DEVELOPMENT THROUGH PARTICIPATORY AND COOPERATIVE PROCESS. CONDITIONS OF THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
In the time of enormous challenges that contemporary societies face nowadays, the necessity of securing processes and conditions allowing permanent learning and development to all people in different situations and areas, is clear. In this paper I will describe the process of the development of the group of professionals involved in the systemic change in Polish education in the years 2009-2015. I plan to describe the theoretical framework implemented for successful cooperation within this group of 40 people with diverse background (school principals, teachers, teachers’ trainers, researchers, academics, doctorate students), as well as their reflections on that process. I will present recommendations that might be transferred to any adult learning situation, which, in turn, positively support desired processes.
In 2009 the introduction of the process of evaluation, as dialogical accountability mechanism for Polish educational organizations and source of the evidence for decision-making, had started. In the system that includes more than 30 000 of different organizations, about 25 000 of principals, 500 000 teachers, 2 000 of inspectors and thousands of local authorities the process of designing solutions, negotiating and communicating, preparing materials, training and monitoring was difficult and highly complex. It would not be possible to manage that whole effort without flexible professionals able to learn, work and change as a team. This group had to grow together with the project and be able to cooperate with different partners.
The new approach to school inspection caused a lot of confusion and misunderstandings concerning the evaluation process. The organizational cultures, mental models and values supported by people operating within the educational system did not support proposed changes focused on democratization of the inspection and on complex and broad educational standards. It was obvious that this task demanded very special approach of the team responsible for the success of the reform. While changing “thinking” about education and inspection the team had to question their own ideas and approaches to cooperation. Cooperation, which is perceived today as remedy to many problems, but is also understood as a difficult task to achieve. Cooperation, participation, responsibility for one’s own development, openness to different ideas, dialogue, creativity and innovation, critical thinking, all these skills are expected today from students, teachers, employees, team members and citizens. I try to explore the process, through which project staff has gone for several years, hoping that conclusions and recommendations will be useful in various contexts.
I will present conclusion arising from the results of the research carried out among members of the group who voluntary wrote the reflection essays about process of development they experienced and also on the results of the series of the group interviews conducted during obligatory meetings focused on reflection about them as the group working together.
It is quite visible that although the project did not radically change the educational and evaluation mental models, it strongly impacted people involved in it. In general, they decided that it was one of the most important professional experiences. It might be replicated to support the professional development initiatives, adult and life long learning.