Posts Tagged ‘change’

Cultivating Curiosity
Cultivating Curiosity
Posted 4 weeks ago

Is your school’s culture one in which curiosity and learning from mistakes thrives?
This article is Part III of the Transforming the School Narrative series. In Part I we explored the…

Cultivating Curiosity
Improving Performance – Social Intelligence
Improving Performance – Social Intelligence
Posted 2 months ago

Are you developing the social intelligence of your leaders and teachers as an access to improving school performance?

In Part I we indicated that our focus this year is on providing…

Improving Performance – Social Intelligence
Improving Performance – Transforming the Narrative
Improving Performance – Transforming the Narr…
Posted 2 months ago

How does the narrative about learning and working affect the performance of a school? This article opens up the discussion of the importance of school leaders to explore the current…

Improving Performance – Transforming the Narr…
Making a Difference to Schools
Making a Difference to Schools
Posted 8 months ago

It is always pleasing to know when a difference has been made. Although it is rare to find out the effects of working with schools and teachers over a long…

Making a Difference to Schools
Step 4 – Planning for Action
Step 4 – Planning for Action
Posted 8 months ago

Now that the contextual work has been done in Steps 1,2 and 3 it is time for Middle Leaders to start fleshing out the plan for the coming year.

Step 4 – Planning for Action
Step 3 – Identifying a Guiding Coalition
Step 3 – Identifying a Guiding Coalition
Posted 9 months ago

A guiding coalition that has the capacity to make needed change happen despite all of the forces of inertia

Step 3 – Identifying a Guiding Coalition
Maker Labs, Planning and Raspberry Pi
Maker Labs, Planning and Raspberry Pi
Posted 9 months ago

I just came back from running a public Practical Steps to STEAM and Teaching Coding workshop at the fabulous Ipswich Junior Grammar School. There are three aspects I wanted to…

Maker Labs, Planning and Raspberry Pi
STEM, Coding and the Raspberry Pi
STEM, Coding and the Raspberry Pi
Posted 9 months ago

You may have noticed, along with our Bespoke In-School Professional Learning, that we have been running Introductory STEAM and Coding workshops in schools around Australia now for the past year.…

STEM, Coding and the Raspberry Pi
Step 2 – Designing a Case for Action Narrative
Step 2 – Designing a Case for Action Narrativ…
Posted 10 months ago

Unless the teachers and middle leaders are connected to WHY change is occurring then the change is not likely to occur with any depth or sustainability. This is why developing…

Step 2 – Designing a Case for Action Narrativ…
Designing Middle Leader Vision Statements
Step 1 – Designing Middle Leader Vision State…
Posted 12 months ago

If schools are committed to developing effective middle leaders who strategically lead their teams to accomplish school goals and embed an empowering school culture then middle leaders need to articulate…

Step 1 – Designing Middle Leader Vision State…
In Step 1 Designing Middle Leader Vision Statements we explored the first element of how middle leaders can plan to lead their team effectively. Once the middle leader has, in partnership with their team, created an inspiring but simple vision statement for their team, the next step is to create a Case for Action.make things happen

In modern schools change is always occurring. Whether it is pedagogical, curricula, well-being, or any other area, there is change occurring. It is a constant feature of our education system. One of the core roles of Middle Leaders is to lead this change. They work with their team of teachers to enact the requested change. Unless the teachers and middle leaders are connected to WHY this change is occurring and have bought into it then the change is not likely to occur with any depth or sustainability.

Middle leaders can establish a sense of urgency through a Case for Action Narrative. This narrative

  • aims for the heart (not only the head)
  • is driven by a belief in a noble vision or goal
  • inspires determination to act and win now

The case for action addresses the need for change and paints a realistic, convincing and attractive picture of what the future could look like when the vision is realised. It highlights the difference it would make to tackle the desired area and also the ineffectiveness of not taking action.


Designing Case for Action Narratives

There are three parts to a Case for Action narrative:

  1. Describe the reality in the area – the things that are working, the challenges, and the gaps
  2. Describe the predictable future if no action was taken in this area
  3. Describe what could be possible if action, based on the vision, was taken

Part 1

The case for action begins with identifying the current reality in the area. You can flesh out the picture of the current reality by answering questions such as:

  • What are the aspects of the area that are working?
  • What are the aspects that are not currently working?
  • What are the current gaps or challenges in the area?
  • What are the effects on students, teachers and the school of this current reality?

Don’t pull any punches as you answer the above questions. Make sure you identify both the great things as well as the challenges. The intent is to create an authentic picture of how things are now in the area. You could also use actual data to prove your points. Remember though that the purpose of the first part of the Case for Action is to highlight the current reality.

Part 2

The second part of a case for action narrative describes the predictable future if no action was taken. This paints a vivid picture of why staying with the status quo is a problem. If we are going to create urgency then the case for action narrative needs to show that action is critical NOW.

When brainstorming what to write for this part imagine what the PREDICTABLE future would be. Mostly it is more of the same. You will continue to operate as you have always done and you will continue to have the same results and challenges. In an ever-changing world this is a big problem not only for schools but also for parents and students. Education is increasingly a competitive market and staying stationary is no longer an option if the school is going to survive. Parents and their children are more likely to leave a school if their child’s needs are not being met.

By continuing to do the same thing with the same results has an impact on students, teachers and the school over time – what could that be? Your description should paint a compelling picture that aims for the heart.

Part 3

The final part of a case for action narrative describes what would be possible if action was taken. The actions that would be taken would be aligned with the vision statement created previously. What would be the impact on students, teachers, learning, the school culture, and the long term future of the school? Again create a compelling and vivid picture. Describe it in such a way that when people hear what is possible they want to be part of that vision. It should draw them in and inspire or breathe life into them. When people hear what is possible they can see how they can contribute to having it happen. It compels action.


Examples of Case for Action Narratives


  • Currently in Maths
    • The teachers are streaming children for maths to some extent. They have been doing point of need teaching via a clustering approach but are now expected to move to handle various abilities in the one class
    • Teachers don’t feel as if they are doing justice for the kids. The capable kids needs are not being met nor those who struggle with Maths
    • The year 6 team is struggling with the rationale from the Year Level Coordinator in moving to the PYP approach which is requiring Numeracy be tied into the everyday classrooms
    • Some students feel they are not good at maths and give up


  • If no action is taken then predictably
    • The situation in Maths classes won’t change
    • Teachers will feel they aren’t doing a good job
    • Students will develop a fixed mindset about their ability in Maths
    • Maths results will stagnate or go backward


  • If we acted on systemically differentiating maths for all ability groups then:
    • Students will see the value of Maths
    • Teachers would feel more confident that they are reaching the upper and lower group of students
    • Student results would improve
    • Classes would be more engaging for students
    • Student learning confidence and competence would improve



  • Currently in religious studies
    • certain topic, areas and biblical stories are re-hashed each year
    • due to external pressures on the school it seems like religious studies is the first to go when the curriculum needs to be covered
    • Christian ethos is present but not authentic religious studies. It deserves to be taught / learnt well since we are a religious school
    • Some teachers appear to be doing well
    • Most of the teachers are accredited to deliver religious studies
    • I have been sending out emails asking if teachers need any support but not getting much response
    • The overall scope and sequence has been developed for religious studies


  • If no action is taken then predictably
    • Religious studies will continue to be sidelined and not valued
    • There is a danger the school could become a secular school in practicality and lose its point of difference
    • Teachers will do whatever they want to do without oversight
    • Students will become bored with doing the same topics every year


  • If we acted on the vision of guiding young people with small steps and successes so they grow profoundly as learners and realise their potential in the area of their religious studies then:
    • Students will see the value of religious studies in their lives
    • Students would be engaged in the classes and in exploring their spirituality because it matters to them
    • They will see how they can use what they have learnt and explored in religious studies in making life decisions and contributing to others
    • We would be designing engaging curriculum that authentically addresses issues pertinent to the students.
    • The school would value religious studies and that it is a powerful point of difference for parents and potential students.


School Culture

  • Currently in the junior school
    • Quite a negative environment amongst the staff
    • There appears to be a lot of clique groups. The general perception is that the “in clique” are treated differently
    • Some staff experience being in the outer and can feel isolated and alone
    • Ran a Relationship Building session at the start of the year and held 2 workshops over the pupil free days. During Term 1 did lot of stuff to show that I valued the staff and this was received well.
    • Some original “clique” teachers experienced being burnt and now starting to turn to me
    • Lot of people genuinely happy to have a voice now from what I have been doing


  • If no action is taken then predictably
    • The negative environment will continue and some staff will continue to feel isolated, alone and on the outer. They will then go through the motions in working in the school rather than being innovative or creative.
    • Over time some staff will leave because they aren’t being valued and appreciated since they aren’t part of the clique group


  • If we acted to have staff realise the power of positive relationships in empowering learning and leadership then
    • Processes and protocols would be established that would lead to a positive environment
    • Staff would feel valued and appreciated
    • Staff would feel heard and that they have a voice
    • Learning would improve within the school because people would be willing to innovate and be creative
    • A positive work environment would arise
    • People will want to work harder and contribute to the learning community because they are fulfilled by being part of the community.


Context for doing this

In John Kotter’s 8-step process for leading change he identifies that the first step in leading change is to convince others of the importance of acting immediately. He points out that “Leaders may underestimate how hard it is to drive people out of their comfort zones, or overestimate how successfully they have already done so, or simply lack the patience necessary to develop appropriate urgency”. School structures are inherently resistant to change as they, in many ways, rely on consistency and the status quo to be successful.

One of the greatest enemies to developing great schools is being good (e.g. “we are doing a good job”, “we are a good school”, “I am a good teacher”). Being “good” is a conversation from the comfort zone. Greatness requires constantly examining where one is against your goals working to having your vision become reality. Over time “good” tends to devolve into “good enough” and then mediocrity.

If people are to be compelled and encouraged into urgent action then they need to know WHY. They need to know the criticality of taking action now.  Kotter pointed out that usually the urge is to skip to the doing rather than spend the required time it takes to get a significant number of team members urgent. This is not about getting people to work harder or be busier it is about getting people clearly focused on making real progress towards the vision every single day. Leaders who know what they are doing will “aim for the heart.” They will connect to the deepest values of their people and inspire them to greatness. They will make the case for action come alive with human experience, engage the senses, create messages that are simple and imaginative, and call people to aspire. The case for action narrative is the first step to creating urgency.



 “Change is the point. It’s what we seek to do to the world around us.
Change, actual change, is hard work. And changing our own minds is the most difficult place to start.
It’s also the only place to start”,
Seth Godin

Put up with end up with


I have been working across 10 secondary colleges recently as part of some work we are doing. The position is essentially being a critical friend as teams from each of these schools enact curriculum and pedagogical change projects. The schools cover the span of the metropolitan area and also have students from a wide spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds.

It has been a learning journey for me as well as for each of the teams. I feel I could almost write a book on managing change within schools from the lessons I have learnt for being part of this project. However today I want to focus on one small aspect that was uncovered during one critical friend meeting that has a MAJOR impact in schools.

In one school the project team has been working on enacting diagnostic testing and embedding formative assessment techniques into the planning and teaching of Mathematics and English courses at two year levels. As part of their research the team triangulated data to assess the current “level” of their students. The triangulation data involved NAPLAN, PAT scores, Common Assessment Tasks and classroom observation (on-balance judgement). The on-balance judgement had the participating teachers writing down the relative levels for each student using a progression grid the team produced with support from Narelle Wood (one of the Intuyu Consulting team).

What the team found was that in the cohort of students there were 2 students below standard by 1-2 years, 9 students 1-2 years ahead of standard, and the remainder were a mixture of at-standard and just above standard. Yet, the whole cohort of students (except for one student) received at-standard on their end of year reports the previous year. The one student who did not receive at-standard was reported as being 6 months above standard.

When I asked why there was a discrepancy the teachers told me that it was school policy that teachers had to justify giving students grades above or below standard. In other words, if you as a teacher wanted to put a below-standard or above-standard grade on a student report then you had to provide evidence. On the other hand giving a student an “at standard” grade did not require any evidence. I then began inquiring across a wide range of schools that we work with and found this policy or practice was quite common across most (if not all) secondary schools.

I think this is a cane toad of a policy and schools have not explored the impact this common policy / practice has had on hindering effective curriculum and pedagogical change within secondary schools.


Let’s unpack some of the potential consequences that such a policy / practice can have within a school:

Why should a teacher expend any effort to rigorously track the “level” their students achieve if they are not held accountable for it? Since they are held accountable for justifying above or below standard grades why give anyone those grades? It would appear to teachers that it would be time consuming to track each and every student and justify the level the students achieved so why bother?

How could they identify the actual level of the student anyway? They would need to have de-constructed the Australian Curriculum (or AusVELS or the curriculum in your state) and have an agreed upon progression of knowledge, skill, and capabilities across the levels for the subject area. That’s a lot of effort for an individual teacher and the school does not have it so why bother?

How would we measure that anyway? Our assessment is not designed to measure student progression against the Australian Curriculum (AusVELS, etc.) and we haven’t structured our teaching and learning based on progressing students from their current level so why bother?

This blanket “at standard” practice also intrinsically leaves students with gaps in their knowledge, skills and understandings because teachers have not expended the effort to identify and come to an agreement of what “at-standard” looks like (let alone below or above standard).

Teachers don’t actually know if their teaching actually makes a difference to the learning progression of each and every student because they don’t have an articulated “what it looks like” for being below, above, or at-standard.

Even worse, why would teachers expend a lot of effort to differentiate for student point of need if they can give a blanket “at standard” at the end? They teach to the middle and hope that it is enough. Teaching equals learning doesn’t it?

Students performing above and below standard will also be impacted. If a student came into the school as an academic high achiever, over time they will stop putting in the effort to do better because the best they can get is “at standard”. Equally for students with gaps in their understanding and knowledge they will still get “at standard”. Is it surprising that an area of challenge for most schools is supporting the progression of academic high achievers?

Finally, why should a teacher change their practices if there are no accurate measures of the impact of their teaching?

I have no doubt that when a school really explores this there will also be a cascade of other impacts they could identify (e.g. perhaps teachers mis-attributing the source of why students are not progressing with their teaching?)

The Way Forward

What would I do to shift this? I would begin by making it policy that in one year’s time teachers have to justify the level they have assigned to each student. Then over the next year I would resource the teachers to:

de-construct the Australian Curriculum (or AusVELS or the curriculum in your state) and have an agreed upon progression of knowledge, skill, and capabilities across the levels for each subject area

develop teachers ability to use formative assessment practices to elicit evidence of progression and become data informed

support the teachers in redeveloping both formative and summative assessments

develop the capacity of teachers to backward plan

change the reports

tell parents this is what you are doing and why

Unless this policy / practice is changed, all the great evidence based practice suggested by educational researchers such as John Hattie (What Works Best in Education) won’t stick.

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