C21 Learning promotes a professional learning model based on distributed leadership which is encouraged through inclusive professional develoment experiences. The emphasis is on the need for innovative practices and positioning colleagues as co-learners. Even so, there are challenges that could impact on the success of any professional development initiative; especially with a view to sustain newer initiatives such as building communities of learners, developing the competencies in our students, and co-constructing matrices for planning, learning and assessment with teachers and students.

 

Shared Vision

 

Franey's (2002) narrative account about the development of a solutions-based approach to school improvement suggests that the first stage for successful leadership in times of change is a shared vision. An invitational process (Stoll & Fink, 1996 as cited in Franey, 2002) is more likely to achieve goal relevance for the majority of people in the school and unify groups through a common mission (Stoll & Myers, 1998.8 as cited in Franey, 2002).

 

Group Reflection and Action Planning

 

Distributed leadership can be achieved by appointing lead teachers and supporting pilot groups who are willing to take risks to adapt their practice; for example, trialling co-construction with their students to create criteria for goal setting. To build the capacity of this model of leadership we need to regularly involve teams of teachers in a reflective process and then identify specific goals in an effort to plan forward. An action plan would break down the greater school goals by identifying milestones and targets. Once the objectives have been identified we can describe the key tasks and expected outcomes in order to develop a strategic view (Franey, 2002). It is important to have clarification about the intended outcomes as it necessitates analysis of the core purpose about what we want to achieve. Finally, in order to become more cohesive we could develop a set of principles to guide how will work together from this point on.

 

Teacher Perspective

 

Hargreaves (2001 as cited in Franey, 2002) argues that sustainable practices leading to successful outcomes lies not in training and developing a tiny leadership elite but in creating entire cultures of distributed leadership throughout the school community. Fullen (1999 as cited in Franey, 2002) suggests that real school improvement comes about through the day to day actions of empowered individuals. What do the teachers really feel? Are they realising their goals in relation to new school professional development initiatives? Teachers need opportunities to share their beliefs, values, perspectives and professional development goals in relation to their teaching practice.

 

Support

 

There are four organisational prerequisites to meet the challenge change brings: shared decision-making, teamwork, flexibility and support. This support includes the facilitator/coach working with teams, planning to develop ten week inquiry units and then coaching the lead teachers throughout to make this more manageable. The facilitator models teaching strategies with children and then progressing to co-teaching with the classroom teacher. Observations and feedback from the facilitator can be very useful especially when using a process we call 'triples'. 'Triples' is an initiative developed by Ross Kennedy at College Street Normal School.

 

'Triples' involves the teacher being observed, the team/syndicate leader or lead teacher and the Facilitator in 'rich conversations' about learning and teaching. The Facilitator has two main roles; coaching the team/syndicate leader/lead teacher so they learn more about the focus of the professional development and mentoring the teacher being observed. This can feel invasive and there is a need to be sensitive to the feelings of the teachers. However, when the observation is based on goals of the teacher, genuine growth occurs and the sustainability of the professional development focus is more likely due to distributing the leadership between the Facilitator and the team/syndicate leader or lead teacher.

 

The research based on teacher learning and change leading to enhanced learning outcomes for students by Timperley et al., Hargreaves and others is not that comforting: in fact it's daunting. Therefore it is important to remember Stoll's (2002 as cited in Franey, 2002) four imperatives which are the core of leadership and learning. The first imperative is not losing sight of the learning vision, secondly engage the hearts as well as minds to create the right emotional climate, thirdly become a learning expert and build inclusive learning communities and fourthly practice organisational learning.

 

Change Agents

 

We need to evaluate the processes we are using to identify the ones that are really working and then build our capacity by replicating these processes. Franey's (2002) experience suggests that professional self-confidence grows as a consequence of shared leadership. Having opportunities to share new learning positions the teachers as innovators, change agents, motivators and leaders in their own right; therefore it is important for forums to be created where more and more teachers can do this. For example, meeting in different classrooms so the teachers can share their learning and the learning of the children.

 

Reference List

 

  • Bransford, J., Derry, S., Berliner, D., & Hammerness, K., with Beckett, K.L. (2005). Theories of learning and their roles in teaching. In L. Darling-Hammond, & J. Bransford (Eds.), Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and how to be able to do (excerpt pp. 40-75). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
  • Dombart, P. M. (1990). Voices the teacher. Educational Leadership, 47 (6), 96.
  • Eggen, P., & Kauchak, D. (1999). Educational psychology windows on classrooms (4th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
  • Franey, T. (2002). The smart story; the challenge of leadership in the urban school. School Leadership and Management, 22, (1) 27-39.
  • Sewell, A.M. (2006). Teachers and children learning together: Developing a community of learners in primary classrooms.  Submitted PhD thesis, Massey University, New Zealand.
  • St. George, A., & Bourke, R. (2007). Understanding learning to inform teaching. In Brown, S., O'Neill, J., & St. George, A. (Eds.), Facing the big questions in education: purpose, power and learning. Palmerston North: Massey University.
  • St. George, A., & Riley, T. (2007). Motivation and learning: can I do it? Do I want to? In Brown, S., O'Neill, J., & St. George, A. (Eds.), Facing the big questions in education: purpose, power and learning. Palmerston North: Massey University.
  • Sutton, R. E., & Wheatley, K. F. (2003). Teachers' emotions and teaching: a review of the literature and directions for future research. EducationalPsychology Review, 15 (4), December.
  • Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of Education.

 

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