Management speak

Do we have a mission at ITI ? It seems as though the more permanent members of the team have individual missions that work well in proximity. Is there a name for that ? Is there a model for business that says it is ok as a company to be a group of mavericks following their own passions (which sometimes work synergistically, but often just work alone) ? Is it ok to be this organic and retrofit a model ? Is that our strength or our weakness (or could it be both)?

I read Stoll’s article on what makes a professional learning community as a tool to help think about whether a research group is doing collaborative research, but as a final aside the sender asked ‘Do you know of any other collaborative learning communities ? What about ITI, is there anything there ?’. I’ve also been reading extensively about management because of setting up the ELTM course and as a result lots of management concepts are at the forefront of my mind. Helping people think through practical problems of organisations (rather than learning steps in classrooms) makes you look at your own context from a slightly different perspective. Then also a Gaping Void cartoon dropped into my mail on the six components of a great corporate culture. Can a great corporate culture be a great learning culture ? It often feels as though teachers in general shudder slightly at the idea of corporate. Somehow while it is ok to pay for things in shops. you shouldn’t have to pay for learning, for knowledge, but I have always taught or trained for organisations that had to make money. It might not be the top priority, but if we don’t make money we won’t exist. Whoever does this (in the case of ITI trains teachers) has to make enough to heat buildings, to maintain web sites and to make it an attractive option for someone to keep spending their time trying to work for it and build it. If you learn as an organisation you grow and both of those things should bring in new people, new ideas and should bring more money so you can keep that cycle going. But it shouldn’t be the money or the growth (or the number of people) that drive it, but the learning. If that stays central, the other things will come. If we are curious, we change things and the change drives learning and that makes what we do better.  This morning’s cartoon, with it’s first box of mission (do we have one ? the other boxes of values / practice / people / narrative / place feel easier to address / explain – if they are all there do we need a mission ? Yet it is always put centrally in business writing) alongside reading about communities of professional practice and trying to relate the definitions and illustrations in the article to practice / narrative and place in ITI reminded me of Tom getting some of  us together recently and trying to encourage groups to generate metaphors for how we see ourselves. Once again, while there was a sense of an entity there was also a sense of very disparate images and intentions. Would we (ITI)  be strengthened by being more corporate ? Of having an overtly stated mission ? (am I in fact setting up my own ELTM assignment focus question ? and which specialism would that even come under ?).

In the communities of practice article there is a sub section headed time which oh so sensibly points out that people need time to meet and talk regularly or communities will not be communities (though it seems to feel a need for face to face interaction which as a member of several effective online communities I don’t see as a requirement). Time jumped out for me though. I’d love to spend more time on the research group project, but it is something that has a deadline only in the sense of knowing you will face the whole community again in a year’s time, though our project group does seem to be finally getting the hang of setting deadlines for getting steps towards an outcome. In ITI all of us have several projects on the go at any moment. People are likely to be in the office on days when there is specific face to face work to be done (and a lot of work for some courses is off site). For Delta the one time when we are likely to be on the premises at the same time is on the intensive Module Two, but an intensive Module Two is almost as intensive for the tutors as it is for the trainees (and this year because of space we will run the whole thing in a different space, so the delta tutors will see more of each other, but they won’t be mingling with the CELTA team). Making time is important – how to make time to develop a community of learning in all that. Like much else the reactive gets done and the proactive slowly ferments to the point where it has to be done or it too will become reactive (by being obviously wrong, neglected or out of date), but these are your own projects, not ones that that obviously contribute to the organisation as a whole. How does that fit with the mission ? The mission should make it clearer why things should be done (proactive and reactive) and that might make it easier to justify clearing time for things that otherwise seem as though they might wait while the urgent (but rarely the strategic) is done.

How can we learn as an organisation ? Or become a learning culture ? Everyone is individually curious and creative and nurturing pet projects (on larger or smaller scales). Is that enough ? The organisation is getting bigger in different ways (different strands like the theater school which seems to fit with the people teaching and learning what they love in a very practical and immediate way ethos, the Turkish classes are said to be communicative). Those of us in our own silos (maybe that is just me, maybe I spend too much time doing only Delta, but there are so many things I would like to do with it, elements to be added to courses to give more choice / more support, things to update and rewrite, pathways to be made clearer that I would admit I rarely look at other things going on. But on the odd occasions when we are together ideas often bounce productively across tutors and courses. Should we be made to come together (who ? how often ? and why ? what would the people involved and the organisation get out of it – unless it is win-win it could become a chore, unless it is new and visibly contributing to something it would be something to make excuses to avoid). It works to some extent in the research community (the newness, the contacts, the different perspectives and the potential of eventually creating something). The first time I attended that the fascination (although the enormous difficulties too) was in being asked to generate things together with such disparate others – not being told stuff by other people or being asked to create something fluffy but useless, but being expected to come up with a research focus and a plan. Could it work for ITI too ? Not that we have it working that well in the research group yet, but at least it feels potentially constructive.

If there is a mission (do we need to state one – could we just state a desire to be a learning community ?) to structure things to make things happen more systematically (perhaps more often) would that lead to more things happening or would it stifle the things that already do happen (in a less structured way).

Can we reap the benefits of being both corporate and organic ? As it works at the moment people develop new ideas or develop ideas for their own interest, some of which work for all or for others, but some of which just develop their own area. But then in non-educational companies departments have expertise and still need missions. HR need to know how they are contributing to the overall company vision, finance and sales should also be clear about this. As things stand one person running CELTA and one person running Delta with a vague working knowledge of what the other does balances just fine. The lack of a company mission in ITI might be why I get to do things largely as I think works best. Given how mercurial ITI is in elements of both form and function, how come there is still a strong sense of a core ?

I started writing that with the intention of exploring the difference between collaboration and cooperation because of what I had read in the Stoll article and the way it had connected ideas from ELTER and ITI. I guess I shall have to try and do that another time.


Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace & Thomas PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Journal of Educational Change (2006) 7:221–258


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