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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.

Monday, 23 January 2017

How can Leadership Capabilities impact Ethical Decision-Making?

In today’s interdependent and rapidly changing world, numerous challenges threaten our ability to create sustainable and principled societies. True leadership requires a compelling vision, the ability to inspire and hold close both the moral and ethical values interwoven into our lives (Greenfield & Ribbins, 1993).

Current literature (Ehrich, Harris, Klenowski, Smeed & Spina, 2015) identifies the heightened awareness of the ethical dimensions of educational leadership in a context of increasing performance driven accountability. The key challenges involve tensions between opposite value positions (Cranston, Ehrich, & Kimber, 2006) where leaders need to navigate the shades of grey, for example, common good versus individual rights; care versus rules; loyalty versus justice; and long-term versus short-term perspectives. (Duignan, 2006). 

The opposing value positions above, identify complexities leaders have when considering the perspective nuances of the situation. Consequently, the ethics involved are “a dynamic and continuing activity rather than an adherence to a system of moral codes and ... formal policy statements” (Niesche and Haase, 2012, p. 2). There is an acknowledgement that moral codes are important; however, this is balanced by the consideration of situational dynamics and context.

Ethical leaders appreciate that the world is interdependent. They make constant decisions that allow them to be resilient to pressures by holding on to the ethical behaviors required to advocate for student, teachers and parents. Through ethical behaviours and applying fairness in decision making we commit to providing students with a fair learning environment that promotes excellence for all people. 

With this frame of thought, I draw on my own capabilities to inform decision making process. These capabilities are skills, beliefs and capacities that are developed over the course of my life experience and are like seeds planted and shaped from my earliest discourses.

Dewey (1933) suggests that reflective thinking is the active, persistent and careful consideration of a belief, grounds that support that knowledge and the further conclusions to which that awareness leads. Likewise, intuitive connection is seeing the blind spots (Dyer, 2000) and working to address them before they become problematic. Procrastination can sabotage intuitive connection as I can allow myself to become sidetracked.

I view my professional commitment as the means that I mediate between my beliefs that bring about student learning and my professional goals. It ties closely to my philosophical conviction regarding lifelong learning and commitment to generating enthusiasm produced by an environment respectful to the student’s background. It also demonstrates an affinity to my school’s vision to have each person known and loved.

My capacity as a disruptive change agent to see the bigger picture and begin moving towards it as an early adopter is an example of strategic readiness (Fabry & Higgs, 1997). To revolutionise the complex system of education, “people need to be within the comfort zone of disruptiveness and momentum” (Breakspear, 2016), working like a domino effect, one small adaption leading to another one. As iterative change is applied ideas are clarified, incubated and amplified. In starting small, ideas create energy and success before a larger rollout. By engaging the collective expertise, solutions to the problems can be developed.

Ultimately, this small-incubated change in teacher leader practice is a variable that causes changes in student learning that move us forward to better learning outcomes. “If we want to do better things for students, we have to become the guinea pigs and immerse ourselves in new learning opportunities... We rarely create something different until we experience something different.” (Couros, 2015, p. 52)

Managerial expertise is a capacity that I am continuing to develop and is linked to my technical leadership discussion previously mentioned. Mentoring and coaching in this role has addressed some of these deficits; however, strategic planning and goal setting in this area will be a focus of the future.

Capable leaders are centrally concerned with making decisions that are aligned with their personal morals and organisational integrity. They make these as a means to improve outcomes for students and fulfill the organisational vision (Duignan, 2006). Leaders see themselves as learners (McGough, 2003) and as part of the overall knowledge-building learning community.  

Love to hear your thoughts.

Breakspear, S. (2016) Quote from the AISNSW Learning Leaders Professional Learning 21 January 2016, 99 York St Sydney.
Couros, G. (2015) The Innovator’s Mindset, Dave Burgess Consulting, San Diego.
Cranston, N., Ehrich, L. C., & Kimber, M. (2006). Ethical dilemmas: the “bread and butter” of educational leaders' lives. Journal of Educational Administration44(2), 106-121.
Dewey, J. (1933). A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. DC Heath.
Dinham, S. (2005). Principal leadership for outstanding educational outcomes. Journal of Educational Administration43(4), 338-356.
Dyer, K. M., & Carothers, J. (2000). The intuitive principal: A guide to leadership. Corwin Press.
Ehrich, L.C., Harris, J, Klenowski, V, Smeed, J.L., & Spina, N. (2015). The centrality of ethical leadership. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(2), 197-214.
Fabry, D. L., & Higgs, J. R. (1997). Barriers to the effective use of technology in education: Current status. Journal of Educational Computing Research,17(4), 385-395.
Greenfield, T. and Ribbins, P. (eds.) (1993), Greenfield on Educational Administration: Towards a Humane Science, London, Routledge.
McGough, D. J. (2003). Leaders as learners: An inquiry into the formation and transformation of principals’ professional perspectives. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis25(4), 449-471.
Niesche, R., & Haase, M. (2012). Emotions and Ethics: A Foucauldian framework for becoming an ethical educator. Educational Philosophy and Theory44(3), 276-288.


Sunday, 1 January 2017

How can Change Management be Enhanced by Reflective Practices?

"Change is the essence of life: be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become" - Reinhold Neibuhr 

Over Christmas, I was asked by friends what the New Year had in store for me as a professional? My response was considered; however, vague. Unlike other years where my role and direction was very clear, this year was totally different. This year is one where major changes are about to happen for my team and I. It is a time where many of our practices formed over years of working in silo's were going to be torn down as we move into a new facility designed for team teaching with a minimum of 5 teachers and over 100 students. This change will force countless amounts of unknown practical transformations along with major pedagogical shifts in us individually as professionals by removing our ability to hide our professional practice behind walls away from each other. 

While this could be seen as a scary step, I find myself exhilarated by the prospects and possibilities of increased accountability and peer support. Where collegial trust is high and care beyond the classroom becomes an important feature of our professional culture; however, this means some things will need to change and grow to maximise the potential for students and for us as teachers.

Now, for most of us when the word "change" is mentioned we are distressed; however, we don't be afraid of the word change; it just means that you stop doing some things you've been doing and start doing some things you haven't been doing. For example, stop thinking negative thoughts and start thinking positively, stop settling in your comfort zone and step out of the boat, stop procrastinating and start taking the opportunities that arise.

We know that staying motionless and keeping the things the same is not an option, this brings stagnation and ultimately atrophy. It's also true to say it's not enough to just wish for something different and hope that the modifications to our situation will just fall in our laps. To navigate change well we need to have personal leadership, leading from the inside out.  We need to decide to actively accept and develop so that we can possess positive outcomes of the change that is happening so that we can bless our students. 
One of the most important things we can learn in the early days of teaching in this new facility paradigm is how to be still and become increasingly reflective. I believe that one of the significant reasons so many of us are burned out and stress levels are so high is that we don't know how to be still and identify what practices we do hold the greatest levels of effectiveness. The more I observe people the more I see us running from one thing to the next, being over scheduled and over-worked. This feeling of stress could be easy to achieve in such an active environment; however, it should be avoided. 
Reflection helps us to put setbacks behind us and acknowledge that we are not a failure because we tried new things and they don't work out. We fail only when we stop trying. By recovering quickly from failure, pressing on and trying new iterations of the endevour we become more effective and pertinent as professionals. 
In learning to be quiet on the inside and stay in that peaceful state so that we can become our best selves identifying the key elements of our pedagogy and practice that create the greatest impacts on our student's learning. 
The desired outcome of this reflective practice in the collaborative environment is that we'll slow down and be ready to respond. We identify our teaching strengths by finding something we like to do and do it well. Having the courage to be different but encouraging and embracing the uniqueness of each other’s practice. This will assist us to learn to cope with criticism and accountability by establishing a culture of trust. In having enough confidence in who we are as a professional, we can listen to others and be open to adapt without the feeling of having to agree with their viewpoint to attain their approval.
So in short, my response was as a leader, I must lead myself to stay effective. I become more effective by being reflective which reduces my schedule as I focus on the actions I do well and adapt the ones that don't. Encouraging the "learning to be REAL, Relevant, Engaging, Authentic & Lasting" - Eric Sheninger.
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