Category Archives: Leadership

The Learning Pit – James Nottingham

I shared this video about the Learning Pit with my team last week as the professional development part of our meeting as I was very impressed with the positive responses from the teachers. I absolutely love the concept and want to promote it further within our team and the wider school.

The video generated a great deal of discussion and as a result, I am wanting to have a look at how we could implement this question everything type approach in to our final two ‘theme’ units.

Principled principals

Today I was thinking about the various principals I have worked with over the years and the diverse range of principles or philosophies that they hold about school leadership. A couple of questions  struck me. Hopefully all the principals I have worked with want their students to achieve and be as successful as possible, but how can the approaches to leadership vary so greatly? Which leadership style is most conducive to student progress?

I guess the principals I have worked with in the past fall roughly in to one of two categories: Transformational Leaders and Instructional Leaders. As I pondered on the different approaches to leadership I received an email from Educational Leadership. See here if you would like to subscribe to the magazine (it is really worthwhile!). The article entitled Impact Leadership makes for very interesting reading. If you are too busy to read the whole article I will give you a brief synopsis of the article which I hope will entice you to read the entire article.

Impact Leadership is written by John Hattie and discusses the findings of a study carried out by Robinson, Lloyd, Rowe (2008). In the research Robinson et al. (2008) define the two types of leadership, Transformational and Instructional. They found transformational leaders set a vision, create common goals for a school, inspire and set direction, buffer staff from external demands, ensure fair and equitable staffing and give teachers a high degree of autonomy.  Basically, these leaders focus more on teachers.

In contrast, instructional leaders focus more on students. They are concerned with the teachers’ and school’s impact on student learning and instructional issues, conducting classroom observations, ensuring professional development that enhances student learning, communicating high academic standards and ensuring that all school environments are conducive to learning.

Interestingly enough, more than 80% of leaders claim to be transformational leaders (Marks, 2013). Here’s the crunch, Robinson et al. (2008) discovered that the overall effect from transformational leaders was .11 compared with the overall effect from instructional leaders being .42. That is a huge difference! The key to the huge difference is leaders who see their key role as evaluating their impact and getting everyone in the school working together to know and evaluate their impact. There are a great deal of other approaches that have been proven to be highly effective. If you want to find out what these approaches are you should check out this page. 

The take away point: “Effective instructional leaders don’t just focus on student learning. They relentlessly search out and interrogate evidence of that learning” John Hattie.

 

Cyber safety for one and all!

Over the Christmas holidays I spent some time looking at the Cyber Safety Agreement that each family and student sign upon their arrival at school.  By signing the agreement they signal their acceptance to abide by the school’s rules and procedures around using devices. After rewriting parts of the agreement I began to think about students and the world we live in. A couple of questions struck me: Do students truly understand the dangers of using devices, especially the Internet and social media? Do teachers appreciate the dangers and pit falls of using social media?

As I thought about the first of these two questions I began to search the Internet for resources that could help. Obviously, netsafe is an excellent resource but I wanted to see what else was ‘out there’. I found an excellent resource called Common Sense Education. They offer a range of excellent free curricula for schools to teach cyber safety.

As the saturation of technology only increases, I believe schools need to make their cyber safety teaching as effective as possible by involving the whole community. Inform parents and caregivers about what is being taught at school and advise on ways that they can help their children be safe online at home. Invite parents or caregivers from the community into school to hold workshops for other parents and students.

As I began to write a staff agreement for school I found www.teachersandsocialmedia.co.nz to be extremely helpful. Social media can be such a powerful tool for teachers when used correctly. I wouldn’t want to discourage any teachers from engaging in social media in a positive and professional manner; however, teachers have a professional obligation to develop and maintain professional relationships.

I feel that the ‘grey area’ surrounds personal social media use. The greater majority of teachers are capable of maintaining professionalism when they are commenting on a social media site in the capacity as a teacher. What teachers must also be aware of is how they portray their ‘private’ lives on social media sites. It is important for teachers to think about how their post, image or video might reflect on themselves and their school. A golden rule that I think all teachers should live by when posting to social media sites is ‘Would I be happy for my principal or the chairperson of the board of trustees to see my post?’ If the answer is no then it is probably best that teachers think twice before posting. An excellent ‘Before you share – Guidelines’ can be found here. Very useful if you are wanting to consider writing guidelines around using social media for staff.

Who’s in the driving seat?

During our second Teacher Only Day, Anna Stephenson who was our facilitator gave out a reading by Watkins (2009) entitled ‘Learners in the Driving Seat’. The reading looks at who is responsible for students’ learning and how young students can take the lead in their own learning. You can view the article here: Learners in the driving seat – Watkins (2009). I am looking forward to trialling an idea with my class on day one – Ask the students to point at the ceiling with their index finger and then ask them to point at who is responsible for their learning. I am looking forward to taking pictures of this that we can, as a class, reflect back on later in the year. It is my hope that some of the students that I had last year point at themselves, but time will tell:-)

Watkins’ reading was a confirmation of sorts that the professional development/leadership that I had been planning for my team was heading in the correct direction. Last year, after reading about student agency, visiting various schools that promote student autonomy and attending educamp2014 I decided that I wanted to give students greater control over what they learnt in my classroom.

During Term 4 I trialled running small groups where students could opt into what was being taught. If the students decided to attend the small group and realised that they new the content they were free to leave. Of course, there were varying degrees of autonomy depending on the student; however, I felt that this approach worked very well. It was interesting to anecdotally note that motivation of the class improved as a result of being able to choose when and what they studied within the context of a wider topic.

Following on from this, I decided that I would like to try this approach on a wider scale. As part of our team teacher inquiry, which each teaching team has control over, I decided I would like to look at creating greater student agency/autonomy in 2015.

Aa part of the session with Anna, we were asked to think about what our team inquiry would look like. I was conscious of wanting to develop interest and motivation for the topic with the rest of my team members rather than telling the team what we would be inquiring about. I think that team ‘by in’ is massively important when looking at new initiatives/ideas.

After some explanation of my thinking and showing the rest of the team The Learning Pyramid they were excited about the idea of creating greater student agency across the team.Learning-Pyramid

Realising that this could be a massive inquiry for a team which has a third year teacher and a PRT 1 we decided to narrow our approach to the maths curriculum. Hopefully this would be beneficial from two aspects, firstly it will give us a more focussed approach and secondly it will give us concrete data to use and compare when studying the effectiveness of our inquiry.

I am thoroughly looking forward to implementing some of the ideas, readings and thinking that I have done over the Christmas holidays within my class and team.

PS: I tried the activity today from Learners in the driving seat (Watkins, 2009) with the students in my class and interestingly there was a correlation between the contributing schools my Year 7 had attended previously and who/where they ended up pointing. I was pleased that about 80% of my Year 8 students pointed at themselves. When asked to discuss who they pointed at and why, one of my Year 8 girl’s said that she pointed at herself because “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” which I thought was very insightful comment/reflection.

Leadership starts with vision.

This framework is one that was presented during NAPP 2014.

Fullan's Framework for Leadership

 

While Fullan differentiates between Leaders and Members I think that the blue oval and outer white oval actually apply to all members of staff within an organisation/school. I personally feel that the difference between Leaders and Members is vision.

Leadership success always starts with vision.

“There’s nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can’t clearly articulate why we’re doing what we’re doing.” –James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Leaders have vision. They share a dream and direction that other people want to share and follow. The leadership vision goes beyond your written annual or strategic plan. The vision of leadership permeates the school and is manifested in the actions, beliefs, values and goals of your senior management team.

PRT Mentoring

This year I have had the privilege of mentoring a PRT2. Some documents that I have found useful along the journey have been:

Mentor Inquiry

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and

Relating RTCs to Tätaiako

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Both of these documents have helped shape feedback and feedforward for my mentee. It appears that various Colleges of Education are great at teaching or making their students aware of the RTCs but fail teach Tātaiako to the same degree. This is a shame as it sends the message to PRTs that Tātaiako is some how less important/relevant than the RTCs.

Managing Change

As I was preparing for a Professional Development session I came across this interesting diagram. I think it sums up brilliantly the processes that need to be considered if changes are to be made.23010261I also think that we need to constantly remind ourselves of the following quote from Frederick Douglass – “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

 

Flipping the Flip

Toward the end of Term One I was leading some Professional Development with the staff around using MyPortfolio, the ePortfolio that PNINS Senior Management had chosen to adopt.

Many members of staff who are late adopters of technology began to grumble that they didn’t see the point of using MyPortfolio as they were too difficult to use compared to what they had always done. And yet other members of staff were disengaged because they found the technology extremely easy to use and didn’t see the point of the Professional Development when they thought they knew it all already. My initial thought was, I guess you can’t keep everyone happy all the time… and as Nelson Mandela once said “It is a grave error for any leader to be oversensitive in the face of criticism.”

As I rode my bike home I began to think, would I have been happy if that were a lesson in my class?

Of course not!

I decided that differentiation was the key. The next time I led a Professional Development session I asked some of the earlier adopters to lead small groups. Staff could then choose which ability group they would attend. This worked extremely well! Staff were much more positive about the session and the progress that individuals made was far greater.

As I thought about this approach some more I wondered if there were other classroom techniques that could be applied to Professional Development and staff training.
As I began to research this train of thought I came across the following fascinating article: Continue reading Flipping the Flip