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Math Manipulatives or Differentiation?

Updated: May 5, 2023

Growth, the first of the 12 Dimensions of Culture, is one that KnowledgeWorkx Education uses to map out how a school invests in resources and people as part of its value system and corporate culture. If you haven't already, you should read our article introducing the 12 Dimensions for schools.

Defining the way you develop your organization

Material Growth vs. Personal Growth, or Material-Vs-People

We’ve heard about the ongoing need for Professional Development (PD) in teaching and learning and the Technology manager who cares about upgrading IT systems and processes. We might even have seen the PD director who loves systems and processes and the IT manager who thinks about people first. But have we ever thought of this difference in perspective as a part of culture?

Material vs. Personal growth is one of the basic questions that anyone developing an international school has to face, and knowing where people stand on it is key to understanding your colleagues, your school families, and the organizational dynamics that surround you.

Investing in personal or material growth can have different faces. The command, “You need to learn how to use this computer program,” could be the result of a material-oriented IT infrastructure drive. Or it could be the result of a people-focused motivator survey which concludes that more IT infrastructure is needed in order to empower your students and cut down on paper waste.

These different motivators in terms of why people want to invest and how they administer their budget can result in challenges. A people-oriented Headmaster might neglect infrastructure, building improvements, new textbooks, and a material-oriented Headmaster might create excess hands on materials and upgraded infrastructure without ensuring it is needed, or used effectively.

The Chicken or the Egg? Both have to exist for a healthy organization

It is important to keep in mind that every organization needs to invest in both the people side and the material side of the equation. Therefore, it is important to make sure that you have people on your team in strategy, planning, and prioritization who appreciate both and can be available to appropriately communicate to teachers and staff members that both people and materials are being invested in and valued and aligned with the school’s vision and mission.

This translates into who is making these key decisions, how they prioritize resource allocation, and what they get passionate about.

If your headmaster is more people-oriented in his or her growth, he or she will invest in the people side of the equation. More material-oriented in growth, and he or she will invest in materials and infrastructure. It may come down to the decision to purchase math manipulatives or sending a teacher to a PD on differentiating math lessons. Another common scenario could be that a “material-growth” marketing agent will want to invest in building upgrades and new lighting, and a “people-growth” curriculum coordinator will see the need for a collaborative planning pd with Inter-cultural intelligence imbedded in it so that marketing can communicate who we are in culturally relevant ways. Reality is that both extremes of this cultural dimension will walk into your school for a tour and everyone on staff will need to authentically reflect that both needs are being met. The tension is necessary to create a balanced allocation of funds. The key here is to get the right voices on the team and create a third culture space where both sides are valued and used to empower the learning community.

You can find out where your stakeholders and senior leadership team stand on the ‘Growth’ dimension, as well as eleven other dimensions of culture by using the Cultural Mapping Inventory, as part of a holistic program to develop Inter-Cultural Intelligence in your international school.

Contact us to learn more about how KnowledgeWorkx can help you develop inter-cultural intelligence in your organization. You can also start your culture learning journey from our mini-ebook: Inter-Cultural Intelligence: from surviving to thriving in the global space.


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