The 8 Hour Action Plan written by Aloha Lavina provides a guide for school leaders to create an action plan for an evaluation or authorization (accreditation) more productively and efficiently. Anyone who has involved with the school evaluation and/or authorization process would agree in unison that the process is draining and uninspiring. The stress and fatigue is probably also due to the fact that many schools wait till the final year of an accreditation/evaluation year and rush to get everything ready for the visit. Aloha's observation, "It seems that everything stops and nothing else exists but the self-study surveys, meetings, documentation reviews, more meeting.", illustrated exactly what I had experienced in my last preparation for the MYP evaluation!
Aloha explained how to chunk this monstrous task, creating an action for the evaluation or authorization, using the PARC SQUARE(c) Framework that she has created. The book was organized into two parts. The first part of the book explains how to use PARC in the process of developing the implementation action plan.
According to Aloha, PARC represents:
- Prioritize (finding the must-haves)
- Access (removing barriers)
- Refine (specify the actions)
- Cycle (iterate the process).
Here is my summary of the PARC acronyms:
- Prroritize: focusing on both process work (what to do) and people work work (how to help the team collaborate effectively in order get things done)
- Access: identifying the knowledge-action gap by portraying the continuum between the current state of understanding to the desired state of implementation
- Refine: creating specificity, refining the action plans through a process which yields concrete, measurable, realistic, time-bounded action plans
- Cycle: engaging teams in a cyclical process of collaborative data dialogs to further develop action plan implementation
"The idea of the 'square' is the fact that if you create this four-zone pattern in your school process, and repeat it as a cycle, you will create a way to exponentially increase your time and results.
- Define: agreeing on a definition of learning that reflects the school mission and core values, and creating structures for collaborative inquiry.
- Design: giving choice to self-organize professional learning groups around action plans (four-layer professional development structure: classroom level → department/subject level → school level )
- Dive in: supporting self-organizing collaborative teams to bridge knowledge gaps through an inquiry cycle to strengthen implementation of action plans
- Demonstrate: transferring the professional inquiry learning process and leveraging it in the overall larger cycle of school development
This book goes beyond merely writing an action plan for the sake of writing an action plan. Instead, it demonstrate system thinking and provides tools and strategies for school leaders to plan, implement and support professional inquiry groups in their school. The concepts of 'process work' and 'people work' resonate with me the most. In order to achieve the success of teams in action planning and implementation, we need focuses on both "what do do (process) and how to help the them (people work) get things done".
I find this book helpful not just for action planning and implementation for the purpose of a school evaluation or authorization. Most importantly, it provides a framework of how school leaders can guide their team to prioritize areas for development and implement the action plan through self-organized professional inquiry leanring groups. If schools are thinking about initiating a new project, implement a new program, promoting the use of a new resource, or taking their team to develop school development plan, the PARC SQUARE suggested in this book is a good framework to follow. Many stories and case studies are shared in this book, which help readers make connections with their own situations and provide ways for them to 'see', 'feel' and 'hear' how the framework is actually used in different contexts.
Lastly, I do, however, think 8 hours to create an action plan appear to be ambitious. In my opinion, it is more like 8 steps for action planning and implementation. The idea is that if we can use time and energy with intentionality and design a cyclic process of professional collaborative inquiry, then it is more likely we will achieve success for school development in a more sustainable manner. Although it's not 8 hours for me, but it is definitely time saving.