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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Google Certified Innovators Academy Reflection


It is just a little under two weeks since the Google Certified Innovators Sydney 2017 cohort graduated. In this time I have had pockets of time to reflect and gather my thoughts about the program and how it has affected my project.

When I set out I had the plan to create a personalised learning pathway that would engage students in meaningful learning. Though the desired goal has not changed the academy, coaches and peer's have challenged me to think of ways to bring this to pass and obstacles to look out for. They have encouraged the mindset of "thinking big but starting small" by being critical friends. Colleagues and team mates I can constantly come back to and think tank with.

This shared experience has broadened my perspective and connection to a world of educators who are making a real difference in the lives of their learning communities.

During the academy, we had the time and space to look at our personal projects through the lens of design thinking set forth by Stanford University. It has the elements empathise, define, ideate, prototype, test. The process caused us to work through waves of success and failure by identifying the pits of learning and being present within these so to sit with the uncomfortableness. Often, it was during these points that the wow moments occurred. For myself, one of these happened on the last day, when I was challenged to iterate my project. The 10x feedback received early in the program was for the learning matrix's being developed students needed to be able to create an artefact of learning that would communicate their authentic and depth of concept understanding in a transformative way.

Working through this process I decided a common bridge/gateway activity (assessment as learning) was needed to enhance the impact and increase student efficacy. This additional element was to be inserted between the primary and secondary tasks as a point to assess student growth after their pretest and initial intervention activities. It was also inserted before enrichment activities again as a measure of growth and mastery. Examples of what was expected in this included pitch the concept, make the concept, video/screencast the concept, draw the concept, teach the concept, design the concept, animate the concept, cartoon the concept or sing/rap the concept.

Initial student iterations on this element of the learning pathway have shown student accessing deeper levels of understanding and increased collaboration to solve the problem; however, this is yet to be assessed to demonstrate its overall effect size.

I am really thankful for the opportunity to be involved with the Innovators Program, it was a blessing to me professionally to network and be supported by an incredible community of learners. I have made both local and international friends that I know will stand with me for many years to come. I have no doubt that I will continue to iterate and innovate on the concepts I have learnt ensuring they will have an increasing impact on learning outcomes of my students and broader community.

When asked by colleagues, "why they should consider applying?" My response is, in our world there are so many problems that need big solutions. We encourage our students to look for creative solutions and often give them creative space to work on these; however, for ourselves as educators we often don't leave enough margin for creativity. It is only when we give ourselves creative space and allow trusted critical friends to speak into this do we begin to discover the innovations that will transform the learning for students across the globe. For me this is the opportunity the Google Certified Innovators program offered.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Google for Education Innovation Academy - Day 2

Teacher Leadership - How do we Lead from the Middle? Part 2

Practical Implications:
Darling-Hammond (1995) found that teacher leadership is importantly associated to teacher scholarship and professional growth. She identified that leadership can be encapsulated in the tasks that everyday teachers do so that it does not create artificial, formal hierarchies. With this belief, it is suggested that teacher leadership can create more agile frameworks for leadership to be operated through. As the organisation has the flexibility and capacity to meet the requirements of their individual students in a differentiated and impressionable way.

Ng (2006) supported the notion that teacher leadership can contribute to school revitalization. This was created by a mixture of methods including time and space, to work, reflect, and learn together, a common planning time had given teachers to intentionally focus on school improvement. As the personal, interpersonal and organisational skills and capacity enlarged the climate for school revitalization became evident.

Current obstacles to adequately applying the teacher leadership framework in larger scale across schools include the holes in the literature (Gabriel, 2005). He identified that much of the current discussion in the mainstream is based anecdotal evidence. He suggested greater empirical data needs to be collected to verify the positive impacts that quoted by many.

Roland Barth (2013) wrote the most significant stumbling blocks was teachers themselves. He stated “teachers are, their own worst enemy when it comes to unlocking leadership because they don’t welcome it, typically don’t respect it and often feel threatened by one of their own taking it on” (p. 10). Studies suggest when teacher leadership is not well defined within a school, confusion results and tensions mounts (Hart, 1990; Wasley, 1989).

Ng (2006) added to these impeding factors by identifying lack of mutual trust and regard for the building of collaborative culture, insufficient time, micropolitics and the rigid school structures were the most thawing factors for teachers to exercise teacher leadership. Moller & Pankake (2006) reinforce this when they spoke about the effect of power struggles when the goals of the teachers  and the principal are not congruent.   

Wasley (1991) identifies bureaucratic structures as another impeding factor of teacher leadership. He suggest ultimately creativity and innovation would also be affected. Therefore, teacher leaders are required to recognise existing structures of schools and the organisational politics and navigate this by sharing their ideas in system-appropriate ways. Harris & Muijs, (2002b) agrees with this point of view by determining a major obstacle is created in traditional school hierarchies when executive teams refuse to relinquish control.

Personal Reflection:
I have found interest in writing this discussion as it reinforced the effects of my actions and interactions. In my role as a classroom teacher and teacher leader empowering others use of Information, Communication, Technology to support the creation of individualised respectful learning. To this end, I believe pedagogy can be identified as the starting point for building any quality form of teacher leadership. As a leader understanding how birth and share an idea is essential. Teachers will take on concepts and new practices if they can see the educational benefits for both themselves and their students.

When Bring Your Own Device was implemented at our school there was a lot of thought that went into the potential implications from both the teaching and learning perspectives. The intentional decision was made to make the program voluntary, taking the pressure off the teachers being immediately able to use them efficiently and effectively. In doing so a larger proportion ‘opted in’ because there was a spirit of ‘let's choose to get involved when we are ready’. By the conclusion of our first year, a majority of teachers and students were using their devices in multiple lessons on a daily basis. Over time, the desired culture grew and it enhance the overall educational outcomes. In leading the change it was essential to look at the value of change educationally.

I have learnt through this experience that teacher leadership is about seed planting. While there was a broader global strategy, executive leaders needed to identify the people who will capture this and act as the pioneers. When coalface teachers are prepared to take this, it’s less threatening for their co-workers. I have observed pursuing development in this manner will see the seed flourish as wider experimentation increases because staff don’t feel threatened by how this unfolds.

A challenging element for me is selling the idea and the direction in a non-threatening manner. Often, I can see the benefits that sit on the horizon and want to just get the teacher there. When I slow down, I go on the journey of capacity building with the other teacher. I invite them to explore how might their practice be enhance and amplify the teaching and learning.

This walking alongside leadership gives me “street cred” as I remain in the classroom working as a teacher and as such, I am ‘at the shoulder’ of my colleagues knowing the work that they do. As the coach, I model and pace the process in a way that makes pedagogical sense to my colleague, supporting both the successes and the mishaps. Teachers knowing that they can try and have the support to try again when it doesn’t work find themselves taking on as Dweck (2008) frames it, a growth mindset.

As educators who impacts the lives of our students in positive ways we must be willing to grow and open to the prospects of being vulnerable to expand our capacity. Central to their vision is a desire to do the best for the students. With this value they recognise the benefits of doing a quality job with the small things, as through this greater things happen. Therefore, any time a teacher can expose themselves to new educational theories and practices, their teacher efficacy increases. To have a culture grow there is the need to have the structures and mechanisms to support this. Technical decisions need to be made to ensure this works and as such, teacher leadership is a valuable vehicle to empower this goal of creating more effective teachers, revitalising school systems and impacting student achievement.

Barth, R. S. (2013). The time is ripe (again). Educational Leadership71(2), 10-16.
Barth, R. S. The time is ripe (again). (2013, October). Educational Leadership, 71(2).
Retrieved from
McKenzie, W. (2014, December 5). Whole Child Symposium: (Re)defining teacher
leadership [blog post]. Retrieved from Inservice at
Barth, R. S. The time is ripe (again). (2013, October). Educational Leadership, 71(2).
Retrieved from
McKenzie, W. (2014, December 5). Whole Child Symposium: (Re)defining teacher
leadership [blog post]. Retrieved from Inservice at
Barth, R. S. The time is ripe (again). (2013, October). Educational Leadership, 71(2).
Retrieved from
McKenzie, W. (2014, December 5). Whole Child Symposium: (Re)defining teacher
leadership [blog post]. Retrieved from Inservice at
Darling-Hammond, L., Bullmaster, M. L., & Cobb, V. L. (1995). Rethinking teacher leadership through professional development schools. The elementary school Journal, 96(1), 87-106.
Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc.
Gabriel, J. G. (2005). How to thrive as a teacher leader. ASCD.
Harris, A., & Muijs, D. (2002b). Teacher leadership: A review of research. Retrieved January, 25, 2007.
Hart, A. W. (1990). Impacts of the school social unit on teacher authority during work redesign. American Educational Research Journal, 27(3), 503-532.
Moller, G., & Pankake, A. (2006). Lead with me. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.
Ng, C. F. H. (2006). Can Teacher Leadership Contribute to Secondary School Revitalization in Hong Kong?. Faculty of Education, Hong Kong Institute of Educational Research, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Wasley, P. A. (1989). Lead Teachers and Teachers Who Lead: Reform Rhetoric and Real Practice.
Wasley, P.A. (1991). Teachers who lead. New York: Teachers College Press.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Teacher Leadership - How do we Lead from the Middle? Part 1

Effective leadership is universally acknowledged as being an essential element in achieving school improvement (Leithwood & Jantzi, 1998; Hopkins, 2001). The ways in which leadership is created within an educational context; however, is a varied as teachers themselves. Traditionally, the expectation was that principals were across all levels of leadership; however, with the increasing complexities of schools, the belief has shifted. The roles of both the principals and teachers must change in order for improvement to become the norm throughout the culture of a school. Systems have adopted a framework of distribution as it has become impossible for one person to do it all. This modern of education encourage the empowerment of teacher (Harris & Muijs, 2002a) to lead and drive changes so that all students have the resources required to reach their level of proficiency (Devaney, 1987). Fullan (2001a) states that teachers are the key to school change.

Teachers commonly define their career contentment in their ability to serve others (Lambert, 2003; McLaughlin & Lee, 1988). Correspondingly, their leadership aspirations are founded in their desire to improve the students' experience of the teaching and learning (Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2009). Devaney (1987) highlights, traditional leadership as "higher" or "superior" positions within the educational hierarchy are something that many teachers do not advocate for. Alternatively, they view leadership as a collaborative effort to promote professional development and student growth across the educational setting (Danielson, 2007; Harris & Muijs, 2002a; Fullan, 2001b).

Katzenmeyer & Moller (2009) characterise teacher leaders as “teachers who are leaders within and beyond the classroom, identify with and contribute to a community of teacher learners and leaders, and influence others towards improved educational practice” (p.5). Patterson & Patterson, (2004) reinforces this by pointing out teacher leaders work with colleagues for the specific function of developing teaching and learning.

Teachers can adopt a variety of informal and formal roles that build the capacity to improve across the entire educational context. Developing and valuing teacher leaders is dependant on this redefinition of leadership from the executive. This change in methodology is an essential ingredient to ensure its effectiveness in increasing student achievement expectations. There is an extensive correlation between distributed leadership (Spillane & Diamond, 2007) and teacher leadership (Harris, 2003); however, this paper will draw deeper into the framework of the later.

History of Teacher Leadership:
The background of teacher leadership has been discussed by Silva, Gimbert & Nolan (2000) has been in three waves. The first wave was described as a managerial role. Teachers adopted positions functioning as department chair and head teacher. The second wave grew out of the first waves shortcomings, where leaders were focused on efficiency and effectiveness not influencing others or impacting the day to day teaching. This phase capitalised on the teacher instructional knowledge and did not promote the collaborative nature of modern day teacher leadership. The third wave heightened the focus on informal leadership and collaboration; teachers began equipping other teachers by building capacity in and amongst themselves. Pounder (2006) discussed the possible fourth wave, suggesting that it would view teachers as transformational leaders in their schools.

Work on this topic has been guided by the premise that all teachers have the capacity to lead given the appropriate environment where the capacity is nurtured and facilitated (Darling-Hammond, 1995; Fullan, 1994; Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2009). This concept is paradoxical to the traditional heroic leadership model (Bradford & Cohen, 1998) as the established division between principal and teachers has been removed. The responsibility for student learning becomes a collaborative effort within the framework of teacher leadership (Seltz, 2014). Much of model's success is fashioned by the principal’s willingness to empower and share responsibility (Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2009; Lambert, 2003).

Research Application:
The phrase ‘teacher leader’ is not a label for someone who simply receives pay for additional work. This is someone whose role in school includes real and differentiated responsibility and builds the capacity for improvement (Harris & Muijs, 2004). They have accountability in one of many areas such as instructional coaching and feedback, mentoring, leading curriculum teams, action research, professional development and community building where they develop collegial relationships with others allowing new ideas to spread (Little, 2000). Some scholars (Frost & Durrant, 2003; Frost & Harris, 2003) suggest that personal capacity has a direct impact on the degree of leadership they exercise. As professional efficiency expands by increasing knowledge and skill, the capacity to lead grows (Ng, 2006). As a result, these teachers become exemplary in specific areas and passionately drive the development and evolution of this field of operation (Alexandrou & Swaffield, 2016). This collective leadership, grounded in the work of teaching (Sergiovanni & Starratt, 1998) energises the organisation from within, ensuring the impact of the improvement cycle benefits the students and the larger organisation (Crowther, Ferguson & Hann, 2009).

Giles and Hargreaves (2006) indicate outstanding teacher leadership is a fundamental element of outstanding schools and systems leadership for the future. They determine that teacher leadership is powerful when grounded in cultures of trust and thrives in innovative environments where responsibility is shared around genuine goals for student improvement (Crowther, Ferguson & Hann, 2009). Harris et al. (2003) describe this environment as the heartland of ‘capacity’. It synergises and interconnects the emotional and spiritual bonding that trust and responsibility creates.

Crowther, Ferguson & Hann (2009), establish that teacher leadership is a vital element in community and culture building as plans are formed in and reliant upon pedagogical excellence at the coal face. Thus, turning teacher innovation ideas into action and obstacles into opportunities for them to mature as professionals. Gabriel (2005) indicates the nurturing of teacher leadership crafts a sense of ownership and desire to buy-in as most people want to be part of something significant. Childs-Bowen, Moller & Scrivner (2000) stress the gravity of leadership creating space for teachers to lead as a path to advance their professional learning community (Harris & Jones, 2015). In celebrating innovation, they bolster the capacity development of teacher expertise (Hargreaves, Boyle & Harris, 2014; Harris & Jones, 2017). This parallel leadership engages both teachers and their principals together in terms of professional learning, school-wide pedagogy and culture building (Crowther, Hann & McMaster, 2001; Crowther, Kaagan, Ferguson & Hann, 2002).

There is a significant link between collective efficacy and teacher leadership in school settings (Fullan, 1994; Derrington & Angelle, 2013; Goddard, 2002). Fullan (1994) highlights, teacher professionalism improves when teachers take the role of teacher leadership. Effectively as they individually develop their efficiency the collective grows. The aphorism, "a rising tide lifts all boats" would be well suited to this understanding as is endorsed the belief that improvements will benefit all stakeholders. This argument is reinforced when viewed through the lens of Hattie's (2012) compelling documentation. He identifies collective teacher efficacy as the most significant element impacting and influencing the success of student achievement. Lewis (2009) declares that “with more opportunity to participate in school decision-making, teams build more mastery experiences in this type of decision-making and experience social persuasion through colleagues’ feedback” (p.72). Correspondingly, providing teachers with increased freedom and control over decisions making supports the building of collective efficacy, therefore, building capacity from the ground up. This aligns with Senge’s (1990) thoughts as he suggests a learning organisation only discovers how to tap the commitment and capacity of a team by continually nurturing expansive patterns of thinking.

Gabriel (2005), discovered a negative environment that lacks cohesion, shared ownership and direction can infect a whole school and adversely impact student outcomes. In this case, it takes a dynamic leader who will listen and challenge the culture to rise from within to transform the experience. Silins and Mulford (2002) illustrate the importance of working together in collaboration for outstanding school restructuring towards teacher leadership. They argue that if teachers do not have conditions to create and sustain the professional development, the conditions are also lost to students. They went on by stating student outcomes are more likely to advance when leadership is shared and teachers are empowered in areas of importance to them.

Successful factors in applying this framework have been classified by Boles (1992), whose study identified components that influenced the application of fruitful teacher leadership. Considerations described included the principal's support and willingness to release leadership, administration skills, communication passageways, the sensitivity to culture and patterns of power. Many of these elements are underground and unseen; however, through immersion within the system the impact can be experienced. Therefore, its success will be heavily determined by internal factors from within the school gates (Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2009). Teacher leaders assist to guide school towards higher standards and school reform.

Fullan (2011) identifies four drivers of leadership that make a direct difference to the life of the educational organisation. The attributes of these can directly be evidenced within the teacher leadership framework. They are: capacity building, group work, pedagogical excellence and systemic solutions.

Part 2 will focus on practical implications and personal reflections of teacher leadership.

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