Upstream Thinking . . . Uniting the Right People

“So the first step, as in many upstream efforts, was to surround the problem — to recruit a multifaceted group of people and organizations united by a common aim”.

~Dan Heath

A multifaceted group of people united by a common aim.  That sounds like teacher collaboration. If we want to succeed in meeting the learning needs of each and every student, then we must take advantage of every possible avenue that will increase our likelihood of success.  Think of how much easier it will be to share this responsibility with other educators you work with every day.  Research clearly indicates that teachers must regularly and frequently meet to discuss instruction and understand how students learn.  

As mentioned in the Leader’s Corner, part of upstream thinking is using data for learning as opposed to using data for inspection. You likely spend a lot of time looking at your own data.  Based on your interpretation of the data, you make choices about what students have learned and how you’ll move forward with your instruction.  While this is important in day-to-day planning, there is an obvious benefit to having thought-partners in your data analysis. In Upstream, Heath lifts the primacy of data as being a theme that he observed repeatedly in his research.  “I knew data would be important for generating insights and measuring progress, but I didn’t anticipate that it would be the centerpiece of many upstream efforts” (p 88).  Discussing your students’ work and leveraging the expertise of your colleagues helps you arrive at sound data interpretations.  

There is much to gain from your colleagues about student learning if you intentionally share your experiences, collective knowledge, and insights.  Meaningful professional interactions focused on teaching and learning can significantly influence your own growth and the growth of each student. Maintaining focus on individual students, recognizing each by name and his/her strengths, helps to ensure that each student is seen. Teacher collaborative groups, organized by a common aim of improving student learning, demonstrates a collective approach where the expertise of peers is honored and valued.  This is collective teacher efficacy . . . a collective belief that together what you do can and will make a difference in student achievement. Collective teacher efficacy provides the greatest chance of student success. What is your next step in either implementing or strengthening teacher collaborative routines?  How will you ensure that your collaborative team is united by a common aim? How might you, as an upstream thinker, consider ways to move teacher collaboration into an online learning environment?

To deepen your understanding of these collaborative practices, consider participating in the online Teacher Collaborative Routines course.  The next course is scheduled to begin on November 18, 2020. Information and registration can be found by clicking on this link.

Heath, D. (2020). Upstream: The quest to solve problems before they happen. New York: Avid Reader Press.
Heath, D. Interview by Vicki Davis. “4 Ways to Go Upstream to Solve Problems.” 5 Mar. 2020.

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