Senge's Fifth Discipline: A Model For School Leadership

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Senge's Fifth Discipline:A Model for School LeadershipDonna B. Feldman, Ph.D. Cleveland Heights High School and Lakeland Community CollegeThe field of education routinely adoptssystems developed and used in otherprofessions. The practice of instructionalrounds comes from physicians. The use ofconsultancies and issues of accountability hails fromcorporate practices. Specific, unbending directivesfrom a central office mimic a monarchy or dictatorship.Often these professional habits involve strategies forpolicing teachers rather than suggestions for specificgrowth as an organization. The theory of institutionalgrowth as outlined in Senge's The Fifth Discipline:The Art and Practice of the Learning Organizationwould be far more beneficial for schools to adoptthan most other routines and procedures taken fromother professionals. That schools are not growinginstitutions is counterintuitive.Senge defines a growing institution as one that "iscontinually expanding its capacity to create its future"(Senge 2006, 14). To achieve this goal, he identifiesfive components or disciplines that must be followed;if all are not followed, the depth of learning will becompromised. If the five disciplines are followed asintended and not in isolation, the potential for schoolimprovement is great, and teachers will become moreengaged in helping create a successful environmentfor students and themselves to learn.Systems ThinkingThe first discipline, systems thinking, is the conceptualframework for an organization. It is the disciplinethat consists of the interrelatedness of the various55 ביטאון מכון מופ"ת 8 2013 מרס 8 50 גיליון The model of Peter Senge'sThe Fifth Discipline: The Artand Practice of the Learning Organization has successfullybeen used in the transformationof corporations into l earningorganizations. This article outlineshow his model of leadershipapplies to schools a nd definesthe obstacles which impede itsimplementation in education.

בימתדיון Personal MasteryThe concept of mastery is well-applied to education(Wong & Wong, 1998). Less so is the concept ofpersonal mastery. This discipline entails a "speciallevel of proficiency" (Senge, 2006, p. 7). It is thefocus of our efforts and the ability to see in anobjective manner, our sense of commitment, andthe deepening of our personal vision. Like otherprofessions, teaching requires the attainment ofcontinuing education units for renewed licensure.Mandatory professional development, while designedto improve school success, is not personal mastery;personal mastery is intrinsic and stems from a concretepersonal vision. Attaining personal mastery involvedcontinually focusing and refocusing on what is wantedand, once attained, permits a greater connection tothe world.A school will not become a learning organization ifemployees do not learn; however, individual learningautomatically does not necessarily produce a learningorganization (Senge 2006). Unlike other reforms orprograms imposed from outside sources, the basisfor Senge's model requires "ongoing bodies of studyand practice that people adopt as individuals andgroups" (Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith,Durtton, & Kleiner, 2000).Mental ModelsThe generalizations we make and the pictures orimages we form in our minds are our mental models,Senge's third discipline. Mental models increasepersonal awareness, influence what we see and howwe act (Senge, 2006) This discipline includes thesharing of our thinking with others effectively andhaving our thinking open to the influence of others.Working with mental models develops the skills ofreflection and inquiry. An end product of mentalmodels is the challenge of previous thinking, whichpaves the way for an examination of assumptionsand generalizations about organizational practices.In education, implementing this discipline requiresparts of the organization. The various departmentsand divisions of organizations are interdependent onone another and approached as such (Senge 2006).In schools, it is the realization that the first person astudent sees that day, whether a bus driver, secretary,or classroom teacher, makes an impact on her. Everyperson with whom the student interacts is a part ofthe system. This discipline is composed of and is aresult of the other four disciplines.Senge lists several "laws" for systems thinking. Whileall are important, it is perhaps the violation of his lastlaw that most undermines growth in schools – "thereis no blame" (Senge, 2006, p. 67). In true systemsthinking, all stakeholders are a part of a single systemand "there is no separate ‘other'" (p. 67). In practice, thesituation is far different. When explaining low studentproficiencies, college and university educators tendto blame high school teachers; high school teacherstend to blame their counterparts in middle school,and middle school teachers shift the blame to tendto blame elementary faculty, and most all educatorsblame the parents (Feldman, 2012). The reality ofeducation is that most faculty members, regardless ofgrade level taught, sees "other" and targets "other" forblame. Senge sees the relationships being the "cure"in creating and maintaining a learning organization.With relationships come dialogue and discussion anda start to systems thinking. Effective school leadershipshould foster and develop the needed dialogue anddiscussions needed for change.Dialogue and discussion require time. Time is also anobstacle in the development of relationships amongeducators. Teaching in itself is a time-consumingendeavor as teachers have lessons to plan, papers tograde, and mandatory professional development forlicensure. A systematic solution is to embed timefor teachers to meet and the skills where neededto create meaningful professional relationships. Byrespecting subordinates' time, school leaders showthey value and trust their faculty and staff.50 גיליון 8 2013 מרס 8 ביטאון מכון מופ"ת 56

Team learning requires proficiency in dialogue anddiscussion which can be complementary.The engagement of dialogue involves becoming awareof one's own assumptions, sharing one's assumptionswith other, and inviting others to inquire about one'sthoughts and beliefs. When dialogue happens, peoplelearn to think together (Senge, Cambron-McCabe,Lucas, Smith, Dutton, & Kleiner. 2000). Senge seesdialogue as causing exploration of complex issuesas members listen to one another while questioningtheir own views. The purpose of dialogue is to extendunderstanding. Discussion involves the presentationand defense of different views with the goal ofsupport for the best decision at hand. Unless teamslearn, there will be minimal or no growth in theorganization. Whereas the purpose of dialogue isnot to form a conclusion, the goal of discussion isto identify one. Discussion involves the presentationand defense of the different views espoused by thelearning team members with the goal of creatinga new view or opinion (Senge 2006). Productivediscussions result in a conclusion or course of action.True team learning fluctuates between the use ofboth dialogue and discussion.Schools currently have a vehicle for team learning,the professional learning community (PLC). Theliterature on PLCs indicates a wide variance ofinterpretation and implementation. Of the variousPLC models developed, Hord and Sommers' (2008) ismost logical to use when implementing Senge's fivedisciplines. Hord and Sommers defines five attributesof an effective PLC: (a) shared beliefs, values, andvisions; (b) shared and supportive leadership; (c)collective learning and its application; (d) supportiveconditions; and (e) shared personal practice (Hord,2008). The role of the educational leader is to a partof the creating of the vision, but she also shares thevision with other stakeholders. PLCs are dependenton whole school professional learning, involvement,and collaboration. Hord and Sommers acknowledgethat trust is a key part of PLCs and sees trust as agoal that requires substantial time and activities. A57 ביטאון מכון מופ"ת 8 2013 מרס 8 50 גיליון the creating of new definition of leadership andorganizational structure in terms of decision-making(Isaacson & Baumberg, 1992).Shared VisionPersonal mastery and the sharing of mental models arethe basis for creating a shared vision. Shared visionincludes the shared and collective goals, values, andmissions that characterize an organization. To trulyshare a vision, visions of the future are unearthed togain greater commitment and are not merely goals oroutcomes written and displayed in a hallway or office.It is evident in both the sharing of personal visionsand the physical space of the learning organization.Deriving a shared vision promotes trust from coworkersand creates a common identity. The key to successfulshared visions is communication. Shared visions arespread through enrollment or commitment ratherthan compliance. Employees who are enrolledor committed personally want the shared vision,whereas compliance is simply the acceptance ofanother's vision (Senge, 2006). Educational leaderscan move toward enrollment by inviting teachers tobe involved in the creation of the school's vision.When administrators create the vision in isolation,it will be merely tolerated by most staff.Team LearningIn any organization, be it a sports team, business,or school, the "intelligence of the team exceeds theintelligence of the individuals on the team" (Senge,2006, p. 9). This discipline begins with dialogue anda suspension of assumptions to permit the discoveryof insights through the free flow of ideas. A team isfar more than just a group of people who happen towork for the same company or in the same department.To be a learning team, members must have a sharedvision, comparable purpose, and complement another'sefforts. Team learning "is a process of aligning anddeveloping the capacity of a team to create theresults its members truly desire" (Senge, 2006, p.218) and building on personal mastery and vision.

בימתדיון collaboration, and becoming more of a team player thana coach. Integrating the five disciplines would makethis position less onerous, improve staff enrollmentinto the goals of the school, and ultimately improvestudent growth.Yet this does not happen. The actions of the schoolleadership impede the institution from learning andgrowing. The administrators' chief offenses? Squelchingdisagreement and laying blame (Senge, 2006).Senge's disciplines are dependent on trust. Whenideas are squelched and blames if laid, trust cannotbe maintained or developed. Historically little trustexists between stakeholders in education – teachers,parents, administration, and local business officials(Senger, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith, Durtton,& Kleiner, 2000). Rather than work in opposingdirections, mutual trust and respect are critical inorder for stakeholders to learn and support eachother. Without trust and respect toward staff, schoolofficials look to outside sources for solutions ratherthan relying on those who have expert knowledgeof the problem – the teachers. Bringing in outside"help" assumes that faculty is not able to find asolution and removes the opportunity for faculty tolearn and grow. School leadership seems so focusedon finding outside solutions that they often overlookthe obvious; if educational consultants and vendorswere consistently successful, the number of failingdistricts would be reduced. The use of funding forpurchasing products and services could better bechanneled to direct services for students such ascounseling, physical education, art, music, anddeveloping connections to parents and community(Senge et al.).An organization with mutual trust and respectnegates placing blame. When a school is a learningorganization, leadership trusts staff, and staff trustsleadership. Decisions are not made in a top-downmanner, but rather with collaboration. Even underthe best of circumstances, the best of educationalleaders are not extensively in the classroom andknow students or course content as well as teachers.role for building leadership is to provide the timeand activities needed for successful PLCs.Learning Disabilities of an OrganizationFor each of the five disciplines that make organizationsgrow, there are an equal number of counter forcesat work in schools that effective leadership couldminimize or eradicate. Senge (2006) refers to thepractices that impede systems thinking as a learningdisability and lists seven of them. These disabilities arenot germane to schools but apply to all organizations.The first disability is the tendency of people to obtaintheir identities from their employment position. Thistendency impedes the vision of the overall purpose ofthe organization. Being tied to an identity producesthe second disability of finding an external personor organization to blame. Just as outside forces tendto be blamed so too do we tend to practice the thirddiscipline as we eek the solution from another and,fourth, focus on an event rather than the processthat causes the events. The fifth disability, Sengerefers to as "The Parable of the Frog" (2006, p. 22).As people become used to a situation, they becomemore complacent just as the frog in this parable. Thesixth disability addresses our experiences. Havingprior experiences in an area does not help whenactions needed stem beyond what we know. Thelast disability is the normal practice of incompetentmanagement teams, a term that is poor commentaryon many school leaders.Learning Disabilities in School OrganizationThe reliance on top-down administration demonstratesthe most common learning disability exhibited bymany educational leaders. The traditional role ofthe principal is to provide "guidance, support, andencouragement to staff" (Marczely 2001, p. 225).Their jobs also entail hiring and evaluating personnel,sustaining and improving the building appearance,supervising instruction, maintaining business record,handing public relations, and developing professionaldevelopment. Applying Senge's disciplines to schoolswould involve principals redefining their positionto one of creating the environment and time for50 גיליון 8 2013 מרס 8 ביטאון מכון מופ"ת 58

ReferencesFeldman, D. (2012, July). Fixing the past: Remediatingat-risk writers. Paper session at the Israel. Forumfor Academic Writing (Institute of Research,Curriculum, and Program Development for TeacherEducation), Tel Aviv, Israel.Hord, S. M. & Sommers, W. A. (2008). Leadingprofessional learning communities: Voice sfromresearch and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA:Corwin Press.Marczeley, B. (2001). Supervision in education: Adifferentiated approach with legal perspectives.Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers.Senge, P. (2012). Creating the schools of the future:Education for a sustainable society. Leader toLeader, 65, 44-49.Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline: The artand practice of the learning organization. NewYork, NY: Currency Doubleday.Senge, P., Cambron, N., Lucas, T., Smith, B., Dutton,J., & Kleiner, A. (2000). Schools that learn: Afifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents,and everyone who cares about education. NewYork, NY: Doubleday.Wong, H. K. & Wong, R. T. (1998). How to be aneffective teacher: The first days of school. MountainView, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.59 ביטאון מכון מופ"ת 8 2013 מרס 8 50 גיליון In schools, blame can be eliminated if the practiceof "shifting the burden" (Senge, 2006, p. 103) isalso eliminated. This common practice happens aspeople look for simple and easy solutions to studentachievement. Senge sees these types of solutions asbeing possibly effective in the short-run but relativelyworthless long term. Easy and quick solutions tend toaddress the symptom and fail to address the systemicissue or problem being addressed.The Benefits of Overcoming Learning Disabilitiesand Implementing Systems ThinkingImplementation these five disciplines without thecounter forces on a school-wide or district-widelevel would engage teachers and staff to participatein personal mastery and the other disciplines. Thisapproach would mean that administrators involvefaculty and staff in decision-making and practicetransparency. Leadership would become participatory,collaborative, and transparent. Changing a school to alearning organization would require leadership fromteachers, and the commitment of administration aswell as other stakeholders in education (Senge, 2012).As the institution grows through learning, the effectshould trickle down to students as terminology andpractices are incorporated into daily routines andvocabulary. Systems thinking is not limited to educatorsaccording to Senge. He posits it could be part ofoverall classroom pedagogy as well and thus teachthe next generation of educational leaderships howto be effective.

The first discipline, systems thinking, is the conceptual framework for an organization. It is the discipline that consists of the interrelatedness of the various The model of Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization has successfully been

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