Posts Tagged ‘professional development’
For those of you who are new to this blog, we spend a lot of time working with teachers and schools at the fore-front of shifting their school learning culture and their pedagogy. This week we had an revealing experience with one of the schools we are working with. It is early days in this school and the individual is receiving push back by internal (students, certain staff, etc) and external forces (e.g. parents). By the way this is normal as schools’ shift their practice and habits. I thought I’d post the reply by one of our consultants to the individual who is responsible for being the beacon of change within the school.
I experienced the same reactions (the whole range!) at the two schools at which I worked to implement Inquiry programs. Some of the students were very threatened by having to move outside their comfort zones – they had been very comfortable and used to the idea of the teacher doing all the work (in terms of the thinking) and them being positioned as recipients of information in the traditional classroom. They were very concerned about potential impact of ‘taking time’ away from traditional, discipline-based learning to develop the skills and competencies of inquiry. At one stage (I think I may have shared this story with you early in our planning last year) we invited parents and students to an evening meeting at the school to give us feedback about the Project – and it was very mixed, with strong opinions on both sides (and of course many who kept quiet on the issue). The bottom line was that, whilst we in no way minimised the students’ fears, we understood that we were the ones who had developed the understanding of the pedagogical principles underpinning the program – the students believed they knew what would serve them best in the ‘real’ world because that was their dominant experience of learning up until that point. You could say the same of many of the parents. We know what the research, the data and the experts say. Introducing Inquiry IS challenging, and I know, first-hand the feelings of stress, pressure and concern that teachers can feel during the process (particularly in the early stages of implementation).
The fact that some students are feeling uncomfortable is a good sign – it means that we have created something that is genuinely different and that there is obviously a need for, as the students must develop their awareness and competency in the skills needed for the twenty-first century world – skills and competencies that the VCE alone cannot provide. My understanding of the structure of the curriculum at your school was that the Inquiry Projects run separately from key disciplines like English and Maths so the students can be reassured that they will get their discipline-based, traditional preparation for the VCE in those subjects. What inquiry will do for them is develop the independent learning and coping skills that they will need to effectively deal with the stressors of experiences like VCE, university, living independently and later, to navigate the unpredictable and ever-changing jobs-market that they’ll be entering.
Without question, as part of my learning curve as I developed Inquiry in schools, the most important skill that I developed (out of absolute necessity!) was resilience. I had to look to collegiate support – particularly through those who shared my beliefs and an excellent mentor – to the research, to the work the students began to produce over time and to my own conviction that the work we were doing to transform learning into an active, thinking partnership was not only valid, but critical. On the odd evening, I would even watch video clips in the mould of Sir Ken Robinson’s ‘Changing Education Paradigms’ to remind me of our purpose and reasons for working to transform the student experience.
Rest assured that what you are all experiencing is very ‘normal’ and I have been there myself. We are already experiencing success because we are challenging staff and students.
If you are a teacher or in the leadership team at a school who is out to shift the learning culture at your school – then expect the push back! You ARE pushing people out of their comfort zones and challenging their thinking. Unless the school is aiming for excellence and being extraordinary then the school will naturally devolve into mediocrity. It is your job to keep the vision alive. It is also the making of you as a leader of developing exceptional learning. It is not easy. It is not simple. You have to have the determination and the vision to be the one causing the shift. The results and difference for everyone is profound in the end.
Until next time!
I recently had an email conversation with a friend of mine in the USA who asked me what I meant when I told her that one of the areas we are now working in is “culture shifting schools”. As I wrote my reply I had to really think about what our vision is when we work with schools. I thought it worthwhile to share with you what I wrote.
“To fill you in a little on culture shifting in schools … I recently wrote an article which addresses the shift in paradigms that is occuring at the moment (Age to Age article below in the blog list). In its essence we are moving into a new paradigm in the world and it is important to realise that people are still operating, thinking from, and acting from the old paradigm when new ideas are being brought in. This means we must first shift their context before bringing in new actions, structures, etc.
If we had to work with a new school (where we chose where to begin rather than if they just employed us for a specific task!) I would first find out if they have created a real vision for their future and uncover what they are building (what are they aiming to be best in the world in). It is critical for the school leadership team to have clarity in this as quite often we have found that schools have visions but quite often they are locked away in a drawer somewhere and it purely exists as words on a website or piece of paper to be brought out when someone asks.
From there we would have them describe what it would look like when that is delivered upon. This is important as the leadership team must be clear about what the entirity of the goal is and means. In fact, exemplary schools do this quite well.
Being clear about what it looks like, feels like, what things would be in place when that vision is accomplished, we would then look at where they are now against this future and then look at two things
1. What barriers would be in the way between now and the future
2. What projects (who, what, when, where, why) could be created to get from now to the future
Much like in “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, we can explore Level 5 Leadership, Having the right people in the right places, confronting all the brutal facts, and building a disciplined team, disciplined thinking, disciplined action.
We would then work with them inside of truing all their systems, teaching, processes, etc against this future such that they are delivering on them. I have seen many strategic plans that have great visions and ideas but their plans DO NOT address the constant measuring of the set actions against these visions. How do they know that the end result is definitely going to be that vision expressed in the world?
It is at this point that schools can assess what programs, professional development, staff resourcing and requirements, and so on are needed. What we have found is that it gives REAL clarity and direction to a school so they don’t beat around the bush so much when they are out to build the school they wish to build. It gives a context and direction that every stakeholder can understand.
Just to end this blog … one thing we have discovered is that schools are a wealth of experience and knowledge … they don’t need to spend huge amounts of money to get outsiders in to tell them what to do. Once they have clarity … it becomes about harnessing the extraordinary people who are already there. The answers are all there in the communities!
Until next time!
I just finished scanning through a fascinating report that I think is worthwhile reading by Secondary School teachers and administrators about “How High Schools become Exemplary”. Now while it is focussed in the United States (and I actually don’t think too much of their educational school structure … and that’s a loooong story there) I think the analysis carried out in this report has some fabulous insights for Australian Secondary Colleges.
Here is an excerpt from the abstract that I am thinking about:
“The main lesson from the presentations was that student achievement rose when leadership teams focused thoughtfully and relentlessly on improving the quality of instruction. Core groups of leaders took public responsibility for leading the charge to raise achievement. Stakeholders crafted mission statements that later helped keep them on track; planned carefully, sometimes with outside assistance, for how they would organize learning experiences for teachers; clearly defined criteria for high quality teaching and student work; and implemented in ways that engaged their whole faculties. As they implemented their plans, these schools carefully monitored both student and teacher work in order to continuously refine their approaches.
Leadership teams succeeded initially because they used their positional authority effectively to jump-start the change process. Then they built trust. More specifically, they demonstrated commitment through hard work and long hours; they studied research-based literature to expand their knowledge and competence; they persevered to follow through on the promises they made; and they found ways to remain respectful of peers, even when asking them to improve their performance. In these ways, leadership teams earned the respect of their colleagues and the authority to push people outside their comfort zones. With cultivated competence and earned authority, they were able to help their colleagues overcome the types of fear and resistance that so often prevent effective reforms in American high schools. All these schools remain works in progress, but they are not typical. Their stories convey critically important principles, processes, and practices that can help high schools across the nation raise achievement and close gaps.”
The report can be downloaded here How High Schools Become Exemplary
This summary reflects completely the work that we are doing in two realms – coaching schools and coaching companies.
We are working with a couple of schools to assist their year 7 teacher teams to redesign the way they approach educating new high school students. Year 7 is a critical year for a student as they come from their primary school communities to a new high school community made up of many smaller groups. Year 7 thus begins as a mish-mash culture that needs to be created and built right from the moment they walk in. However, if the language and the schools’ approach is not consistent this can lead to many transitional challenges as well as poorer learning outcomes. So the work we have been doing with these schools and colleges is to have them identify what is the culture they wish to create and then how are they going to develop it in every aspect of the educational life of the students. From this point we support them in developing classes, rubrics, and curricula that reinforces the culture and language used through out the year level. The process is remarkable and what we are finding is that it ignites the willingness of the teachers to experiment and think from empowering the whole (not just the individual).
Which then leads us to the domain of coaching the company. I discovered a fabulous book through the year as I was coaching a particular financial company called the Speed of Trust (by Stephen M.R. Covey – son of the “Effective Habits” Covey). Stephen Covey clearly and simply articulates the power of building trust and creating trust at the personal, relationship, organisational, market and societal levels. The ideas contained in the book have assisted us in transforming the culture of the company and doubled its profit in the past year. The comment made in the abstract quoted at the start of this blog reflect exactly what Covey was saying. As trust grows so does productivity.
In schools, if we are building a culture, one of the questions we need to be asking is “How are we building trust amongst the teachers, administrators, parents, students, and the community?” Fundamental action taken to build trust will create an extraordinary school.
What do you think?
It is interesting when you start reading out of your field how many interesting ideas one discovers that are applicable to education.
Ken Blanchard is one of the world leading experts on management and leadership. He is the author of a series of books called the “One Minute Manager”. He, and his team, have sold millions of books and empowered managers and leaders in a range of industries worldwide in simple and effective approaches to developing leadership and managing their organisations.
In “Leadership and the One Minute Manager” I discovered an interesting table (see Figure 1 below) where the One Minute Manager discusses “Situational Leadership”. The principal behind the approach reminded me greatly of how inquiry–learning, project-based learning can be designed to empower and develop skills in young people. It actually reflects the essence of what Bertram Bruce from the University of Illinois pointed out about the stages that teachers must go through to develop skills in leading inquiry learning (Figure 2).
The table outlines the relationship between four developmental levels and the four leadership styles that a manager / leader would use with the person in that developmental level.
- Directing – for people who lack competence but are enthusiastic and committed. They need direction and frequent feedback to get them started.
- Coaching – for people who have some competence but lack commitment. They need direction and feedback because they are relatively inexperienced. They also need support and praise to build their self-esteem, and involvement in decision making to restore their commitment.
- Supporting – for people who have competence but lack confidence or motivation. They don’t need much direction because of their skills, but support is necessary to bolster their confidence and motivation.
- Delegating – for people who have both competence and commitment. They are able and willing to work on a project by themselves with little supervision or support.
So if one was going to develop independent learners who are responsible for their own learning teachers would need to use a variety of leadership styles. Teachers would also need to ensure that the students develop competencies and skills. They need to have the basic knowledge as well as the skills to use that knowledge.
However, how many teachers become stuck using one leadership style? Some are all about directing. Some are all about supporting or coaching. If a teacher does not use the appropriate leadership style to the student (and it gets even more complicated because students can be in different developmental levels for different subjects … and the One Minute Manager actually shares a story about this) then we can actually be counter-productive to learning.
What do you see? Tell us in the comments section of the blog.
Next week we will discuss another aspect of leadership … how do you actually set up your teaching to develop leadership.
I like to write thought provoking blogs that create discussion and comments … much like the government puts out websites that only give some information and cause newspaper headlines.
I both like and don’t like the My School website (http://www.myschool.edu.au/). At one level it allows parents to look at their school NAPLAN results and give some idea of how their child’s school is performing on certain standardized tests.I think it is important as a TOOL for enabling parents to become responsible for their child’s learning and to kick up a stink at the GOVERNMENT (not the school) to have appropriate funding for the school.
However, there are several things I have issues with
- NAPLAN results are standardized content knowledge tests … they DO NOT define a school’s ability to empower their kids to be leaders, to think, to be empathetic, to be caring individuals, .. pretty much everything that schools are there for. In the 21st century it isn’t just about knowing something … it is about knowing how to find it, discern what is useful, apply it in various circumstances, knowing how to use the information that is out there, and preparing children for a world that is changing exponentially. NAPLAN tests are very poor predictors of this.
- The media, despite being warned that it wasn’t about ranking schools and creating league tables … come out immediately to create league tables of schools. I checked the website … you would have to spend hours pouring over the data one by one to extract that information. Talk about creating the drama when everybody who understands the idea behind the MySchool website has been saying that it isn’t about creating league tables.
- Finally, and perhaps the most important, the “Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage” which is used to compare each school with similar schools is flawed. Imagine this, (this is an actual case) your school is in a relative wealthy area (based on house prices) but its feeder is the housing commission flats right near the school. Many of the children are refugees, recent immigrants and generally people who are currenlty living off government benefits. However, because it is a relative wealthy area your ICSEA is skewed and it is rated HIGHER than one of the best private schools in Australia! You are thus compared to schools with the same ICSEA and is rated as a poor performer. We then have the media telling the world they are a crap school via their league tables. The ICSEA doesn’t look at the enrollment data for each school it looks at the suburb data and uses that information … not very clever.
So lets get into the Freakonomics side of this blog and link it all together.
As a saying goes … there are statistics and then there are damn statistics. As you can understand when you provide statistics such as the My School website they are open to interpretation by many people who are not trained in interpreting the statistics and what they possibly mean. It is interesting to note that there is NO scientific studies yet performed where a schools performance is CORRELATED to the ICSEA.
So what is important for a parent to producing great NAPLAN results?
It isn’t what you may think.
Steven Levitt, a professor in economics at the University of Chicago and he co-wrote, with Stephen Dubner, a book examining the stats behind a range of wide-ranging questions … from why do drug dealers live at home, what do school teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common, etc. It is a fascinating and fun book which examines the underlying causes of why things happen. Check out the website (http://freakonomicsbook.com/) where it has study guides and more!
In one chapter on “What makes a perfect parent” they discuss the statistics behind the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study that the US Department of Education undertook in the late 1990s. The study measured the progress of more than 20,000 children from kindergarten through to fifth grade. Rather than go into detail … you should read the book … here is what the data says is correlated with school test scores (e.g. NAPLAN):
- The child has highly educated parents (positive correlation)
- The child’s parents have high socioeconomic status (positive)
- The child’s mother was thirty or older ath the time of her first child’s birth (positive)
- The child has low birthweight (negative)
- The child’s parents speak English in the home (positive)
- The child is adopted (negative)
- The child’s parents are involved in the parent teacher association (positive)
- The child has many books at home (positive)
The authors then go into each and discuss the causality of each factor (e.g what does it mean that a child has many books at home and how could it be correlated to school performance).
Now … factors that were not correlated with the data:
- The child’s family is intact
- The child’s parents recently moved into a better neighbourhood
- The child’s mother didn’t work between birth and kindergarten
- The child’s parents regularly take them to museums
- The child is regularly spanked
- The child frequently watches television
- The child’s parents read to him/her nearly every day
What do you think? What do you think makes a difference?
Welcome to Intuyu Consulting: Empowering 21st Century Learning.
This blog is designed to enlighten, to give ideas, to share thoughts and to empower teachers, schools, students and educators to shift the culture of their schools such that they actually prepare their students for the 21st century.
Firstly I want to say … I am not the font of all knowledge! Far from it. But as I read and work in schools there are great ideas and tools I come across that i will want to share.
Feel free to link to me, to share the thoughts and ideas with others and to make a difference from what you read and see!