Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Enabling Constraints

Enabling constraints - this is a term that has been appearing in conversations I've been having over the last few months. When others have used it I've nodded wisely and tried to contribute to the conversation. Like with a number of concepts, such as growth mindset or warm and demanding, it's not until you are within a situation that brings these concepts to the fore that you truly understand them.

At the end of last year, after prototyping 2 timetables, we decided on a timetable structure for our new context ( 2 and a bit year levels, expanding staff, closer to NCEA). I needed convincing that we had settled on the correct model but was won around and set about building a structure that would deliver it and allow us to function at the start of the next year.

One of the things I loved that despite being this modern school with lots of technology the best way to do it was with brown paper and stickies. I viewed it as a retro masterpiece. It also proved to be an effective tool for collaborating as well. Anyone who wanted to come and contribute had to come into the room and do it rather than from their space in an on-line format. This meant misconceptions could be talked through in front of this beautiful structure. As well it was easy to see the whole picture at once and to move things around. I did worry that leaving it at school over the holidays without any useable copy of it was a bit risky (a cleaner could have rolled it up and/or the stickies could have fallen off!)

Despite revelling in it's beauty all holidays I still had disquiet about some of it's features. Apart from my own disuiet I did worry how some of our pioneering staff would view it, though most took the opportunity to help build it.

When I shared my disquiet with my Leadership Team, DP, Di Cavallo, agreed, but also talked about the power of enabling constraints to foster creativity and innovation. That's when I understood it!

With a mich higher level of confidence I rolled the brown paper out at our TOD and spoke about the enabling constraints (without using those terms). Shortly after that we met with our LALs (Learning Area Leaders) and Di nailed the power of enabling constraints and set the LALs the challenge of achieving innovation and creativity within that framework.
The brown paper reveal!
Doesn't look too bad in digital form either

How have staff responded? I encourage you to read recent posts from two of our leaders Ros MacEachern and Steve Mouldey. We were warned by a Principal who had been involved in creating a new school that often it was the staff who were appointed first who resisted any changes to what was initially created because of a sense of pride and/or ownership. These two posts show that this does not seem to be the case in our environment. We've done a lot of work on growth mindset and I think that has shown its value.

I was blown away in the LAL meeting when Andrea (Science) immediately saw the potential of testing the boundaries of the constraints and checked if her creative proposal was a flyer. I sat back and relished the moment.

And to see staff in action taking the time made available to collaboratively plan and to determinedly find connections in areas they wouldn't have naturally expected has me in even more awe of them.

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