Essential Tools in the Trek Toward Change

Since its earliest years Essential Schools have used a professional development strategy they call the “Trek,” in which a core team of teachers from a school develops the skills and knowledge to further the whole school’s change process. But just what does that Essential school team need to know and be able to do if it is to succeed? California’s Bay Area CES Center, which requires a Trek as a condition of membership, offers the list for which they aim:

Essential School Ideas
Ten Common Principles
Eight Organizational Principles

Collecting, Analyzing, and Using Data
Collecting and using artifacts
Engaging in blameless critique
Using case studies
Determining causality
Generating descriptive statements
Collecting evidence from five important “domains” [see below] Understanding what constitutes evidence
Identifying the logic behind a school’s assumptions, priorities, and compromises
Generating problem statements
Examining student work
Using a T-chart
Using the “tuning protocol”

Group Process and Format
Decision-making strategies
Analyzing evidence from diverse perspectives
Generating and using feedback
Fishbowl debriefing
Making time for fun and games
Techniques for facilitating and documenting meetings
Setting and using norms
Problem definition and problem solving
Engaging in reflective dialogue
Using Socratic seminars
Team-building strategies
Processes for developing a vision
Using a “whip” format

Reflective Practice and Self-Assessment
Developing critical friend relationships
Documenting events, processes, and decisions
Setting up and conducting exhibitions
Using journals for reflection
Creating journey maps
Constructing narratives
Using educational research to reflect on practice
Creating, updating, and using a school portfolio

Five School Perspectives
Community building
Systems change

Five Domains of the School
Learning and student experience
Pedagogy and teacher experience
School organizational capacity
External supports or influences on the school
Student achievement data