The 19th century industrial structures of education and learning still persist in our secondary schools; in the design of the curriculum, the way that students are grouped together, the learning environment created by the 1960s buildings, and the hierarchical and industrial power relations between staff. This situation is creating a crisis of engagement in school learning for many young people.
This paper explores how schools can rethink the way people work together. It seeks to inquire into and promote collaboration, the development of learning communities, critiquing the nature and power of distributive leadership and enhancing the organisational schooling features needed to promote innovation and engagement in learning.
The context for the development of these ideas is the Australian Science & Mathematics School (ASMS), a non-selective senior secondary (grade 10-12) school that specialises in interdisciplinary inquiry based learning in science and mathematics. The ASMS opened on the grounds of Flinders University, South Australia, in 2003 and operates in a purpose built facility that features an open and ICT rich learning environment (OECD 2011 ILE case study). Funded by the state government, this public school has a charter to transform science and mathematics education, and thus, has a professional learning services arm that is accessed by educators in the state, nation and internationally.
I take up the story in the ASMS's development 8 years in, at a time when the leadership team was endeavouring to articulate the decision making structure that had evolved during its development. The ideas from the distributed leadership literature had influenced the thinking of the team and they had developed a representation of the model that attempted to describe the way that staff worked together.