Shared decision-making and communication

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Shared decision-making and communication is a very intricate part of the educational process, as well as other large organizations. As a result, there have been several issues with communication and the best way to facilitate decision-making. Shared decision-making involves fundamental changes in the way schools are managed, and alterations in the roles and relationships of everyone in the school community. Shared decision-making is a process of making educational decisions in a collaborative manner at the school level (Liontos, 1994). As the need for generating ideas and collaboratively engaging people within an organization cultivates, social networks are beginning to form. Social networks are a web of interconnected people communicating, who share a common theme that discuss, collaborate and share ideas and opinions. This form of communication is extremely important when the people who share these commonalties are widespread.

Within an organization, an online social network can increase the knowledge of those involved and encourage collective decision-making. Social networks can enable an organization to make sure that certain knowledge and information reaches the masses. It encourages individuals to connect on several issues across the board, communicate with one another and take action and create change. Social networking serves as an open line of communication versus past ways of communicating that can become time consuming such as phone calls and e-mails. With networking on a particular web site, individuals that are involved are able to gain an understanding of the exact thoughts and ideas of all those involved versus hear say or speculating. It creates an ongoing opportunity for people to exchange knowledge on specific topics and discussions. It also collectively invites social engagement and creates an on-going social space for organizations to brainstorm, deliberate and overall encourage collective thinking.

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This writer believes that a social network would assist with several issues within my organization, which is the school system. Within the school system, there are several persons that should be involved in the decision-making process, but this does not always happen. With everyone being widespread across the district, it is sometimes impossible to gain a perspective on the thoughts and ideas of everyone involved. As a result, decisions are made that do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of the entire organization and that can cause issues down the line. Bauer (1992) states that while shared decision-making takes many forms, it emphasizes several common beliefs or premises, first, those closest to the children and "where the action is" will make the best decisions about the children's education. Second, teachers, parents, and school staff should have more say about policies and programs affecting their schools and children. Third, those responsible for carrying out decisions should have a voice in determining those decisions. Finally, change is most likely to be effective and lasting when those who implement it feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for the process. During the decision-making process, it is important to involve the entire organization, but for this to occur several meetings and other collaborative efforts would have to occur. With time constraints, it makes it very difficult to involve everyone in this manner and that is why many organizations need other social avenues to communicate and exchange ideas.

Recently, the Savannah Chatham County School System decided to revisit the school calendar. This was in effort to revise when the students would start school and to decide if year round school would be most effective for everyone. On the district site, board members designed 3 possible school calendars that parents, teachers, and school personnel would be able to select. Visitors to the site were able to view each calendar and select which one they thought would be most effective. At the end of the time allotted for choosing the calendar, the board members chose the calendar that the parents, teachers and school personnel voted as most effective. In the end, the Superintendent picked the calendar that he thought was the better choice. As a result, a lot of parents and school personnel were outraged. Why show the possible calendar choices, if they weren't going to adhere to the decision made by most of the organization in the first place? This was the time when creating a social network for teachers and school personnel would have been a great tool to assist in the decision-making process. The network would enable everyone to voice their concerns on the pros and cons for the various calendars. It would also present the opportunity for everyone to collaborate and decide on a calendar that best met the needs of everyone involved. The Superintendent could receive collective knowledge from everyone and therefore sharpen his ability to act on the various opinions and ideas presented. As a whole everyone would be able to share in the decision-making process and view the thoughts of others as well.

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The decision-making process on furlough days for the employees of the Chatham County School District was another topic that a social network would have assisted in finding a happy medium for all involved. Furlough days are non-work days that the employees were forced to take without pay, because of the current budget strains. Again, the employees had no participation in the decision and this writer believes that if it was a shared decision-making process, the outcome would have been totally different. As conversations take place now, among school personnel, it is obvious that there were several other great ideas that would have cut costs rather than cutting school days and overall teacher pay. A social network would have enabled the school personnel to their share ideas and thoughts on various ways to help with the budget. Several thousands of dollars was spent across the district to pay for teacher supplies and paper. Most teachers would agree to purchase their own supplies and paper rather than take a pay cut and lose several days within the school year.

As this writer reflects on the current processes of decision-making and communication, it is evident that the Chatham County School District needs a better tool for communicating. Decisions are made from the top, but they affect everyone below. Shared decision-making has the potential to improve the quality of decisions; increase a decision's acceptance and implementation; strengthen staff morale, commitment, and teamwork; build trust; help staff and administrators acquire new skills; and increase school effectiveness (Liontos, 1994). Lack of shared decision-making can be very detrimental to the major current reforms taking place.