First and Second Order Change from the Balcony

After working on setting up my goals for the year with me, my superintendent forwarded this article to me about First and Second Order Change. And as it seems to often happen, the learning you need always falls in your lap: it gave a “first degree” strategy to frame my thinking about next steps I’ve been trying to wrap my head around with so much of the work I’ve been involved with in my district. This ties in with the SAMR model I’m using with staff to help frame our thinking and discussions as we move into our 1:1 that technology is a tool and that it’s purpose is to improve learning.

The idea of first and second degree change also fits well with the Hattie Visible thinking PD I went to earlier in the summer. The idea of certain actions/strategies that we implement in class to improve student learning is a very powerful one when presented with data that the highest “effect size” strategy might be to have students summarize. Hattie’s work on visible thinking starts me “thinking” what does that really mean for the students, what will “matter most” in our district, and how will we work to utilize this information to improve their learning. Hattie’s work gives me tools to start formulating answers to those questions.

Adaptive Schools training was something we initiated with our elementary school this year too. This made a huge difference for the way I facilitated meetings because it gave me a variety of ways to facilitate difficult conversations. The goal of AS training is to “take participants beyond the idea of professional learning communities to the actual implementation, describing specific ways to weave the collaborative fabric of a faculty, develop group member skills, and acquire the principles and understandings to engage in a continuous cycle of team and individual improvement.”

These all tie to the idea of second order change. Alone, each of the “initiatives” above is a first order change that has tremendous potential to improve our school community. Although this seems obvious, it’s the big picture (or what Heifetz called the Balcony View) which needs to constantly be applied overtly to the whole of our district work. I think the phrase that resonated most for me was : “when educators are provided a safe and inspiring process and commit to aligning beliefs and instructional practices with the direction of reform efforts, classroom teaching and learning achieve success.”

As we move forward in the upcoming years, the tools are there for us, but without sharing the big picture and the creation of the big picture consistently with everyone, the work will not move forward in the way we need it to.


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