Shared decision-making is simply the use of consensus among relevant communities of practice to reach decisions. It entails a multi-phase process that requires two-way communication and participation on the part of those tasked with determining the best course forward. Although it has its challenges, in my opinion, shared decision-making is the best way for schools to make determinations related to many decisions at school sites such as (but not limited to):
-developing obtainable goals to improve results for students
-issues involving expectations for pupil attendance standards and student conduct
-methods for reporting student progress to parents
-technology integration for 21st century learning
Shared decision-making is also an excellent process for the delegation and involvement of other invested partners beyond the scope of the school community.
In essence, shared decision-making is an effort to transform school organizations into learning communities by empowering local site stakeholders to improve teaching and learning. It supports and values high levels of involvement throughout the school. These learning communities form a site leadership team that includes parents, support staff, teachers, secondary-level students (i.e. middle school & high school), members of the community, and the principal.
The process for shared decision-making is cyclical. It begins with the site leadership team assessing the needs of the relevant issues at hand. The team than creates committees to address focus areas as determined by the needs assessment. Next, these committees research best practices related to their area of focus in order to develop action plans for addressing the area(s) of need and present their plans to the site leadership team which then approves or requires the committee to further study the matter and augment/revise their plan.
If approved, the presented plan is forwarded to the entire school community for discussion and final approval. Finally, a broadened team is formed to implement the approved action plan. Throughout the deployment of the plan, the broadened team charged with implementing the plan assesses its progress continuously and reports to the site leadership team on an ongoing basis. As mentioned above, the process is cyclical. That is, the initial needs assessment conducted by the site leadership team along with the action plans approved by the entire school community and the ongoing progress reports provided by the implementation teams become part of the next cycle for school improvement during the new needs assessment phase.