Tag Archives: curriculum leadership

Leaders of Learning: Part Two

20 May

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I enjoyed last time so much here is the second part. Please indulge me.

  • The more senior you get, the more people you serve – an old Sea Captain once said this!  They care for their team and look after them.  They make sure they are able to use their time wisely and question if their team are being asked to do things that don’t fit the core purpose of the team.
  • Steer the ship with confidence– they make decisions with confidence and conviction – as a result, the team has confidence in them.
  • Hands up– they have the confidence to admit when they get something wrong – and learn from it.
  • Sense the mood– they know their team and know when to push them and when to ease off a bit, when things are getting tough.
  • Collective responsibility– they make their team feel that everyone is working together and that they will be supported e.g. at the end of the day they will initiate a discussion about any problem students anyone has had, and how they can support them, with supporting those students.
  • Hard yards– they are not afraid of getting their hands dirty e.g. they will come with you at the end of the day to pick up that tricky customer and make sure they come to detention!
  • Clarity of role and responsibility– they ensure that everyone is working towards the same objective i.e. to be world class in that subject, and that everyone knows their role in it – including other leaders within the team.
  • Think ahead– they think ahead and plan ahead – and help the team to do the same, and so make them feel secure.  This involves looking ahead to where the crunch times are and supporting the team through this.
  • Celebrate the mini-victories– they ensure that the successes, even the small ones, are not overlooked – they are celebrated.
  • Everything beats the deadline– they ensure that the team understands that missing a deadline adds pressure to somebody else in the organisation.  So this is a non-negotiable.
  • Outward looking– they act as a filter to the outside, keeping the team briefed on relevant new national developments and best practice elsewhere – that could be incorporated into what then team already does.
  • Talent spotting– they make sure that they find opportunities to recruit the best people to the team e.g. engage with ITT and support/ develop potential future leaders.
  • Caring– they encourage a caring and compassionate culture – when people in the team are struggling (and we all do from time to time) they look after them.
  • Thank you– they use this phrase a great deal.
  • Happiness– they understand that a happy team, is more likely to work hard and be successful.
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Leaders of Learning

19 May

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There are many tough jobs in a secondary school – but leading a subject area, especially a large subject area, must be one of the most difficult.  I’ve been fortunate to lead and to work with some inspiring Curriculum Leaders in recent years – who do an amazing job.  They grow and nurture a great team, who then achieve fantastic outcomes for the students they teach.  I thought I would try to make a list of some of the qualities they have:

  • Role models – they are always, first and foremost, great teachers.
  • Articulate greatness– they understand what makes great teaching within the context of their subject and can articulate this clearly with their team.
  • Set the standard– they clearly identify the standards they expect to see on a day to day basis – and live and breathe these themselves.  This creates a shared clarity of purpose.
  • Moral purpose– they have an unswerving commitment to getting the best deal possible for the students who pass through their subject.  They understand that a good education can transform life chances.
  • Expect excellence– they strongly believe that all students can get better and be successful.
  • Pride in their fiefdom– they patrol their subject area and make it clear to the students that they are in charge – and that the students will meet their expectations!
  • Parental contact– they won’t hesitate to call home – and will support their team with doing the same.
  • Understand change– they know how their team is performing and when they might be plateauing or when something is not working – and how at this point, change might be required in order to get that next bit of improvement – but they don’t just change things for the sake of it.
  • Keep the main thing, the main thing– they understand that the key to a successful team, is developing great teaching.  So they talk about great teaching a lot!
  • Subject Knowledge– they encourage people to be passionate about their subject and to keep developing their own knowledge of the subject.
  • Evidence informed– they wary of gimmicky approaches and base what they do, and what they ask their teachers to do, on wisdom and research evidence.

Does this describe some of your people?

Supporting Middle Leaders

5 Nov

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To talk about teaching without considering what is being learned, is just strange. Curriculum leaders provide a system that supports teaching and learning. In the absence of a system, students will enter class each day, participate in lessons, and at the end of the year, each student will be promoted to the next grade level. Instructional leaders must strive to identify the focus for each grade level or course and then work collaboratively to ensure that each student is challenged and provided with scaffolding as needed. Hattie suggests that principals are engaged in instructional leadership when they “have their major focus on creating a learning climate free of disruption, a system of clear teaching objectives, and high teacher expectations for teachers and students” (2012, p. 83).

The word ‘curriculum’ derives from the Latin ‘currere’ meaning a race or a course on which a race is run.  The Latin verb ‘currere’ means to ‘run’ or ‘proceed’.

I like this idea of running for many reasons. First, it underlines the importance of the journey: to take a short-cut would be to miss the point. The specified ground must be conquered or the race can be neither run nor won. All the running matters. If we tell the runners to practise only the final sprint, we not only miss the point of the whole race. In schools we seem to miss this point. We are always rushing to the assessment. Second, it reminds us that curriculum is not a mere aggregate of things. Its character is a key. Curriculum is content structured over time. Third, it points to the curriculum as continuous. Not just a sequence it’s much more like a narrative.  Curriculum is content structured over time with all the parts talking to each other.

So often our curriculum is not coherent and lacks a smoothness. How does this absence of curricular focus happen? And what can we do about it?

It happens because at the level of a whole school, the pull of the generic is strong and understandably so. Schools must be led and managed as coherent enterprises. Parity must be found across a school’s spheres. To ascend the ladders of school leadership, subject specialism must, to some degree, be transcended.  Whole-school leaders contribute in vital ways that transcend subject. They must communicate strategy, distribute resource, facilitate collaboration, align systems, review pupils’ progress across differing spheres, build policies for behaviour… In short, they must create the best environment possible for all teachers to make things happen.

Therefore, built into the culture of staff development is a sense of subject specialism as transient.  Each subject area empire building. Built into the structure of a school is an imperative for common proxies – from assessment to resourcing – removed from the actual substance what is being taught and learned.

How easy, then, to slide into the assumption of equivalence, especially with generic terms such as ‘learning’, ‘progress’ or ‘skills’. Senior Leadership Teams need to provide leadership talking about teaching and attainment, a language which, because of its curricular character.  Such a language cannot be empty of substance. It must be rooted in a shared knowledge base, one that makes curricular communication possible.

I have learnt this year to support and grow our middle leaders. When curriculum leadership becomes the priority for our kura student understanding will grow. A kura without clearly defined pathways for these people is like a ship without a rudder; it lacks direction and a slight wind could easily blow it off course (Wiles, 2009).

Our Curriculum Leaders

3 Nov

BigData

Curriculum is fundamental to schools. It is complex. Necessarily directional and dependent on recognizable channels, it must be vibrant and changing for such is the character of knowledge and our relationship to it. For too long though it has remained unchanged.

The term ‘curriculum leadership’ is associated with middle leaders – the ‘geography coordinator’, the ‘head of science’. It is, quite rightly, linked to subjects.  Our task this year has been to change the conversation though coaching and tasks. These middle leaders are now recognised as “Leaders of Learning.”

Where SLT have tried to reach into pedagogy with generic strategies that fail to attend to subject distinctiveness, all manner of distortions has occurred. In tackling the ‘how’ (teaching and learning) and in attempting to judge its efficacy (progress, assessment, data, outcomes), if we ignore ‘what?

What can curriculum leadership mean? And why on earth does this matter so much? Haven’t we gotten along perfectly well without such senior staff changing things?

Leaders of Learning see small data more clearly. Things SLT might not see in their role. Pasi Sahlberg of Finland spoke at ULEARN 18 about small versus bigdata. “If you don’t lead with small data, you’ll be led by big data. Small data is processed by humans, and reveals causation, collective wisdom and understanding the present. As opposed to big data which looks at big trends, processed by computers, reveals correlations and predicts the future. Big data spews out impersonal trends, where small data gives a more personal view. You can strengthen small data by using professional wisdom as evidence.”

The absence of an adequate model of curriculum leadership seems to me to deepen fundamental and longstanding problems in schools with which we have all wrestled, from weak assessment systems to problems with generation and interpretation of data, from problematical judgements about teaching and learning, to attraction and retention of fine teachers, from teacher development to blaming everything on “management.”

My concern is not just about what a person in SLT called ‘curriculum deputy’ needs to know, but what everyone in a senior leadership team needs to know about curriculum to lead on everything else. Curriculum leadership is everybody’s mahi.

Curriculum Leaders not Managers

27 May

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Curriculum leadership is complicated because leading curriculum development meetings involves working with fallible, imperfect human beings.  A second reason curriculum leadership is difficult is due to the school schedule and a lack of extended time for teachers to discuss and revise existing curriculum documents.

Five Reasons Why Schools Need Curriculum Leaders:

  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides clarity. What should every student know and be able to do?
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides opportunities to develop and empower future leaders. Curriculum leadership is not a solo act.
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for continuous improvement. Schools should be learning organizations.
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity to establish goals. Goals provide teachers and students with something to aim for.
  1.  Curriculum Leadership provides the opportunity for improved alignment.

Glatthorn (1987) wrote, “One of the tasks of curriculum leadership is to use the right methods to bring the written, the taught, the supported, and the tested curriculums into closer alignment, so that the learned curriculum is maximized” (p. 4).

What comes to mind when you hear the term curriculum leader?  Do you have a vision of  staff standing at the back of your classroom observing teaching and learning?  Do you see the instructional leader as the building principal conducting three-minute walk-through observations?  How many curriculum leaders can one school hold?

Curriculum leadership should not be determined by a person’s title or years of experience.  Wiles (2009) wrote, “Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether this role is carried out by a principal, an assistant principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school.”

Glatthorn, A.A. (1987). Curriculum renewal. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Glatthorn, A.A., & Jailall, J.M. (2009). The principal as curriculum leader: Shaping what is taught and tested (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Wiles, J. (2009). Leading curriculum development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Reflection Today

14 Feb

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Today’s world is vastly different from that of 50 years ago. And the pace of change is accelerating, with increasing globalisation; advances in technology, communications and social networking; greatly increased access to information; an explosion of knowledge; and an array of increasingly complex social and environmental issues. The world of work also is undergoing rapid change with greater workforce mobility, growth in knowledge-based work, the emergence of multi-disciplinary work teams engaged in innovation and problem solving, and a much greater requirement for continual workplace learning. The school curriculum must attempt to equip students for this significantly changed and changing world.

However, many features of the school curriculum have been unchanged for decades. We continue to present disciplines largely in isolation from each other, place an emphasis on the mastery of large bodies of factual and procedural knowledge and treat learning as an individual rather than collective activity. This is particularly true in the senior secondary school, which then influences curricula in the earlier years.What is your school environment doing to respond to this change

Head of Faculty Inquiry

18 Jan

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We talk a great deal at school about creating students with our dispositions (ako, manaakitanga and wahine toa).  This year the main body of our work is looking into our curriculum. Asking the question is what we are teaching meeting the needs of our students?

The purpose of the New Zealand education system and here at Sacred Heart is to equip our students with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens. Educational curriculum should meet the needs and current demands of the culture, the society, and the expectations of the population being served. To achieve this vision, the Government directs what students should learn through its national curriculum.

Continually updating school curricula helps equip the next generation to contribute effectively in our rapidly changing world. In New Zealand, there are concerns that school curricula may not be developing the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the challenges of the future. There is concern about a lack of financial education, that participation and performance in science and mathematics are decreasing, and that there is a need for teaching in citizenship and environmental sustainability areas. There is also discussion as to whether languages such as Te Reo Māori should be compulsory.

In our rapidly changing world, continually updating school curricula ensures that the next generation is fully equipped to function well in society. There is a growing need for specialised training for certain career pathways, which requires more formal training. This has created greater demand for greater thought to be put into vocational pathways in secondary school, to help ensure a smooth transition into on-going education, training or work.

The New Zealand Curriculum is the statement of official policy relating to teaching and learning in New Zealand schools. It sets out the vision and principles that are the foundations of decision-making in school curriculum. Schools are required to base their curriculum on the principles of the Curriculum, to encourage and model the values, and to develop the key competencies at all year levels.

Under the National Administration Guidelines, the national curriculum is compulsory until Year 10, so schools are required to provide subjects that relate to the learning areas above and are compulsory for all students. Currently, secondary schools in New Zealand provide a mixture of compulsory and elective subject choices.

Schools must keep up-to-date with the continuous evolution of knowledge and technological change, so students and fully equipped to function well in society.

Specific issues perceived as being important to address include:

a lack of financial education.

failing participation and academic performance in “core” subjects such as science or mathematics.

ensuring students have the skills to keep up with rapid technological innovation.

Lets see how the journey goes.

The Lost Art of Reflection

6 Dec

The Thinker

Reflection is a lost art in classrooms. With the push to cover more content and standards, teachers often make a choice between coverage or pausing for reflection. Reflection comes in many forms: reflective journals, group work, whole class, silent reflection, reviewing yesterday’s work, reflecting on an essential question, or creating a product that shows your thoughts on a previous lesson or understanding.

How often do students feel like the pace of schooling is rushed? Once a unit is finished, the teacher moves to the next unit. Reflection involves slowing down to share what we learned. In the absence of reflection, it is unlikely that a classroom is a Culture of Inquiry. How do students reflect and make meaning out of their experiences?

Learning takes place when inquiry is present. This year as Faculty’s met every Wednesday to develop lessons and assessments, analyze the amount of time students have to question, talk with their peers, and reflect. This inquiry is a step towards reflection. May it continue in 2017.

Curriculum and Leadership

16 Feb

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I have been thinking what is my school or diocese doing to develop curriculum leaders?  Do leaders emerge each year or does the school  have a strategic plan for staff development and expansion of current leadership opportunities?  Leadership author John Maxwell often says, “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.”

Maxwell wrote The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

If curriculum is important in your learning community see if you can answer these questions: Does our school/school district have a curriculum leadership team?

Does each department and/or school have equal representation on the curriculum leadership team?

Are we intentional about developing new curriculum leaders within the school?

Does our school/school district reflect our goal of multiplying leaders this year?

Do we offer professional development for current and future leaders?

Is leadership a position/title or ‘influence’?

Where are the Curriculum Leaders?

19 Aug

Leadership

Go onto Twitter or Facebook or any such site you will find people having their say on leadership. Thousands of books have been sold on the topic of leadership.  I have brought many of them. When you visit the library or search for an e-book, you can find topics about business leadership, military leaders, great sporting leaders, leadership wisdom from presidents, ethical leadership, and the list is limitless.

The field of education needs more curriculum leaders.  People know about curriculum leadership and some educators do a great job of leading their class or their team.  Curriculum leadership involves working with multiple people to ensure that the curriculum is aligned both horizontally and vertically.

When educators think of curriculum development and curriculum alignment, they often reflect on a time when teachers meet and discuss the nuts and bolts. What our system needs are people with greater vision. A flavour-of-the month approach to curriculum development will not support students or teachers and it creates a disjointed curriculum. It creates a culture amongst the team of yes “this will come and go, it’s only a fade.”

We need curriculum leaders who will challenge and advance pedagogy. We can all serve as a curriculum leaders. Ask yourself the following questions about your department:

  1.  What is Curriculum Leadership? (Clue: Its not about making sure everybody has textbooks)
  2.  Who are the Curriculum Leaders in our school?
  3.  What goals do the Curriculum Leaders have for this school year?
  4.  How will we measure progress towards the goals?
  5. How are we progressing right now with these?
  6. Do these meet with the school wide goals and my own personal goals as a teacher?

Lots to think about here but worth but worth putting these aside for a Departmental or Team meeting I think.

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