The children at our school will tell you that Kaizen means ‘continous incremental improvement’ a real mouthful but they’re right. A group of us (originally six schools in the North West of England) felt that this is how we should operate so we started the Kaizen Network. We have devoted ourselves to moving forward using this philosophy and staff and pupils fully embrace this.
As headteachers we felt our schools were expected to move at an increasingly accelerated rate – driven by government initiative after government initiative. Local authorities were not helping, setting target after target, weighing us down with more and more ‘must read’ paperwork, policies and hyperbole. Concerned about their own accountability and passing on that concern to schools.
We felt that continuous change – a process, not an event, as Michael Fullan stated- was the only way forward. We felt that small steps that allowed people to progress, almost without noticing, was the answer. Too much change can worry people, we wanted to ensure those who resist change were supported as well as those who embrace it. We also wanted to promote a culture where continuous improvement is accepted as the norm. We don’t stand still, we are constantly looking at ourselves, at our practice, how we teach and learn and looking to build on, and improve what we do.
We all wanted to create within our schools a culture of support and encouragement as opposed to the prevailing goverment imposed model of judgement and criticism. It was hard for staff to shake off the belief that we genuinely cared for their well being and professionalism in this new way – what was the catch? If we were visiting classes, collecting in plans and looking at children’s book how could it possibly be for any other reason than to judge and criticise? Listening, coaching, talking and supporting continue to be our aims but it has taken some time for staff to recognise the place of all this in school!
The network has grown over the last couple of years – we are working with three schools in Australia and another UK school in Birmingham. In tune with the Kaizen philosophy the network is growing one step at a time, all partner schools share common values and beliefs which makes working together much easier and much more fun. Pupil voice is strong in all our schools as is staff development through collaboration and the sharing of great ideas. Recent shared INSET days for staff have allowed us to look at curriculum design collaboratively, to share good practice and hear people such as Ralph Pirozzo and Lane Clarke, both of whom we were able to bring over from Australia by pooling funds. Staff are working together in smaller groups on parental engagement at the foundation stage, creative curriculum and teaching and learning. Pupil forums exist in each of our schools focussed on effective learning and use of web 2.0 technology. The children video conference, blog and meet face to face when possible to learn from each other. Their work is then shared with the wider school communities and has a positive impact on learning.
The Kaizen Network is a way for like minded schools to work together, to share ideas, discuss concerns and find solutions. It enables staff and children to collaborate, to support and advise each other to the mutual benefit of all involved.
The Teaching and Learning Group
Our research recently has featured on the qualities of an effective learner. The first three we’ve looked at are listed below. They are based on the work of Guy Claxton and Chris Quigley. Next term the children will be looking at Risk Taking and how this can help you become a better learner.
The resilient learner
- remains positive throughout
- stays involved with their learning
- sets targets and practises
- never gives up
The resourceful learner
- shows initiative
- is capable of learning in different ways
- asks good questions
- is prepared to take risks
- uses all available resources around them
The reflective learner
- shows curiosity
- is objective
- can see things from different perspectives
- learns from, and acts upon, experience
- thinks carefully about their learning