Byron's Babbles

Autonomy – A TALL Order

Posted in Education, Leadership, Learning Organization, Unstructured Collaboration by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 15, 2011

I’ve read two great books in the last week,Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and The Modern Meeting Standard: Read This Before Our Next Meeting. These two books caused me to reflect on a process I had the opportunity to develop and champion at Lebanon High School called TALL – Tiger Academy of Lessons Learned. Allow me to share the process (it’s not a thing or initiative, it’s a process) in this week’s post.

In the last three years many changes have been made in the way our school-wide professional development activities are planned, organized, and presented. The primary concern was that teachers should have ownership of the professional development process – Autonomy.

The Lebanon High School staff meets two times per month for professional development in Tiger Academy of Lessons Learned (TALL) groups. TALL was started in the spring of 2009. TALL is modeled after the U.S. Army’s Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) (Garvin, 2000). It is a process with no hierarchy, which has teachers working in groups of like interest and knowledge to learn new techniques, study research, try new practices/technology, and discuss professional literature. Any teacher may propose a topic to be addressed and groups form according to the appeal of the topic. As Pink (2009) said, “As organizations flatten, companies need people who are self-motivated. That forces many organizations to become more like, er, Wikipedians. Nobody sits around trying to figure out how to “motivate” them. That’s why Wikipedia works. (Kindle Location 452).

Groups meet formally every other week during time set aside in the morning, and report in diary form to our common computer drive. Groups can form and dissolve as necessary. Members are also able to freely switch groups as the need arises. Many groups meet outside of the normal school day to work. All individuals and groups had total autonomy (Pink, 2009) to pick their topics and groups they work in.

TALL has enabled the development of communities of practice in our school.  One advantage of this process is that it provides a forum where teachers learn from each other.  Teachers, according to their needs, choose TALL groups. This strategy enables teachers to use the group genius created to improve teaching skills and acquire best practices from each other, thus improving student achievement. Another important facet of TALL is that it includes the entire staff. All principals, support staff, and teachers are involved as equal participants. The groups with principals have learned to discuss sensitive topics and share opinions without fear of repercussion. TALL has helped our school by moving our staff toward an environment of risk taking and trust.

Another important outcome of TALL has been the opportunity for cross-curricular collaboration (Dufour, 2008) or development of learning organizations (Garvin & Edmondson, & Gino, 2008; Garvin, 2000) between all teachers. Garvin (2000) defines the learning organization as, “an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, interpreting, transferring, and retaining knowledge, and at purposefully modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights” (p. 11). Becoming a learning organization is an important component of our school’s culture change toward improved student achievement and performance (Warnick & Thompson, 2007).


DuFour, R. D. (2008). Revisiting professional learning communities at work.

Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Garvin, D.A., Edmondson, A.C., & Gino, F. (2008). Is yours a learning

organization? Harvard Business Review, 86(3), 109-116.

Garvin, D. A. (2000). Learning in action: A guide to putting the learning

organization to work. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York,

NY: Riverhead Books.

Warnick, B.K. & Thompson, G.W. (2007). Barriers, support, and collaboration: A

comparison of science and agriculture teachers’ perceptions regarding integration of

science into the agricultural education curriculum. Journal of Agricultural Education,

48(1), 75-85.

2 Responses

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  1. […] me to get two posts done in one week is unheard of but after some discussions related to my post: Autonomy – A TALL Order I was inspired to write this post. A great example of what I mean when I say professional growth […]


  2. hotshot bald cop said, on August 30, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Nicely put from an ideal blogger


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