Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority launched its third series of What Works last week at the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical Academy. The buzz from school leaders, teachers, students, government officials, and various other interested parties was now familiar. There is a core group of education professionals who know that this event is a knowledge exchange hub where student engagement and learning is at the heart of all discussions. So it was nice to see that it is now a tradition to have students helping educators find their way, managing breakout sessions, keeping everyone on time, and of course, showcasing their work to encourage others to promote student-centric learning opportunities in their schools.
The critical importance of this kind of launch is that it does set an expectation that helps school leaders extend their professional attention beyond the walls of their own individual school. This kind of knowledge sharing practice has been shown to be essential for successful 21st century school leadership:
“Sharing stories and examples can go beyond the boundaries of one school or system.”
– Michael Fullan & Maria Langworthy, 2001
In particular, the kind of knowledge sharing encouraged at the event reflects school effectiveness research findings that promoting the knowledge, skills & professional community of educators in schools enhances greater instructional quality and student achievement (Newmann, King, and Youngs, 2000).
There was an assortment of knowledge sharing sessions such as the workshop-style practical session on how to start a school self-evaluation. In this session, the senior school leadership from GEMS Modern Academy shared their approach on school self-evaluation with their colleagues from other schools who want to improve their own school practice. The session walked the participants through the same step by step approach that GEMS Modern Academy uses that helped them improve their school rating from a “Good” to an “Outstanding” rating in 2011.
When schools opt to make their own practices explicit for others, they gain a greater appreciation of the value of their own work and ensure that the tacit knowledge of individuals is transferred to an explicit usable form for others in their own organization. As they share with colleagues outside their organization, the benefit extends beyond their own walls and circumvents insularity of ideas and practices. Their learning is a byproduct of working on knowledge sharing endevours for others. In the case of Dubai What Works, the contribution is intended for the joint development of Dubai’s education sector.
The 2014 launch event introduced the promise of deeper sharing practices across schools in Dubai. The remaining events in the series that will focus on Mathematics, Literacy, Science and Arabic will further support this level of knowledge sharing.
But only time and the collaborative efforts from Dubai educators will help us understand the extent to which these efforts translate into school improvement – and subsequently, student success.