What is school design?

The Relevant Education, Action and Leadership (REAL) School design team began meeting in the fall of 2008. We had been organizing meetings with different members of the team for nearly five years prior, but seven of the eight of us began meeting that fall with a renewed sense of purpose.

The REAL concept began as an idea for comprehensive neighborhood development and over ten years developed into a vision of community public schooling—one in which the resources of the school and its students are invested into the community itself through leadership, entrepreneurship, and community action. The development of the school concept and ultimately of the design of the school and the implementation of this design, have been the product of purposeful and organized deliberation, study, and reflection. This process of design, of adapting a structure to purpose (Perkins, 1986), is the primary work of the creators of new schools.

Many schools, of course, are not designed through conscious planning. School operations often result of from the interplay multiple conflicting purposes rather than from integrated design. As is frequently noted by educational historians, shifting political contexts often influence school level decisions in contradictory ways (Tyack and Cuban, 1995; Kirst, 1984).

Gloria Ladson-Billings (2006) and others have called for a era of thoughtful educational experimentation. Rather than attempting to create universal and homogeneous school practices, we should uncover and share a wide array of practices that can be adapted to the needs of each individual school community.

This blog will explore issues, tensions, tools, and solutions for purposeful school design. We will investigate how schools can develop or clarify meaningful purposes and how they can then adapt the structures and process of schooling to these purposes. The discussions in this blog will be linked to related content in the REAL School Design at schoolforREAL.org.



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