I had a great conversation with two colleagues yesterday about professional learning, and the best ways to structure it for educators. I’m certainly not an expert on this, but I have done quite a bit of writing on it, and my current role is focused heavily on professional learning design, so it interests me quite a bit.
During our conversation, the value of accountability came up as a topic of discussion. We considered what “worth” accountability has, and how to disassociate what I might call positive accountability (the motivating feeling we get that wants us to complete tasks, reach goals, and push ourselves further), and ACCOUNTABILITY (the educational buzzword that often leaves us thinking of some sort of Voldemort over our shoulders putting our lives and livelihood at risk).
This great conversation made me realize that in most cases, accountability doesn’t have to be structured Voldemort-style. True, many of our state evaluation systems make it hard to separate accountability from job performance, but I might ask if that is necessarily a bad thing. Sure, at least in New York, our evaluation and accountability system needs to be reviewed (and in fact, it currently is in the process of being “re-evaluated”), but we can still be accountable to ourselves and others (and we must, if we are going to be the best we can be) separate and apart from evaluation “rules.”
Being accountable simply means that we hold the work we do to be important, and we take pride, and put much care, into the work that we do. Assuming we believe in the value of education, then we’ve already taken care of the “important” part, and we can build pride and care into our work, simply by taking the time to design solid instruction, curriculum, and assessment, and by truly caring for the learners we work with.
Those three characteristics of importance, pride, and care, shape a desire to be accountable. And how do we make sure we follow-through? By adding “community” and “consistency” to the recipe. By keeping our learning consistent (for instance, moving beyond “one and done” professional learning, when possible) and constantly building on initiatives, we keep ourselves focused on the goals at hand. By connecting with a community, we foster the development of a support network; a necessity when the going gets tough.
Certainly, accountability is more than “importance,” “pride,” “care,” “community,” and “consistency.” But these five words go a long way towards helping us see that accountability doesn’t have to be a dirty word in education.