On November 4, Director of the Learning Resource Center Micki Mighdoll, Head of Middle School Colleen O’Boyle and I spent time with Alan Daly, Ph.D., department chair of Education Studies at UC San Diego and Amanda Datnow, education studies professor and associate dean of the Division of Social Sciences at UC San Diego. The meeting was inspirational and timely given the strategic initiatives at LJCDS.
A team at UC San Diego, led by Dr. Daly, examined the role of social networks and relationships in bringing effective educational reform. Their research on human networks of schools is proving to be extremely relevant in advancing school/learning communities.
The network theory (shown above) provides techniques for analyzing structure in interacting agents—in our case, the agents are our people. Imagine that the nodes (the dots) represent faculty and staff at a school. A line is drawn between two nodes if those people share ideas and insights with each other during their professional work. Notice that some nodes are disconnected; this represents individuals who work alone. The nodes that are very connected represent people who share ideas and provide mentorship through trusting relationships with many colleagues.
It is well-recognized that schools across the globe are continually enacting a series of changes to improve programs, policies and procedures. This “reform churn,” while intended to improve performance, often constrains efforts for organizational change and improvements in professional relationships. The book Social Network Theory and Educational Change, edited by Dr. Daly, makes a powerful statement that the success or failure of education reform ultimately is the result of “the relational ties that support or constrain the pace, depth, and direction of change.”
On October 18, the LJCDS Board of Trustees approved an initiative to create a Torrey 100 Plan—an actionable strategic plan—which focuses on developing a stronger community between students, faculty, staff, parents and local/global partners to enhance the developmental experiences of our students. Torrey 100 is in recognition of LJCDS’ 100th birthday in 2026. This plan will leverage our understanding of social networks to affect our influence, leadership, innovation and the generation of novel ideas. It will also focus on using space (our facilities) to shape the learning environment.
As part of our initiative to continually build community, lunch will be included in tuition for students in Grades 1-12 starting the 2017-2018 school year. We hope this decision is the first of many to create a stronger community among students, faculty, staff and our broader community. We are also investigating appropriate renovations to the Lower School to enhance the play areas and the connectedness of the learning spaces. On the longer horizon is the creation of a “commons” area in the center of campus that will include a cafeteria, bookstore and courtyard.
Our journey is guided by mapping out our school community’s social network, diagnosing features of the network that help or hinder individual or collaborative performance, and finding opportunities to exploit the potential of human networks. Our visit to UC San Diego was very timely.
Together, let’s build a remarkable learning community.