Friday, 29 July 2016

Instructional, transformational – what is effective school leadership?

Last week during an informal discussion a teacher told me he had the typical end of school holiday blues as the holidays were coming to an end. However, after volunteering to take part in a teacher future focused think tank session he felt invigorated and excited at coming back to school.

Facilitating the session I too noticed the buzz of the group as they discussed and developed futuristic next steps for our school. We got swept away on a futuristic wave but feel confident that it won’t be a dream but a reality of our own making. Helping your staff to share an inspirational future focused vision is, I believe, a key feature of effective school leadership (see table below).

This invigorating session with staff made me ponder AGAIN, how this connects to my leadership practice and was this type of activity a key feature of effective leadership?

Recently I read an extract from Stephen Dinham’s new text (to be released in August) titled Leading Learning and Teaching. The text has been recommended as a “must read” by Professor John Hattie and Professor Alma Harris, two highly respected educationalists.

 After reading the extract I reflected on the following points:

·      School leaders can play major roles in creating the conditions in which teachers can teach effectively and students can learn (extract)

My reflection – “creating conditions” are the operative words here. As leaders we are constantly creating situations or environments to ensure our schools are operating to the highest standard possible for the betterment of all. Creating optimum conditions for learning and teaching is paramount to catering for the demands and diversity of our stakeholder groups and also the disruptive nature of our working day.

·      A meta-analysis of 35 years of research indicates that school leadership has a substantial effect on student achievement (extract)

My reflection – Professor John Hattie rated school leadership 0.39 effect size. The operative words are “substantial effect”  - this can be positive or negative effect!

·      Despite great enthusiasm for structural arrangements such as middle schools, mixed ability groupings and open classrooms, it is the quality of teaching that occurs within such structures, and the leadership that guides and supports it, that is most important in improving student achievement (extract)

My reflection – Developing, guiding and supporting shared effective pedagogy underpinning all teaching, consistent across the whole school, is the most important leadership practice after culture building.

·      A highly effective teacher can work within almost any structural arrangement, while a poor teacher will not suddenly become a good one due to some change in how their class or school is organised (extract)

My reflection – we know that developing effective modern practice should always precede the development of modern learning environments. Support for teachers to develop and change practice in line with future focused trends is worth the investment.

·      Instructional leadership has three to four times more positive impact on student outcomes (extract)

My reflection – Today’s trend to focus on instructional leadership qualities is context driven but I know my own leadership style has grown and adapted to the different contexts and experiences over the years evolving into a mix of transformational, relational and instructional.

·      Today, leadership is seen as central and essential to delivering the changes, improvement and performance society increasingly expects of all organisations, including schools (extract)

My reflection – I agree. Unfortunately as the world tries to adapt to fast paced technological change, the rapid growth of social media, extreme weather patterns and violent disruptive forces, almost daily, the burden on schools is heavier than ever before. Therefore, as leaders we must know and utilise effective leadership practice in order to survive these challenging times.

So, what human centred leadership features and practice should we focus on?

Put simply, in my opinion, school leadership involves the following key features and practice:

The key ingredient is TIME! Take time to do all of the above in a planned, open, systematic manner to ensure relational trust forms the basis of all school development & growth.

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