Dogma – a call for change

Dogmatism: the tendency to lay down principles as undeniably true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others.

It’s no surprise that in many industries (in-fact, in many aspects of life), things happen just because it’s ‘always been this way’. In the education sector, it might be the way playtimes are run, lessons are timetabled, the methods of communications that used etc. In other industries, it might be the way staff are deployed, how performance management is recorded and how budgets are allocated. However, with many people recognising how quickly things have developed over time, it’s no wonder that there are many systems in place that may not be as efficient or as effective as they once were designed to be.

This process I refer to as the negative cycle of subconscious dogmatism. Not always is it negative, however, quite often true solutions or evaluations of systems currently in place are often neglected because it’s ‘always been this way’. Note, I mention subconscious as in my experience, I have often found it not to be an intention of the senior leadership team to keep it the way it is because they want to keep tradition, when in actual fact, they just haven’t invested the time to question.

There’s no doubt that for many new systems and procedures currently in place, there was a clear intended purpose for them at the time they were implemented. For example, as part of teachers’ performance reviews, it was (and still is) typical to observe teaching for 1 hour, 3 times a year. Now for many schools, continuing with a system like this may help in achieving consistency of expectations of staff, teachers already know how it works which provides them with familiarity, alongside supporting leaders’ time management in ensuring 1 hour slots are booked for each member of staff. However, using this example, one could question the validity of this process. If we think about OFSTED, gone are the days of the outstanding lesson that would showcase the teacher’s brilliance in that snapshot; the reason being, it was not a true reflection. They are more interested in seeing the actual impact through pupil voice, books and embedded daily practice. So, why as a school, would we employ this approach?

Thinking about schools, the education offer is far greater than the curriculum: it encompasses pupils’ wellbeing and personal development in conjunction with the academic development. The teaching standards (Part 1 & 2) also refer to this too. In this instance, if measures of monitoring are to be truly fit-for-purpose and reflective of existing practice, then time needs to be set-aside to ensure systems are truly robust and purposeful. Some examples may be daily learning walks for a period of time, observing the teacher teach a selection of subjects (primary school) or year groups (secondary school). Triangulating with data and pupil voice would help inform meaningful discussions between the teacher and their line manager in exploring specific next steps.

In other industries, questioning the efficiency and effectiveness of systems are extremely important to deal with the ever-changing world. It may be that as a leadership team, you explore what’s currently in place and question is there still a need for it. If so, is there a more effective and efficient way? It may also be worth exploring other business models or inviting someone from the outside in to hear their thoughts. Investing in systems & measures that check the validity of your current systems & measures may be more useful.

Don’t just change systems for the sake of change but ask yourself next time, why am I doing this in this particular way? Do I need to do this? And does it need to be done like this?

Let’s break the antiquated dogmatic cycle.


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