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17 May

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Research into Professional Learning supports the view that schools can no longer afford the luxury of separating professional development activities from the ongoing realities of teachers’ work (Johnson, 1999, p.13.) Teachers need to adopt a learning approach that is ‘relevant’ for our time. Learning can happen anywhere, anytime and with anyone. As leaders and teachers we must clarify our learning needs and source others to support us in doing so. Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Apps make up the new learning landscape for teachers and leaders of schools.

If capacity building is to be effective and influence school transformation then it needs to be built into the life cycle and culture of schools as learning communities. These characteristics listed by Johnson and Scull are effective and work if the school culture embraces the ideas. A school’s culture must foster an atmosphere that supports teachers, students, and parents to know where they fit in and how they can work as a community to support teaching and learning. Creating a school culture requires instructional leaders to develop a shared vision that is clearly communicated and built on actions. Additionally, principals must create a climate that encourages shared authority and responsibility if they are to build a positive school culture (MacNeil and Maclin, 2005).

My 6 characteristics of learning teams

  1. Learning teams require a reason to learn and a purpose to engage in collaborative professional development practices. Projects provide reason and purpose, and allow an integrated approach to the implementation of curriculum improvement.
  2. Learning team projects are best focused on collective responsibility for producing more effective learning for ALL students.
  3. Learning teams benefit from a combination of outside-provided and work-embedded support
  4. Effective learning teams practise many forms of collaboration and systematic reflection on practice.
  5. A sense of ‘personal productive challenge’ and a balance between pressure and support characterizes the work of effective learning teams.
  6. Learning teams require knowledgeable, skilled and supportive formal leadership

What do you think?

Time to Reflect Again…

15 May

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By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.

I love that quote by Confucius. His opinion is still valid, of course, although I’m less sure of the order in which he presents the three paths to wisdom. Perhaps imitation is the easiest, but teaching by modelling involves the use of imitation to some extent, and it is through modelling that the teacher can begin to map the routes to wisdom for the learner. If modelling and imitation come first, then the path to wisdom is broadened and made firmer under-foot through offering practical experiential learning to students. Learning from experience plays a critical part in combining information and skills in context to create knowledge, and the meaning and form that such experiences can take are as varied as the countless subjects and disciplines themselves that comprise the broad sweep of human activity.

In teaching there are many forms of reflection. Some which I am good at yes take a bow Andrew. Others not so much. This can be a reflection on teaching but also on the way you lead your Faculty.

  • Critical self-reflection – taking the time to go back over our own teaching, either from memory, or from notes taken, or increasingly today from a video of our teaching; we do this with the aim of challenging ourselves on what went well or not, and why;
  • Collaborative reflection – working with one or more colleagues who join with you in reflecting on your teaching, perhaps having observed your lesson live, whether via live video, or having watched a recorded video of your teaching after the event; of course, this can, and perhaps should, be reciprocal – collegiate reflection can be very powerful indeed;
  • Coaching and mentoring – working with either a more experienced colleague or an external expert who watches you teach (again either by classroom observation or through the use of video) and is able to offer advice – this can be done live or in retrospect, or both. Equally, working with a colleague or colleagues to mentor/coach each other can make for very effective professional reflection. Our experts sometimes come from our own community.

“Our Code, Our Standards – draft for consultation”

2 May

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This was well worth noting this week. “Our Code, Our Standards – draft for consultation”

Our Code, Our Standards articulates the expectations and aspirations of our profession, and has been crafted by teachers, leaders and teaching experts. It reflects what it is to be a teacher in Aotearoa New Zealand. This video invites learners to discuss and provide feedback on the draft. Read the document and have your say at educationcouncil.org.nz/OurCodeOurStandards Please view the video here: 

Quick Thought

17 Apr

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The growth of any craft depends on shared practice and honest dialogue among the people who do it. We grow by private trial and error, to be sure — but our willingness to try, and fail, as individuals is severely limited when we are not supported by a community that encourages such risks.                                 

The Courage to Teach; Palmer, 1998, p. 144

Experience is a truly remarkable thing. It’s a gift we give ourselves each day. It’s a hard teacher, and often plans lessons we don’t want to learn. But it makes us look at things differently with each turn. Experience makes us evaluate where we have been, and what we are headed into next. It makes us collaborate with others on the journey too. In order to experience, you need to take chances and live. It’s risky, it’s terrifying, it’s pretty awesome. If we don’t experience we don’t grow.

Learning is not an ‘add on,’ to be done when we have some free time or at training sessions. Some of the most significant innovations have been in infrastructures and day-to-day practices, allowing teams and intact work groups to integrate working and learning.

— “The Academy As Learning Community: Contradiction in Terms or Realizable Future?” Senge, in Leading Academic Change: Essential Roles for Department Chairs, Lucas, A. F. & Associates, 2000, pp. 280-281

Improving Schools through TED talks

14 Apr

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I recently came across a talk by Michael Fullan on making change. I heard him at ULEARN 16 where he was phenomenal. I thought this talk would be useful to share but it also reminded me of a TED talk by Linda Hill, which when combined might give schools and their leadership teams some real incentive and instruction for change. They also combined to indicate that progress will not be made with either top-down or bottom-up approaches but from a developing a new school culture towards shared, networked collaboration at all levels. It got me thinking about a few issues.

The SLT must be seen by the teachers as an equal participant in learning. This I got from Fullan in his talk he gave about transforming the Canadian school system. He highlights that a principal behaving as an active learner was a surprise key indicator in his research into schools making significant and positive change.
Hill talks about innovating or dying. This so important for schools as we sit at a watershed moment in time in NZ education. Our courses cannot remain the same. Linda Hill says “Innovation is not about solo genius but collective genius.” She goes on to outline how the most successful organisations build organisational structures and cultures that are “iterative, inter-related and quite frankly messy.” She also highlights that investing in all the people to give them time to develop and collaborate around new challenges and ideas. It is also critical to build a culture where everyone feels they might have something to offer in improving the operation of or output from the organisation.

This is a huge issue for schools, where many teachers never bring problems to the leadership team because they do not think it’s there place to suggest change. Schools are often not flexible or iterative enough to adapt to changes as they arise. A fixed-time vision for learning in a school issued from top-down can kill excellent ideas that surface during the period in question. What I took from Linda’s talk was that schools need to develop a staff culture for collaborative problem solving, discovery driven learning (and that’s the teachers we’re talking about) but run integrated decision making where everyone is confident to express ideas

Trend Six: Change Leadership

25 Mar

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Education faces a challenge to keep pace with all of these changes, particularly given that many of our traditional leadership practices were designed for a slow-moving world with a small group of people (or even one person) making most of the decisions. The traditional ‘pyramid-style’ hierarchy that existed in most 20th century organisations still holds considerable influence over organisations in the 21st century, however newer and more agile arrangements are required if we are to successfully navigate the future.

Some excellent resources

How empowered are they to be represented in the conversation and decision-making?

Community engagement is a two-way street where the school, families, and the community actively work together, creating networks of shared responsibility for student success. It is a tool that promotes civic well-being and that strengthens the capacity of schools, families, and communities to support young peoples’ full development.

I have been thinking about some Idea ways community be involved in change leadership.

These four ideas were Idea for me:

Idea 1: Know Where You’re Going and Tell a Story around it.

Start by creating a vision – in partnership with school staff, families, partners and students, what the school could look like and develop a plan for how to get there. Ensure that diverse viewpoints are included in this process.

Idea 2: Distributed Leadership

Actively involve staff, parents and community partners in sharing leadership functions, and work closely with them in working towards your shared vision.

Idea 3: Reach Out

Be proactive in learning about the community surround the school and become actively outside the school.

Idea 4: Don’t Ignore the Elephant in the Room

Recognise, and embrace, diversity within the school and the broader community. Recognise things that have not worked and share.

These are key to leading changing consulting with the community.

I love this Ted Talk around this idea.

Meetings

17 Mar

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It has been a massive week here at school with one thing and another. As I walked away on Friday I ticked over 54 hours in school for the week. No violins please it is the job and I love it.  I thought about meetings though as I was driving home. Here are some pieces of GOLD.

PIECE OF GOLD #1: Never have a meeting run more than an hour.

Research tells us that adults need to switch up activities every 5-20 minutes to stay engaged. This will give you at least four different topics to discuss during your meeting. Your audience will not be able to mentally digest any more than this.

PIECE OF GOLD #2: Turn your meetings into work sessions.

If you ask educators what they need more of, often they will say time. Teachers need time to grade, plan, and analyse assessment data. SLT need time work on strategic plans, balance budgets, and analyse formative and summative assessments, among other tasks. Turning your meetings into work sessions to complete these essential tasks will benefit everyone. Plus, it will make everyone more productive, and more collaborative. It will also make them happier.

PIECE OF GOLD #3: Try flipping your meeting.

The flipped classroom concept has been around for years. Teachers preparing content online and letting their students work on it at their own pace instead of needless lecturing has shown to be very effective. Why not run your meetings the same way? After all, educational leaders should be modelling research-based strategies. Bringing in instructional technology will create excitement and intrigue.

PIECE OF GOLD #4: Cancel your meeting if it is not needed.

If you have nothing to meet about, please do everyone a favour and cancel the meeting. There is nothing wrong with sending out information via email.

PIECE OF GOLD #5: Prioritize Mentoring or Coaching Meetings.

These are vital for go forward.

 

 

Learner Agency

12 Mar

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I have been doing some thinking and reflecting after my learning tour on the Ten Educational Trends as noted by CORE in 2016. A link to these is here.

So, I thought might make a point of reflecting on each of these over the next few days.  I would like to begin however with one trend from 2015 which has been on my mind.

What is it then?

The idea that education is the process through which learners become capable of independent thought which, in turn, forms the basis for autonomous action, has had a profound impact on modern educational theory and practice. One way of thinking of learner agency is when learners have “the power to act”

Why do we need it?

There is a significant and growing demand for learners to be able to do more than receive instruction, follow a learning path designed by educators and complete problems and assignments presented to them by an teacher. Learners need to develop the capacity to shape and manage their learning without over-reliance on the direction and control of others. Too often teachers treat children as though they are incapable of making decisions or holding valid opinions. As children advance through the system, they develop a form of “learned helplessness” that keeps them from advocating for themselves. The process for learning and the role learners play must be different than most teachers experienced.

The current educational system was designed for teachers to control and manage the learning. This continues today because teachers are the ones held accountable and responsible for the learning instead of the learners. As educators, we must nurture, coach and build in learners more capacity to initiate, manage, and maintain their own learning. Learning will be a constant and high-priority activity throughout their lives and they will need the skills and tools to manage this process.

Teachers need to shift their thinking — away from youth as student to youth as learner and partner and resource for their own learning and others. We must make the crucial shift from preparing proficient students to developing skilled learners. The result will be learners who can play an active role in personalizing their learning and building their capacity to be successful productive citizens regardless of what their futures hold.

As teachers, we need to consider understanding the connection between good strategy, effort and use of resources to develop learner efficacy. We need to continue to help learners understand how they learn best and how they can support their learning. The role and importance of learner voice and choice is an issue ERO is guiding schools in with their review process. By building learner ownership of their learning this can only in increase student achievement and engagement.

This is a link to a document that I have been thinking a great about.

 

Authentic Leadership Message

10 Feb

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I thought it might be timely this week as my staff and students settled into classes to reflect on my own leadership. When most people think of leading they tend to think of leading people “below” themselves even though servant leadership is not new. That is a very dangerous way to think because it’s hard to think of people “below” you without also thinking you’re somehow “above” the people you lead.

It’s not even your title or position that makes you a leader. Your thinking and your actions make you a leader. Even more than that, it’s your people that make you a leader because no matter what you think or do, if no one is following then you’re not leading.

The secret to being an Authentic Servant Leader is to never think for a moment that because someone is below you on an organizational chart that they are somehow below you in life.

I was reflecting with my daughter this week that people are where they are in their lives for a lot of reasons. Some had more luck than others, some made more luck than others. Some maybe were born with more advantages, some perhaps married into additional advantages. Our lot in life changes, sometimes because of what we did, sometimes because of what we didn’t do and sometimes it changes for no apparent reason.

The point is we are really pretty much all the same and the moment we start thinking we are born for greatness is the very moment we begin to lose the empathy and compassion required to actually be an Authentic Servant Leader.

I suppose it comes back to my own beliefs and faith. We are all gifts from God. When we understand that simple fact then and only then do we have the opportunity to be an authentic leader.

 

Appraisal 2017

31 Jan

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Do you find often “appraisal goals” are scribbled out in 15 minute meetings with your appraiser, then “revisited” at the end of the year as a kind of autopsy. What would happen if we flipped this model on its head? What if instead we created a teacher-centered, always-on, and social approach to teacher improvement? One that connected them with dynamic resources and human communities that modeled new thinking and possibility, and that crucially built on their strengths? Here some thoughts to guide you as you make your PLG  inspired in 2017.

  1. In Term One establish a compelling big idea –then stick to it

This can be thought of as a mission or theme, but it’s really more of a tone and purpose. These heading are the same as the students hence reinforcing the idea of a learning community. Each of the goals are linked to the dispositions of the school in our case Ako, Manaakitanga and Wahine Toa. Time is made in Term one for authentic and robust conversations to eek out these goals. This is done collaboratively. Then–and this is the critical part–refer back to that constantly as you make decisions that might impact the inquiry. This is like a lighthouse. You can revise as necessary, but be careful not to drift too far away.

  1. Set the ground rules

You could probably call this a policy, but it’s the non-policy policy—just some basic rules and a common language to make sure everyone is starting and finishing at the same point.

The inquiry does not have to be come up with an answer but it does have to link to school goals.

  1. Diversify professional development sources

This is the anti-program program. Less about experts and more about staff capacity. To achieve a self-sustaining, always-on program, this is also where our Café style PLG kicks in. The grounds rules again must be clear. Everyone must contribute. It is not enough to turn up and be ready for a chat.

  1. Create a pilot or template that works for teachers

Pilot it in one department or grade level at first to work out the bugs, the factors you didn’t consider, and to better understand how it might work yourself. You may find this new open approach to PD confuses folks, and that’s okay. Simply go back to steps one and two.

  1. Connect teachers

Connect teachers from different schools to not only improve the diversity of resources, but naturally expand professional learning networks in the process. These connections will catalyze the effort as you move on. Relationships and curiosity will take a teacher further than a policy or minimal requirement. The point of this whole thing is staff capacity, not corrective training.

  1. Focus on student learning

The whole point of the PLG focus on strategies, tools, and thinking that ends up in pedagogical change, curriculum, assessment, classrooms, teacher-student interactions is ultimately “student achievement.” If it is not then what is the point?

  1. Let us celebrate teacher strengths & interests

Teachers need to see themselves as a crafts-person that is skilled and passionate. Strengths could be collaboration with colleagues, assessment design, classroom management, curriculum development, or other traditional educational pillars. This again can be done in the PLG Café or by cross-pollination.

So from the beginning, everyone should be aware that PLD and PLG is all a work in progress—just like the profession itself. Perhaps the greatest potential here is in the chance to personalize professional development for teachers.

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