% of the time. Consider that. The average day school teacher provides direct service to his or her clients 70% of the time he or she is at work. (I took a nine hour day and divided it by three hours not scheduled with classes).

That is a very precious 30% left over. Three hours per day, fifteen hours per week to be committed to a common purpose and consistently show high levels of collaboration and innovation in order to produce superior results.

Here’s the kicker: Half of that 15% (some may argue more) must go towards preparation for that direct service to clients. That leaves 15%, or 90 minutes a day to achieve the goals of high performance.

Does the organization of learning know this? Has your learning organization ever assessed its learning architecture around this 15%? What does it do with it?

Consider the student experience, whereby (at the secondary level), a student interfaces with five or six service providers a day, none of whom communicate (usually), leaving the student with an amount of expectation and work that could be considered impossible in most work environments. How many people have five or six bosses? And how much time is there for the average student to meet these demands within the organization of learning?

I don’t know what to do about this dilemma. All I know is that I think about it a lot. And all I know is that the responsibility put on the educator to perform at high levels requires more time to assess practice and the organization of learning, not less.

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