Localized Autonomy and Responsibility

Linking autonomy and responsibility at every level within a learning community allows all members to contribute to their fullest potential.

Practices Associated with this Principle

  • In the cooperative learning structure, students take responsibility for their own learning as well as the learning of their classmates.
  • Teachers work together on teams to take collective responsibility for their students’ learning and student outcomes.
  • Principals from the different IHSs meet regularly with each other to share best practices and provide peer support.
  • Students are made aware of the expectations placed on them and are involved in the evaluation process.
  • Representative leadership team reflecting various school constituencies (shared governance model) make the major decisions affecting the school community.
  • Personnel committees composed primarily of faculty are responsible for hiring and supporting new faculty.
  • In conjunction with the Personnel Committee, teams play a key role in hiring their members and providing them with support.

Philosophy Behind Core Principle and Practices

In contrast to the traditional model of school governance in which principals make all decisions on their own or with their cabinet, decisions at International High Schools are made by diverse groups of people within the school (administrators, faculty, students, family members), often by consensus. The primary unit of the school structure is the interdisciplinary teaching team, which is comprised of 4-5 teachers who are responsible for 75-100 students. The teams have the autonomy to make most of the decisions that directly affect them and their students.

Like faculty, the students also work primarily in collaborative groups and are given choices about the directions to take in their learning. These collaborative groupings of students working on a project are responsible for decisions such as: which roles each student should take, the shape of the final product, ensuring that every group member participates, and often play a role in assessing their own work and that of their peers. International High School classrooms place a significant emphasis on both peer support and peer evaluation. Therefore, grades are not only based on the evaluation of the teacher, but may include peer and self assessments. During portfolio presentations for example, students are asked to include written self-evaluations, and several students are always included on the panel, giving a voice in evaluating the presentation of their peers.

There are many reasons behind granting autonomy to diverse groups of people. Providing structures in which diverse members of the school community can develop their perspectives, discuss, and make decisions collectively is likely to strengthen the collective governance of a school and develop the individual capacity of the members of the community. The faculty are the ones who work most closely with the students; therefore, they should not be divorced from the decisions that affect them and their students. Finally, those who make decisions feel a collective sense of ownership over those decisions and responsibility for ensuring that the goals behind those decisions are realized.