by Erin Park Cohn, Senior Partner
In her book, Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, Amy Edmondson describes a hypothetical scenario where a patient in the hospital is in need of an CT scan. The procedure requires a team of distinct specialists to complete a series of time-sensitive tasks, including threading a nasogastric tube into the abdomen, conducting an x-ray, reading the x-ray to ensure the tube’s proper placement, administering a contrast liquid through the tube, and then conducting the CT scan itself. Each of these steps must occur within certain time windows, by hospital professionals working in different departments. Edmondson relates what happens to a patient whose CT scan is scheduled for a Friday; the impending weekend causes the discrete steps of the CT scan not to be completed with the right timing, causing the patient to have to go through the whole uncomfortable procedure a second time and ultimately experiencing significant wear and tear on the patient’s body and patience for a full 48 hours. The scenario presents a familiar picture of what happens when a team is constructed of individuals who work in different silos within an institution. Each silo holds its own goals, timeframes, and priorities as paramount, resulting in an inability to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate. The patient suffers as a result. For truly humane care, the individuals involved in the CT procedure need to understand themselves as a team and engage in active teaming (as a verb) in order to ensure the best care for the patient.
The example made me wonder, with all of the talk these days about breaking down the disciplinary siloes within education, whether we might be guilty of the very same negligence - even harm - toward the people we serve as the hypothetical hospital team above. When educators talk about breaking down disciplinary boundaries, what exactly do we mean? Are we talking about team-teaching US History and American Lit and calling it American Studies? Is it as simple as infusing some current events in our Statistics classes?
What if an education entailed the kind of teaming that is necessary for the CT patient? What if each student’s learning was guided by a group of professionals who all came to them with something different to offer to their growth, but who actively and collaboratively ensured they were tracking and fulfilling the needs of the individual student? What would that school model look like? And what discomfort, needless repetition, and anguish currently exists for students that we might avoid if we could actually make it happen?
L+D Staff and Friends
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