A Professional Conversation: The need for Adaptive Expertise as we open BC Schools for the 2020/2021 year

Learning Forward BC recently hosted a Professional Conversation on the strategies and practice needed for Adaptive Expertise as schools and school districts prepare to open for the 2020/2021 year.

This conversation, based on the research and work of Helen Timperley and colleagues, was grounded in the current complex context for BC Schools.


Corinne McCabe,  retired BC Superintendent writes the following:


As an educational leader longing for a good research based discussion about advancing teaching and learning in a time of unprecedented uncertainty, Learning Forward BCs Board discussion last night on routine vs. adaptive expertise fit the bill perfectly. With a presentation based on Helen Timperleys work as a conversation starter, twenty-one educators from district across the lower mainland as well as representatives from MOE indigenous Education and Learner Engagement, NOII and key educational consultants shared our thoughts around What are the professional conversations that develop adaptive expertise?   Drawing on the research and writings of Margaret Wheatley, Shane Safir, Rush Kidder, Shelley Moore, Steffensen and Vickers and others a lively discussion ensued. The characteristics of professional conversations and necessary conditions that will enable not only the technical health, safety and scheduling needs of students and teachers to be met but that will capitalize and maximize the opportunities for transformational changes in our system emerged.


First and foremost individuals both teachers, students and parents need to reestablish relationships. School communities are going to look different and we need to understand where the members are coming from and what their experiences have been.   Everyone needs to be checked in on – for many students its been 175 days since they have been in schools.   We all need to accept that we dont know what we will be dealing with next week or next month and so flexibility is essential.   We will need to be okay with some ambiguity. There may be ethical dilemmas – situations where there are no right answers and maybe not even a best answer. School systems, like all of society, are facing both complicated scenarios and complex problems and the opportunity to rethink how we do things is ever present. This is a time where there is huge potential to move beyond learning to knowledge building which increase our cultural capital. It is a time for novel solutions to old problems – and new ones!


Developing a climate that is high in trust and promotes inquiry is essential in this time. Leaders who help to set a moral imperative and then support teachers and students in finding a path to achieve it will promote adaptive solutions. False starts will happen and that needs to be okay with everyone in the system.   Beliefs and attitudes will change as we dig deeper.   Both teachers and students will need new skills to be able to succeed in a system that is and will remain in a state of flux. Leaders will need to be courageous and find ways to guide, while at the same time allow the freedom to try different uncharted paths. Each of us will face different challenges and it will be imperative that we support each other.


Its a big challenge but one we are definitely up to! Conversations like this help us all to expand our ideas.   A special thanks goes out to those guests who joined us on a very busy day for this important conversation. We look forward to learning more with you.


If you would like to become a part of future conversations, join the Learning Forward Board, teachers, administrators, district and ministry staff and educational consultants for our monthly series of online Professional Learning for 2020-2021. The first in the series


The Power of Story Turning Research into Cultural Practicewill be led by a team from Sea to Sky School District #48 on

September 24, 2020.  

Hope to see you there!

To register:




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