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Thursday, 8 June 2017

EduTECH Day 1 2017

The Future of Education

One of the biggest challenges school leaders face is how to redesign the learning system to have the greatest effect on our students? With researchers such as John Hattie (2012) focusing his lens on the impact of the teacher on the student’s learning there is the push to have teachers identify ways that they can redesign the learning environment, redesign pedagogy and redesign assessment.

How do we re-imagine the concept of school to make the teaching have the greatest effect on student learning in real and authentic ways and what will this look like?

As we drill down into this question the focus is drawn further away from the upfront teaching and redirected firmly to student centred learning. Having a shared understanding of what learning looks like is essential as practitioners we can identify ways of embedding this into practice.  Learning is the essence of what happens in the classroom every day, but when we discover what good learners are and the keys to switch all learners on we unlock their adaptability and willingness to engage with education.

Rennie (2015) adds more insight by drawing our attention to the evidence of leadership. She highlights there are significant links between this and learning outcomes, teacher efficacy and school improvement. As leaders push forward with vision and adopt a reflective mindset they draw the voice and support of those they lead (Fullan, 2001). In a school context this may sound complex; however, it means the core business of learning is the focal point and everything else while important becomes more peripheral.

As learning takes priority (Rennie, 2015), the practices used to engage and build the knowledge and understanding of students develop (Hattie, 2017). Our willingness as educators and leaders to explore and experiment, to iterate and learn through failure as part of the culture of growth increases so to the measurable impact on the students. Learner development can be observed in a myriad of areas, socially, emotionally and academically, moving towards the one year's worth of progress for one year's input as Hattie (2015) puts forth. We see in students a heightened disposition to go through the pit of learning (McDowell, 2017) and come out on the other side as they see their journey is built with the support of others in an environment of trust.

As by-products of this drive towards greater outcomes for the student, we may see recreations of learning spaces, innovative ways of engaging students and the greater inclusion of the “real world”.

Through this realignment onto the core business of learning, we will see collective leadership (Petrie, 2004) increase and create quality learning opportunities for all (students and staff) within the community of learners (Gurr, 2015). These communities will look different at different schools, although shared characteristics will be collaboration, communication and creativity outplaying through actions such as co-teaching, monitoring, mentoring, observations and feedforward coaching (Petrie, 2004). This type of collaboration provides rich and genuine professional development for teachers within an authentic and known context. To do this in such a way that all learners learning is maximised, it will become essential for us to move beyond the four walls.

Tim Bowden identified "Teaching is improved when it's not a solo practice, teachers working in the presence of one another can give each other feedback and support" (2017). Inviting the opportunity for each other to explore how might our capacity and practice could be enhanced to amplify the learning.

School leaders are role models, therefore, as they have the potential to impact the lives of students in positive ways. Their willingness to grow and expand capacity is a must. Any time they can expose themselves to new educational theories and practices, their teacher efficacy increases (Rennie, 2015). To have a culture grow there is the need to have a vision of where schools can position themselves and grow too, the structures and the mechanisms to support this. Technical decisions need to be made to ensure this works. Where I envisage the future of education is heavily driven by the framework of teacher leadership (Harris & Muijs, 2002) under the distribute leadership (Leithwood & Jantzi, 1998) of our principals as it is a pertinent vehicle to empower this goal of placing learning at the core of what we do by creating more effective teachers, revitalising school systems and impacting student achievement.

Bowden. T (2017). Quoted by Singhal, S. & Ting, I (2017) Composite classes on the rise as some schools go even further. Sydney Morning Herald 21 May.
Harris, A., & Muijs, D. (2002a). Teacher leadership: Principles and practice. National College for School Leadership.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge.
Hattie, J. (2015). What doesn't work in education: the politics of distraction. Pearson.
Leithwood, K., & Jantzi, D. (1998). Distributed Leadership and Student Engagement in School.
McDowell, M. (2017). Rigorous PBL by Design: Three Shifts for Developing Confident and Competent Learners. Corwin Press.
Mathewson, T. (2017). These 7 trends are shaping personalized learning. Education Dive
Rennie, L. (2015). What are future trends in School Leadership?  Perspectives No 3. ACEL


Sunday, 30 April 2017

What are the Parallels between Mountain Climbing and Educational Leadership?

During my last holiday break, I had the opportunity tick one of my major things I wanted to do off my list of must do’s. It was to climb to the summit of Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciusko with my extended family from all over Australia’s eastern seaboard. During the ascent, I had much time to reflect on the parallels between educational leadership and mountain climbing and how shared experiences can mean a variety of things depending on the person’s perspective.

What I also noticed was in a state of reflection I was also able to recognize and empathize with the pain and joy of the others with me, as well as acknowledge my own state of being. With me climbing this mountain were my parents, my brother and sister and their families and my own.

Beginning with myself, I was fully aware of the magical moments from streams of fresh mountain water, the beauty of falling snow crystals being blown around in the breeze, to the feeling of satisfaction knowing that I had reached the rooftop of Australia but also fully present with the pain of fatigue and exhaustion sickness.

My father is one who has always been fit; however, in recent years, has needed greater amounts of medical attention. For him and my mother, they set themselves a goal to reach at their pace the Kosciusko lookout which is half way up the climb. Five hundred meters before reaching this they were almost beaten by my Father’s recurring hip problem and my Mother’s asthma. It took a small amount of doubling back and encouragement from the youngest grandchildren to convince them that they could to support them to take the steps they needed to see the mountain.

Moving beyond the lookout, my children decided to run ahead and soon found themselves faced with a challenge that not even their cross country training could have prepared them for. Their zest and enthusiasm were quickly replaced by frustration and annoyance that not even the constant joking around with their cousins could overcome. I clearly remember hearing the statement “Dad why are we doing this?”

My wife and sister had turns carrying my two-year-old niece only to have her fall over and cut her teeth through her lip, therefore, needed to her give medical attention and comfort so that she would make the top. My wife also did this in a light pair of socks meaning that she had cold and wet feet throughout the climb. My brother found that he needed to set the pace so that he didn’t lose any of the children; however, sat longest at the summit in the just over beyond freezing conditions.

I can clearly remember the sheer joy the expressions on my children’s, their cousin’s and the rest of my families’ faces gave when they climbed the last run up to the top of the peak where they realized that they had made it to the top of climbed one of the world’s tallest mountains.  It delighted and captivated each of the members of my family in differing ways.

This too is true in educational leadership, we all cannot attain the same great heights as Sir Edmund Hillary; however, we can strive to hit the top of our own educational peaks. Too often we see leadership being all about the person who is streaking ahead but forget Edmund Hillary had Tenzing Norgay only two steps behind him as his support and critical collaborator. In fact, Tenzing carried much of the equipment needed to survive. Without the assistance he gave the foundation and pathway for others would not have been created.

For each one of us, the vision may be the same to see the mountain, to do our best or to leave a lasting impact on our students but the goal destination can be different. Some of us have goals to become leaders out there in front, while others desire to work in the background supporting others to reach their peak.

The key leadership parallels that can be gleaned from this experience is each leader will carry different burdens and baggage, gifting’s and skills that will colour and tint the outlook in curious and sometimes bizarre ways. This will also impact how much time the journey towards a vision. It is not something that happens without preparation and persistence. It takes a wiliness to overcome the obstacles and sacrifice comfort to focus on attaining both the vision and the goals. However, through this intentional leadership choice to attain the milestones we experience in ourselves and in others a rapturous reaction, joy, praise, support, celebration and then awe and reflection.

Something I am constantly learning and relearning as an educational leader is leadership is as much about standing with others in reaching their goals as it is about attaining my own. 

I would love your thoughts!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

How do we Build a Culture of Inquiry and Data Use?

School systems have a shared responsibility to improve student learning outcomes. Likewise, for staff there is an obligation to provide extended opportunities to build on what they already know. High quality recording methods that ascertain growth mapped over time can identify trends and highlight threats allowing organisations to predict implications of applying a learning initiative or intervention. This can become complex and messy due to competing agendas and a variety of interpretations. For this reason, organisations have an obligation to develop a fair, ethical and shared understanding how data will be used and interpreted (Stoll & Fink,1996).

A strong and user-friendly data system when properly implemented, empowers teachers to discover value in functions that bring student data to their fingertips (Brunner, Fasca, Heinze, Honey, Light, Mandinach & Wexler, 2005). Therefore, teachers require adequate learning support if they are to use data to improve practice (Datnow, Park & Wohlstetter, 2007). Collaboration is a critical mechanism to change practice and affect professional learning, it can be used to create a vision for data use and in modeling protocols (Knapp, Swinnerton, Copland & Monpas-Huber, 2006)

The core elements of the data usage culture are derived by interplay between the school’s subsystems which provides evidence that informs about professional capacity, student learning environment, parent, school community ties and the instructional guidance in accordance to curriculum outcome data points (Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Easton & Luppescu, 2010) thus, offering commentary on a school’s effectiveness.

Many schools may be data-rich but insight-poor (RP Group, 2009). By strengthening data-based usage organisations, leaders and teachers can identify the purpose of the data, for example, is it primary collected as an internal or external measure? What gaps in curriculum, poor paced instruction and idiosyncratic expectations for student performance does it identify? How can these issues begin to be addressed? (Bryk, et al., 2010).

Sharratt and Planche (2016) indicate, data use requires reflective action such as, interpreting and engaging with it, making assessments of it while continuing to move and being reflective of its implications, accompanied by accountable conversation as co-learning professionals (Earl & Katz, 2002). It is essential in critical data inquiry to look at the information in non-accusatory, non-judgemental and non-evaluative ways to draw out deep and strategic knowledge that will refine, enhance and build capacity. This is done by ongoing, cyclical practices that revisits and draw new data regularly. Having a culture of data-based inquiry can cause mid-course corrections, strategic interventions or feedback to students that will lead to change.

In developing a mind of inquiry that links the data to leadership, Earl & Katz (2002) suggest, professionals in the analysis stage need to value deep understanding, reserve judgement on ambiguity, take a range of perspectives to identify divergence in data lines and systematically pose increasingly focused questions drill down and bring clarity and context. This understanding helps the user to think about the purpose of the data by identifying sound and unsound information (Sharratt & Fullan, 2012).

Data literate organisations make time for reflection, discussion and refinement where observations and assumptions are shared and unpacked (Sharratt and Planche, 2016). One inquiry leads to another revealing new layers of investigation. With each inquiry they see their progress with relation to their goals in greater definition. As greater definition is observed, it builds cultures that support inquiry and data use, increasing its influence.

My challenge is how can I ensure that I follow Sharratt and Planche's (2016) advice and ensure I make time for reflection, discussion and refinement? I would love your thoughts.

Brunner, C., Fasca, C., Heinze, J., Honey, M., Light, D., Mardinach, E., & Wexler, D. (2005). Linking data and learning: The Grow Network study.Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk10(3), 241-267.
Bryk, A. S., Sebring, P. B., Allensworth, E., Easton, J. Q., & Luppescu, S. (2010). Organizing schools for improvement: Lessons from Chicago. University of Chicago Press.
Datnow, A., Park, V., & Wohlstetter, P. (2007). Achieving with data: How high-performing school systems use data to improve instruction for elementary students. Los Angeles: University of Southern California, Rossier School of Education, Center on Educational Governance.
Earl, L., & Katz, S. (2002). Leading schools in a data-rich world. In Second international handbook of educational leadership and administration (pp. 1003-1022). Springer Netherlands.
Knapp, M. S., Swinnerton, J. A., Copland, M. A., & Monpas-Huber, J. (2006). Data-informed leadership in education. Seattle, WA: University of Washington, Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy.
RP Group. (2009). Basic Skills Outcomes Capacity Study: The Use of Evidence in California Community Colleges.
Sharratt, L., & Fullan, M. (2012). Putting faces on the data: What great leaders do!. Corwin Press.
Sharratt, L., & Planche, B. (2016). Leading collaborative learning: Empowering excellence. Corwin Press.
Stoll, L., & Fink, D. (1996). Changing our schools: Linking school effectiveness and school improvement. Open University Press.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

How can we Manage the Balance of Time in our Personal and Professional Lives?

The balance between work and personal life is a constant conflict for leaders in many fields (Friedman & Greenhaus, 2000; Pocock, 2003). Education is certainly not immune (d'Arbon, Duignan, & Duncan, 2002; Hudson, 2012; Grissom, Loeb & Mitani, 2015).  In fact, how this issue is managed and supported by schools is increasingly recognised as of strategic importance to the organisation and of significance to employees (De Cieri, Holmes, Abbott, & Pettit, 2005; Queen & Queen, 2005).

It would be thoughtless to consider that community demands on educational leaders do not cause stress and impact on where they spend their time. In fact, it is only through an examination of the effects of the culture of stress that educators can begin the process of reclaiming time, priorities and health (Queen & Queen, 2005).

In my own context, moving into a new facility with five teachers collaboratively co-teaching side by side 112 students aged 11 and 12, we as a team have identified that work/life balance is a concern. Due to this awareness, we have been intentional to address this matter, the school has employed strategies such as increased flexibility, variety in professional learning and education on intentionally creating space. Consultancy from Dr. Adam Fraser (2012, 2016) and coaching in the initial weeks have begun to see a shift towards a more ideal situation.

We have discussed how the desire for balance could get lost due to the overcrowding of curriculum, external expectations and leadership responsibilities (Goleman, 2013); however, by intentionally scheduling time, acknowledging the wins and showing gratitude to each other we have maintained an equilibrium. Research (Claessens, Eerde, van Rutte, & Roe, 2007; Grissom, et al., 2015) suggest that a leader’s personal time management may enhance their overall effectiveness and success. We can only discover the remedy to balance through the reflection on the role of self-discipline in personal routines. We often don't have balance because we have spread our resources too thin. In hindsight, over the last 12 months, my attention has been dispersed to broadly and my ability to truthfully reflect was distorted and I was externalising the problem (Fraser, 2012, Powell & Kusuma-Powell, 2015). I was only able to begin a process of growth once I internalised this realisation. As a result, I have implemented the following routines, many of which I have written about in the past; however, it was great to remind myself again of.

Scheduled Downtime
When I am planning my professional week, I schedule personal time with family, friends and activities that give me pleasure outside of work. Intentionally prioritised these elements give my life purpose. In doing so, it has allowed me extra control over changes to my schedule by offering me incentives to manage my time. Time management means those behaviors “that aim at achieving an effective use of time while performing certain goal-directed activities” (Claessens et al., 2007, p. 262).

Eliminate activities that waste time or energy.
During each holiday, I take time to review the activities that I do. This identifies of activities that did not enhance my leadership opportunities, classroom practice or personal life. As a result, when I plan out my week, I pinpoint lower priority, time-consuming responsibilities and devise more appropriate times to address these.

As a reflection, this has been one of the areas that have helped most as I came to realise, I could not do everything. To spread this capacity too thin meant that I was not able to focus on leading in a professional and personal dimension well (Leonard, 2010).

Exercise & Mindfulness
Owing to a full schedule, it was difficult to make time for exercise though it is one of my stress releases. As a result of the decisions that I was making, working out became lower on my priority list. I found myself with lower energy levels, less ability to concentrate over longer periods and an increasing level of frustration with my family. To balance this, as part of my weekly schedule I program both walks with my family, a session early in the morning to work out at home and on a daily basis a time of mindfulness and reflection which has reduced stress (Skinner & Beers, 2016). Penedo & Dahn (2005), Stroth, Hille, Spitzer & Reinhardt (2009) suggest there are many benefits to increasing fitness levels that relate to focus, attention and achievement in addition to the preventive health payoffs.   

Rules of Collaboration
To support my team’s work/life balance we created rules of collaboration to guide our own responsibilities and balance our team's commitment with each other (Garmston & Wellman, 2008). It became clear that it was essential to ensure we kept each other accountable so that the stress of leadership did not increase. This was a practical example of how the desire for greater work/life balance has had practical implications. As Queen & Queen state, Systems of social support are essential for managing stress” (2005, p.13).

Claessens, B. J. C., Eerde, W. van, Rutte, C. G., & Roe, R. A. (2007). A review of the time management literature. Personnel Review, 36(2), 255–276.
d'Arbon, T., Duignan, P., & Duncan, D. J. (2002). Planning for future leadership of schools: An Australian study. Journal of educational administration40(5), 468-485.
De Cieri, H., Holmes, B., Abbott, J., & Pettit, T. (2005). Achievements and challenges for work/life balance strategies in Australian organisations. The International Journal of Human Resource Management16(1), 90-103.
Fraser, A. (2016) The Third Space. School based professional learning workshop 20 July 2016
Fraser, A. (2012) The Third Space: Using life’s little transitions to find balance and happiness. Penguin Books, Random House Australia
Friedman, S. D., & Greenhaus, J. H. (2000). Work and family--allies or enemies?: what happens when business professionals confront life choices. Oxford University Press, USA.
Garmston, R. & Wellman, B. (2008). The adaptive school: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.Goleman, D. (2013). Focus: The hidden driver of excellence. New York, NY: Harper.
Grissom, J. A., Loeb, S., & Mitani, H. (2015). Principal time management skills: Explaining patterns in principals’ time use, job stress, and perceived effectiveness. Journal of Educational Administration53(6), 773-793.
Hudson, P. B. (2012). How can schools support beginning teachers? A call for timely induction and mentoring for effective teaching. Australian Journal of Teacher Education37(7), 70-84.
Leonard, J. C. (2010). Finding the time for instructional leadership: management strategies for strengthening the academic program. R&L Education.
Penedo, F. J., & Dahn, J. R. (2005). Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Current opinion in psychiatry18(2), 189-193.
Pocock, B. (2003). The Work/Life Collision: What work is doing to Australians and what to do about it. Federation Press.
Powell, W., & Kusuma-Powell, O. (2015). Make the Most of Every Day: Examine your Practice to Sift out Time Wasters. Journal of Staff Development36(5), 40.
Queen, J. A., & Queen, P. S. (2005). The frazzled principal’s wellness plan: Reclaiming time, managing stress, and creating a healthy lifestyle. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Skinner, E., & Beers, J. (2016). Mindfulness and teachers’ coping in the classroom: A developmental model of teacher stress, coping, and everyday resilience. In Handbook of Mindfulness in Education (pp. 99-118). New York, Springer.
Stroth, S., Hille, K., Spitzer, M., & Reinhardt, R. (2009). Aerobic endurance exercise benefits memory and affect in young adults. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation19(2), 223-243.

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