So here’s a question I was discussing a couple of weeks ago with a superintendent at a gathering of educational leaders: What percentage of the teachers at your school do a good job of preparing kids to take meet the requirements, pass the tests, and get prepared for college, and what percentage do a good job of teaching them how to learn? Not suggesting that the two are mutually exclusive, but as we talked about it, she shook her head at one point and said “I think 90 percent of my staff is really good at delivering the goods, but only about 10 percent really get student centered, inquiry driven, lifelong learning.”

That answer stuck with me. I would guess that’s probably the case for most schools, and the reasons are obvious. I know many schools and districts have full-time positions for testing coordinators and college counselors and data-driven decision makers. We put a great deal of emphasis on outcomes with our kids, but I keep wondering how much more we could do in emphasizing the process of learning as well, not just for students but for everyone in the school.

So when I read Jay Cross’s latest piece in CLO magazine, I wondered how many schools could point to someone, anyone, who is in charge of learning. By that I mean someone who manages the culture of the school by focusing not on outcomes as much as how learning is writ large in the system. Someone who also understands the ways in which social Web technologies accentuate the need for the learning skills we’ve desired all along: creativity, critical thinking, independent thought, collaboration, etc. I know I keep going back to this, but I wonder how many of us can look at our colleagues and answer the question “How does that person learn?” And think of the leaders in our schools in that light as well.

And it really is about a culture that supports, celebrates and shares learning. Jay points to a survey about CLOs from TogetherLearn that I think acts as a good barometer of that work. Does your school:

  • Welcome innovation and contributions from its teachers?
  • Encourage (and provide time for) reflection on successes and flops?
  • Tolerate mistakes and reward thinking out of the box?
  • Share information openly?
  • Foster learning for everyone?
  • Experiment with new ways of doing things?
  • Work across departments and unit boundaries with ease?

All of that suggests a place that emphasizes process, not outcomes. (The rest of the survey is definitely worth a look in the context of schools as well.) And it also suggests intent, not just serendipity. We need to hire for learning, plan for learning, and share the learning of the entire system, students, teachers, and support staff alike. We need to leverage the potential of the local personal learning communities as well as the global networks of which we can become a part. We need people to lead that work, however, people who understand deeply the passion-based, self-directed potentials for learning in a connected world, and the importance of a vision for true learner-centered classrooms and curricula for everyone in the building.

So I’m wondering, do you have a CLO in your school either by name or reputation? Should we be thinking about hiring CLOs in our schools and districts? Modifying other positions to include these ideas?