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Working Towards Personalised PLD – Part 2

Right oh, so in the last post I shared some of the underpinning thinking behind an emerging approach to professional learning for staff. To quickly summarise, I would like professional learning to:

  • is personalised (voice, choice, interests, passions, ownership…)
  • incorporates ‘play’
  • moves towards smaller self-directed groups
  • mirrors what we want to see happening for our learners
  • empowers teachers
  • provides conditions for innovation and creativity
  • aligns to our school vision.

As I started thinking about this more I started sketching out a diagram of where my thinking was headed. This is what shape it started taking.

I will attempt to explain what is going on.

  1. Central to the approach is the school vision & values. This drives everything we do.
  2. Stemming out from the vision are inquiry streams. These relate directly back to the vision and values. The streams are co-constructed by the staff and could be a new approach or idea they want to investigate further, an extension of one of our strategic goals, a passion or interest area, a hunch, known review area…
  3. Each stream has staff members who opt in to it. This group of teachers is currently referred to as a professional learning group (PLG). These are characterised by:
    • being self chosen
    • having their own budget with which they can spend as they decide (e.g. to release teachers, to engage outside expertise, going on school visits, purchasing professional texts)
    • defining their own structure/approach (e.g. the roles within the group, responsibilities, protocols and expectations, professional inquiry model, where and when they meet)
    • having a coach assigned to them to work 1-1 with each PLG member
  4. Each PLG develops a set of agreed upon expected outcomes. These clearly show how they see their inquiry impacting on the group, the members, and the learners, and will serve as a review & monitoring baseline for measuring the impact of the inquiry.
  5. It is anticipated that the members of the group will:
    • be in control
    • be active and engaged
    • highly value the professional trust placed in them
    • engage in rich professional dialogue.
  6. The coach assigned to the PLG will:
    • respond to individual and group needs
    • make links to vision and values, effective pedagogy
    • promote deeper thought and reflection
    • guide and scaffold thinking
    • not be a subject expert
    • be supported in their own development as a coach.
  7. The idea of flexible membership is explored. By this I mean the ability to be a member of more than one PLG, or the ability to drop out of one PLG and join another if you are no longer gaining anything from it.
  8. The time line for an inquiry stream is noted. At this stage this is deliberately open ended to remove any constraints of either having to start/finish within set dates. If a PLG is in the flow I want them just to keep to on inquiring to when the cycle has a natural end point.

That’s it in a nutshell. I have shared this concept with my own principal PLG, the leadership team, the staff and the Board. I have drawn it on the wall in my office so I can ponder more over the structure and implications.

In doing so what has emerged are ongoing thoughts re the place of the learner agency tool (described in Part 1) as a possible tool for supporting any measure of the impact of the streams.

When sharing the concept, there are plenty of questions thrown about and interestingly no matter what the audience the questions are the same. Some of these are shown in the image on the right. These have been great and have helped clarify how the whole approach could work.

Perhaps one of the biggest ah ha moments has been the perceptions of what leadership is all about in a school. I think that there is still a string voice that outlines how school leaders are all about managing and administration. I challenge this notion and see developing people to be the most effective they can be as the core job of a leader. Question 4 below is a reflection of this.

We are revisiting the concept as a whole staff in a couple of weeks. In the interim I have asked them to reflect and have a think re the following questions:

  1. What questions do you have?
  2. What fears do you have
  3. What development streams do you think there should be for next year?
  4. How does the concept of leadership being about coaching others first, rather than the more traditional role of admin and organisation?
  5. If you could design your own professional learning pathway, what would it look like? How would you spend your money?

The general feeling though is one of excitement and support. Looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

Working Towards Personalised PLD – Part 1

One of my goals for next year is to promote teacher agency through the implementation of a personalised approach to professional learning and development. This is an area that I have increasingly felt strongly about as I have read and reflected and had my thinking prompted by some key people.

When the goal was set we outlined the following expected outcomes.

  • PLD is personalised & involves teacher choice and voice
  • Teachers have more ownership over their own learning
  • Teachers ability to coach & facilitate conversations with each other is enhanced
  • Teacher collaboration is enhanced
  • The opportunities for teacher creativity and innovation are increased
  • Teachers articulate that their professionalism has been valued & that high trust exists
  • Outcomes from inquiry contexts will inform the focus for 2019

And while these have been set relatively recently, I am already wanting to add in another to acknowledge the relationship between classroom learning and professional learning. Something like:

  • PLD mirrors our beliefs about learning and teaching in our school.

This one is perhaps more of an underpinning philosophy, where the beliefs that drive what learning looks like for our student learners should be the same beliefs that drive learning for our adult learners.

Right let’s move on… the purpose of this post is to outline all of the influences that currently guide my thinking.

  1. The school’s vision
  2. Learner agency
  3. Personalised learning
  4. Conditions for innovation & creativity
  5. Personalised pathways
  6. Whole staff → Group→ 1-1
  7. Play based

The School Vision

Our school vision is;

Empowering agency, innovation and leadership.

This is the starting point for all that we do; reviewing, decision making, strategic direction, resourcing, budgeting, appointing staff… and as such must be a driver for and be reflected in our approach to professional learning. Thus empowered teachers, the conditions for innovation and the opportunities for for staff to lead their own learning must be present in any approach to professional learning.

Learner Agency

Our school was privileged to recently lead a Teacher Led Innovation Fund (TLIF) project  which focused on developing learner agency. One of the outcomes was the development of a learner agency self-assessment tool, derived from a matrix, which outlined the skills and dispositions of agency.

As we discussed how we could use this tool to capture data about our learners  to show progress of groups or individuals, and also review how we were providing the conditions for agency to flourish; (after all, this is critical, it is one of the key strands in our vision), I kept asking myself and then later my colleagues a question. Could this tool also be used for teachers to measure their own agency? If we change the RSS Kids in the middle to RSS Learners, would the characteristics of agency be the same for both students and adult learners?

Personalised Learning

I have found Make Learning Personal: The What, Who, WOW, Where and Why a great read. Particularly useful has been the table on the inside cover that outlines the differences between Personalisation, Differentiation and Individualisation which looks a little like this:

As a principal I don’t have a class of learners but I do have a staff of learners. So rather than looking at this through a teacher’s lens, I am looking at it through the lens of a principal. That changes it up a bit and puts me in a position where I ask myself a range of reflective questions.

For example, with a desire to personalise learning for my staff, am I providing the conditions where:

  1. Teachers are driving their own learning?
  2. Teachers are connecting learning with their interests, talents, passions and aspirations?
  3. Teachers actively participate in the design of their learning? etc

Conditions for Innovation & Creativity

Another book I am constantly going back to is George Couros’s The Innovator’s Mindset; Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. There is a whole lot of material in here that is influencing my thinking and personal learning. Let’s take this graphic for instance that outlines the 8 things to look for in today’s classrooms.

Once again I don my principal’s hat and ask myself a similar range of questions related to what I should be looking for in our school for my teachers;

  1. Do they have voice and choice?
  2. Are there opportunities for them to be innovative?
  3. Do I give value to and provide time for reflection? etc.

Also, recently George posted about the 4 Questions for Administrators to Promote a Culture of Innovation. The first question struck me as it is almost a carbon copy of my own underpinning philosophy recorded above.

1. Are your professional learning opportunities mirroring what you want to see in the classroom?

Often we ask teachers to do something different in the classroom, while we continue to do the same thing in professional learning. The best way for teaching practice to change in the classroom is for professional learning to look different as well. We create what we experience. If teachers are not excited about the learning opportunities that are offered, why would we expect them to create engaging and empowering environments for students?

Model what you seek.

Personalised Pathways

A recently new discovery of mine has been the work and thinking of Katie Martin who has a wealth of work been writing about a personalised professional learning approach. There is some great stuff on her blog that I encourage you to check out such as her 5 part series on the 10 Characteristics of Professional Learning that Shifts Practice. In Part 5 she outlines where professional learning has clear goals and allows for personal pathways:

  1. Develops skills and knowledge based on the needs of the learner
  2. Builds on strengths and interests
  3. Allows for creativity and passion to drive diverse learning experiences
  4. Honours individuals and allows them to progress from where they are
  5. Models desired teaching and learning

If you have taken note of everything else above then you can see how easily the points here dovetail with the other influences on my thinking re professional learning. Additionally when you do look at the full 10 characteristics there are many other ideas that align with my thinking including; inquiry based, collaborative, personalised and purposeful. Also I am really interested in investigating further the Create Your Own Adventure approach – that appears to have great potential and value.

Whole staff → Group→ 1-1

My thinking in this area has been influenced strongly by my own involvement in smaller more intimate professional learning groups supported by 1-1 coaching. I know that this has a much greater impact on my personal development than attending a large group professional learning opportunity. Based on this premise then my belief is that staff will also greatly benefit from small group professional learning supported by 1-1 coaching.

Play Based

I have previously reflected on my thoughts in this area as it also compliments my current thinking in personalising PLD. Again, looking at the approach from a principal’s perspective as I attempt to create an environment where the professional learning is personalised for teachers.

So what now?

OK so that is a quick overview of what is influencing my thinking. I have a plan forming in my mind about what shape it might make which I will describe soon after I have talked it through with a couple of key people.

Play based learning… played based professional learning?

Recently our staff took part in a day long workshop focused on play based learning run by the very knowledgeable team from Longworth Education. I found the workshop very worthwhile, providing a valuable pedagogical base and framework to support what is seemingly an aspect of education that is currently having a high profile in NZ primary education.

My mind wandered as it always does during any professional learning experience to how this new knowledge can impact my role as the lead learner and principal and my school. Throughout the day, 3 wonderings rose up above the others.

  • The potential of a play based professional learning approach.
  • The essential element of teacher expertise in coaching guided play.
  • The importance of male teachers in play based learning environments???

This post will unpack the first point, elaborated here through a question…

How can the benefits of play based learning be utilised in a play based professional learning approach?

So let’s reference the folks from Longworth in how they describe the philosophy that drives play based learning.

http://www.longwortheducation.co.nz/

Now let’s change the context and think of this as a starting point for play based professional learning: thus, primarily, play based professional learning could be underpinned by it being:

  • self-chosen and self-directed;
  • process rather than product driven;
  • contains structures or rules established by the players [learners] themselves;
  • imaginative, non-literal and removed from reality;
  • occurs between those who are active, alert and non-stressed.

Does it still work? Do those statements sit comfortably with you in terms of your understanding of professional learning, (or perhaps more accurately, where you see you can transform/innovate in the professional learning space)? For me all but 1 do very nicely – I can’t seem to mould the imaginative, non-literal and removed from reality statement into a professional learning context. I know that any PL needs to be centred and targeted to improving outcomes for learners, as such, it can’t be removed from reality. Maybe I am thinking too literally.

The remaining 4 points dovetail very nicely into where I see PL moving… increasingly open and directed from the individual (but underpinned by the vision and strategic direction of the school), features a replicable process that can support other teachers in improving outcomes for their learners, is designed by and personalised for those involved (but is grounded in what we know about effective PL i.e. an inquiry approach), and is a strongly collaborative, and altogether creating an environment that supports the wellbeing of the staff.

On the topic of environments, let’s head back to Longworth and see what a played based learning environment is characterised by and then reword that for a played based PL approach.

http://www.longwortheducation.co.nz/

Play based professional learning is an environment where through play:

  • Teachers are in control of their own learning.
  • Teachers are active and fully engaged.
  • Teachers take part in rich conversations with their colleagues and their leaders.
  • Teachers choose and manipulate loose parts to enable them to engage in authentic learning.
  • Leaders are seen as facilitators, guiding and scaffolding the learning.
  • Leaders respond to the urges and the developmental stages of the teachers.
  • Leaders are able to link the learning in the play to the practicing teacher criteria/school’s vision & goals.

Once again, I prompt you to consider the above. What do you agree or disagree with? From my current thinking, all but one of them sits very comfortably with me and that is only a matter of clarification. That is the point referring to loose parts – however, if I look on loose parts as being components of PL such as; external expertise, professional texts, observations, feedback, visits, coaching, mentors, reflections etc then it makes complete sense and gets the big tick from me.

So the BIG question really is what would this/could this actually look like in practice? If you have read any of my thinking before I see professional learning, performance management & professional inquiry as synonymous with each other… now throw in some other recent thinking of mine related to the personalisation of professional learning, all of which is now infused with play. I think that is a really exciting place to explore..!

But, plenty more thinking to do in designing and discussing what this space could look like. So next I am on a quest to find out who else out there is wading through this space.

A quick Google has revealed the Institute of Play where “We are committed to empowering young people to navigate their way to a promising tomorrow by making learning irresistible. Join us in creating a movement to bring the power of play and design into every classroom”. This includes “Educator Programs: Research-based educator programs that integrate design and play”. A video outlines more. This does not fit exactly to my brief/thoughts, but it certainly helps channel and clarify my thinking.

Finally, as part of our leadership PLG here at school, we recently viewed the short video Locating Yourself – A Key to Conscious Leadership. Watch the whole thing, it is great and excellent for reviewing your leadership approach and avoiding a cup half empty view… What, you may ask, has that got to do with a play based professional learning approach?Well, take note of what is highlighted at around 2:15.

What do you think?

Learning Maps and Professional Inquiry

I have been a bit of a fan of Learning Maps ever since I was first introduced to the concept 4 or 5 years ago. They were introduced alongside the concept of student agency and putting the students in the driver’s seat of learning. I reflected on the use of the maps then and after recently attending a workshop with Infinity Learning, have appreciated how the concept has grown and developed over the years as teachers and Infinity have fine tuned the approach and worked on how to make them as effective as possible in contributing to the agentic learning we all strive for.

Attending the workshop also made me ponder how this could also be used with teachers and support their developing agency, as well support them to identify an area to work on in terms of an appraisal/professional inquiry goal. When using learning maps with the students we ask them to identify an area for change, what they will do to make these changes, and who will support them in this change. This is the very same process that teachers to go through as the initial part of their inquiry, after they have identified their target students.

So a plan was hatched and I asked teachers to create a learning map that was focused on how they meets the needs of their priority learners to help them identify what they do, what resources and tools they use, and who they seek out support from. Prior to them drawing the maps, teachers had already collected a range of assessment data to identify a group of target /priority learners. The process I used with teachers was the same as what we would use with students which is outlined via a link at the bottom of the post.

Here are some examples from teachers, complete with a few blurred out bits to make them as anonymous as possible. We used a template from Infinity which provides the prompts and scaffolds to support creating the maps and the conversation that need to be had.

The arrows are important to show the interactions between people, tools and places. After attending the workshop earlier in the year we starting using a new arrow, the zig zagging challenge arrow, which we also used when working with students. The challenge areas lead the way to identifying next steps and areas to work on. This is how we have encouraged the use of arrows to add more meaning to the maps.

A little bit of learning =
A lot of learning =
Learning comes in to me, and I give it back =
A challenge in my learning =  

Once the maps were created, they were shared with a colleague prompted by; What is the same? What is different? What are their challenges? before identifying an area for change.

  • What would you like to change to help you in your learning?
  • What would you want to do differently?

This is followed up by a conversations with me to clarify the area for change (not to change it as this takes away from the teacher owning the goal and the process). This in turn helps to identify the expected outcomes/indicators for their professional inquiry goal included in their appraisal.

I guess you could argue that it is quicker just to skip the map and go straight to the conversation to identify the goals and expected outcomes. However I think there is huge value in creating the maps; it puts the teacher in the driving seat, recording how they see their learning and the interactions, or lack of between all the different areas, and from that identifying areas for change. The visual nature of the process and outcome makes seeing gaps and successes straightforward. When two teachers/learners share their map and discuss the similarities and differences, and expand on their challenges together, the collaborative nature of inquiry is highlighted and utilised. The conversation with me just formalises the decisions that have already been made.

We have also used this process with the leadership team in terms of helping to clarify their leadership inquiry goal, although in our case, these had already been set with our external facilitator. The process for me was still worthwhile, it helped to clarify the people, networks and tools that currently supporting my learning in this area and most importantly reinforce what I new are the challenges – an ever growing list. I find the process of drawing very reflective in itself and once completed provides a great source for reflection and conversations. Here is my map, related to my goal of getting to know my learners.

So what next? Like with our students, we will revisit our maps and add to them throughout the year so they are a living record of how we progress and adapt to catering for our priority learners. These updates will again be shared and discussed with colleagues, referenced in our PLGs, and used as a resource for appraisal purposes.

For those who may be interested, here is the guide we developed when creating maps with our students, feel free to use as required, however I really do encourage you to go to a workshop or have one completed in your school by the gurus at Infinity Learning. It will provide you with all the missing theory and pedagogy behind the maps which has only been skimmed over here.

Getting to know my learners – DISC Profiles

One of my professional goals this year is to investigate a personalised approach to how I work with my staff with a particular focus on communication. Personalised as in getting to know them better, understanding their learning and teaching styles, their personality traits and preferences for such things as how they like to receive feedback, school admin communication and engaging in professional learning. I am after them be self-directed and empowered as a professional and because I know them better I can provide the environment that enables it.

There are a couple of reasons why this is important to me and more importantly, to the staff.

  • Firstly it is all about supporting a culture of trust and honesty within our school, understanding each other to a deeper level will help facilitate that process.
  • Secondly the anticipated benefits of improved communication between myself and the staff and between each other will improve as we will better understand how staff prefer to interact in such areas as mentioned above as well as; meetings , coaching/questioning, face to face, email, systems, documentation.
  • Additionally it is an attempt to mirror what we are working on and investigating as a staff, to make learning more personal for our learners and elevating the place of learner voice and choice in their learning. I don’t have a class so my learners are are the staff – I want them to have more voice a choice in their role as a teacher and self direct and take control of areas such as their professional learning.
  • Ultimately with enhanced communication and personalised approaches that suits everyone style, combined with empowered teachers will lead us to the end goal and our baseline measure of improving outcomes for our students.

To date this term I have been very open and honest with the staff, explaining to them my goal and the reason and thinking behind it.

One of the strategies or data gathering steps I have taken is to ask staff to complete a DISC Profile. This is something I have completed previously when I worked for CORE Ed and something I found useful. Although when I completed the DISC the first time round I was quite sceptical about the accuracy of the system to capture who I was. However, the outcome was pretty good, not perfect in every aspect but overall captured me accurately and made me understand myself better as a person, learner and leader.

Staff completed DISC online and their profile report was available straight away to download. 

Individual profiles place you on the DISC map then outline what this means and summarise the characteristics related to this profile. Additionally they outline how someone with this profile relates to the other quadrant and profile types which is very helpful when understanding what others preferences are and what you can do to adapt your ways of working with them.

You can also request a group report where all staff who participated are mapped and the group culture is discussed.

I have made the time to share my profile with the staff, going through it and acknowledging my style and preferences, the parts that captured me perfectly and those that I didn’t think were quite right. I wanted to model this process with them with the aim that they would also want to be open and honest about themselves and sharing their profile with others.

I have been processing this information and I am really intrigued as to how it is going to develop and where my inquiry will lead next. There are emerging questions, not necessarily related to the DISC profiles, which already challenge my existing mindset. Here are a couple of examples.

  • A much more experienced principal once gave me some advice about how ‘close’ to get to your staff. In their practice they deliberately maintained a distance between themselves and the rest of the staff but as you would expect, stayed professional at all times, took an interest in their life outside of school but did not dive right into it. I wonder if this approach hinders a leaders’ ability to really get to know their staff, to a point where there are no ‘filters’ applied in any context or discussion?
  • My second question relates to what I would have called an active participation in discussions whether at staff meetings or PLGs. I do, rightly or wrongly, currently have the expectation that all staff will contribute to our professional dialogue. However if in the act of getting to know my staff, I recognise there are a couple of teachers who have a strong preference for not participating in discussions or don’t like being asked questions directly? Yes there are different forums and groupings to gather their response in other ways, but a PLG potentially falls apart if people do not engage in the process.
  • Another question are the implications if, for example, the staff/leadership/teaching team you are currently part of, where all members had similar profile maps. Is this a positive that we are all ‘on the same wavelength’ and look at situations in a similar way, or is it more advantageous to have a blend of all profile types so that the lenses the group has on a situation covers all perspectives? From where I sit now, I can see a mix of profiles being the preferred option.

There are many more examples as I think about how best to personalise my approaches with staff. Important to acknowledge too that the use of DISC outlined above is only one way that I am gathering ‘data’ about everyone, as the ongoing observations and conversations of their work and life greatly contribute to what I know about them.

Where to next? I have yet to sit down and discuss with each staff the outcomes of their profile. This will allow them to have the ability to agree and disagree as well as clarify what they do prefer, especially in regards to communication which is the central focus of my inquiry. I know too of other principals who have spent a lot of time in this space so connecting with them will be a great way of providing additional insight on the direction this will take.

Self-Assessment and the PTCs

For a couple of years now I have been asking teachers to review their practice against the Practicing Teacher Criteria. This is an ongoing iterative process that I believe teachers should be performing all the time however in this instance the process is formalised as part of their appraisal and discussion and goal setting for the following year.

I think this is a worthwhile process, especially know in my current school where I have 2 years of data to look and and help support strengths and weaknesses in myself and the teaching staff. This in turn will contribute to the PLD plan as well.

So how does it work? Firstly I set up a google form that includes a simple 5 point scale from Sometimes to Consistently for each of the 12 criteria. A definition of each criteria is also included. Also, after ERO visited last year, where they had a national focus review topic related to the attestation for fully registering teachers, they recommended that I include in this process a place for teachers to show evidence to support their ratings on the 5 point scale. This has been included and is a really positive development from previous versions. Here is the full form for you to have a look at.

practicing-teacher-criteria-self-assessment-2016-eoy

The purpose is to capture where teachers are at and whether they are a 2 or a 5 is not important. What matters (on an individual level) is that teachers see where they need to be more effective and over time see progress across the different criteria. It is this growth that is especially important for me. Going backwards in your self-assessment rating is also OK and is often a sign that your knowledge of that criteria and all the implications that it entails has grown thus the scope of your reflection is broader and perhaps more critical.

So what happens to the data?  I pull the data out and create both individual and group spider diagrams (I think sometimes people also refer to these as radar charts). Group spider diagrams can be made for teams of teachers, management, whole school, PRTs etc what ever subgroups you have in your school you can look at the info related to them. These are shared within the leadership team at school, and with individually, along with their collated response to qualify and provide evidence of their rating, with teachers.

ptc-sa1
Individual teacher spider showing 2015 and 2016 self-assessments.
ptc-sa2
Team of 4 teachers 2016 spider.
ptc-sa3
Doc shared with individual teacher with a record of the evidence.

What happens next? I encourage teachers to upload these to their professional blogs in order for them to become an artefact in their ongoing collection of evidence to support their next practicing certificate renewal. The outcomes of the self-assessment are also discussed as part of a teacher’s end of year appraisal checkpoint meeting. As a leadership team we discuss the outcomes and what this looks like across the whole staff and in the teams of teachers. Any trends are identified and we look at how we can support teachers to develop further in the identified areas.

Next steps in the approach? This is yet to be fully completed for this year and as such the review is ongoing. I had planned for teachers to do this twice a year, mid and end, however due to a number of factors I cancelled the mid point review. I question if once a year is enough and I think it is… but only if teachers have an inquiring mindset and are reflective. Also, if there are other ways that teachers are acknowledging their growth against the PTCs as we do via any evidence uploaded to a teacher’s professional blogs, then doing it once a year is a formal acknowledgement of an ongoing process and enough.

I have also thought that including the cultural competencies from Tātaiako would be a very useful extension to the process.

The minor tweak made after ERO’s suggestion was a useful and easy addition to make to the process. I am sure that these minor tweaks will continue to add to the value of this process.

Reviewing our School Values

The New Zealand Curriculum describes values as deeply held beliefs about what is important or desirable. They are expressed through the ways in which people think and act.

This year I am facilitating a full review of our school values, a process that is recognised strategically by the Board, along with a review of our school vision, as a priority area. Why? Well here are a few of the reasons. Our desire is to have our school values;

  • visible around the school
  • articulated by learners, parents and staff
  • actively modelled by learners, parents and staff
  • used to frame up/underpin learning, expectations and behaviour
  • provide a starting point in our decision making process.

There is currently little to no evidence of this taking place and this gap has guided our review and development in this area. To start this process we have based the conversations around a set of 3 core questions:

  1. What is important and desirable in our school?
  2. How should our students be thinking and acting?
  3. What is to be encouraged, modelled, explored?

Taking these 3 questions we have had meetings and conversations as a staff, with our parents, at our whānau hui, and what I believe is most important, with our learners. Outcomes from some of these meetings are shown below.

values1 values2
Students getting their ideas down on paper.
values6 values5
Our parents prioritising and defining what is important to them. Thoughts from a staff member.

As you can probably imagine this led to a huge number and variety of concepts as the different groups documented what was really important to them. Through a process of grouping similarly themed ideas for each of the different groups and ordering them in terms of their popularity, then repeating that process after all the groups’ ideas were pooled together, a final list of 13 values were put on the table.

There was lots of rich discussion and questioning along the way, e.g.

  • Is that a value or a skill?
  • What does that mean to you as I think of it meaning something different?
  • Isn’t that a concept that sits over the top of those values?
  • Do we really need respect as a value? Is that just a non-negotiable anyway?

values-voting-paperGoing back to the NZC definition was our guiding light and kept us on track. Additionally perhaps the most important aspect of this process was to take a lot of time agreeing on a definition of each of the shortlisted values so that when we communicated these to the students, parents and community there was a clear statement by what was meant by that term. We hoped that this would clarify any misunderstandings.

Perhaps the most challenging part was how best to integrate the thoughts of our whānau into this process. They suggested that manaakitanga (caring, looking out for each other), whanaungatanga (treat everyone as your family) and kotahitanga (being as one, the same, treating everyone as the same) were the values that should guide everybody and everything at school. We have no disagreement with these and without question they will be included in the final make-up.

As we don’t yet know what our values framework will look like when it is ‘presented’ to our learners and community (e.g. represented through a visual form like a local landmark, tree etc, or as an acronym). When we offered the shortlisted values to the community we showed how manaakitanga, whanaungatanga and kotahitanga related to them, without yet knowing how these will be shown by the end of the review and development process.

So where to now? The voting process is drawing to a close so the votes will need to be counted. We are still discussing a number of questions including;

  • If we believe that the students’ voice is crucially important, do their votes count more than others?
  • Or, should it be just a straight vote and the what comes out on top are the ones that are selected?
  • What is the best number of values to have? Is it a case of less is more?

Once decided, they next step is to develop a framework to ‘hang’ the values off. We are currently working with our local iwi Ngati Kauwhata to better understand the history and traditions associated with the local area. We are hoping that this will support us in developing a visual representation of the values.

 

 

A Model of Distributed Feedback..?

An interesting idea was discussed at my principal PLG today related to giving feedback. As the conversation developed the notion of feedback, and how it is delivered and received, could be used as a measure for a truly distributed leadership model. It certainly got me thinking. Not sure what I mean? An explanation is required…

The conversation started after a reflective exercise related to our shared text, Thanks for the Feedback. Using a PAGE template to respond to the text it reinforced what I know already – that giving feedback to staff is not a strength of mine and an area that I need to improve.

I unpacked this further, suggesting that my personality was not naturally tuned in to feedback giving and it was something that felt unnatural and was very hard to do -especially the warm fuzzy type. For me this relates more to the ongoing, informal, just in time feedback as more formalised feedback through observations, and coaching sessions for example, sit more comfortably with me. I know other people are much more natural at providing feedback and it seems to be just part of their how they roll.

There were a general agreement of this and round the table and we could identify with one type or the other, or somewhere in-between.

Then the question was asked, do I need to be? In the situation where I am part of the senior leadership team – do I need to be good at the ongoing, informal, just in time feedback, as well as all other types of feedback?

If someone in the leadership team assumes this role instead (i.e. they are good at the warm fuzzies) – is that OK?

The first question that arose from that was this; Is feedback perceived, either intentionally or not, that it is more important if it comes from the principal? Perhaps that it simply an assumption that I have made.

So, let’s take the scenario where their are 3 people who make up a school’s leadership team. Two of these are great at coaching other teachers and get them to thinking deeply about their practice. They function best in a 1-1 context, listening, prompting and helping to identify next steps. This is their strength – unlike the third member of the team who finds this challenging. However, the third person is great at the ongoing, informal, just in time feedback. They fill the gap the other two leaders leave, giving staff that feel-good factor and acknowledgement. In other words, the giving of feedback is distributed among the leaders, working to their strengths and personalities.

So what would need to be in place in order for this to happen

Firstly, I think you need to know your teachers well. What presses their buttons, how, where and when they like to receive feedback. Perhaps undertaking some kind of personality test or analysis (like the DiSC model I have previously used) to enable everyone to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviours to others and vice versa, is a must.

Secondly, going back to the question; Is feedback perceived, either intentionally or not, that it is more important if it comes from the principal? If this is true, then this will be required to change to a culture where feedback from anyone is sort out and valued. I think this would be a great discussion point with staff – maybe it is just an assumption I have made.

This brings us all back round to the notion of feedback, and how it is delivered and received, could be used as a measure for a truly distributed leadership model. The suggestion is that if you have a truly distributed model of leadership, then feedback given by the leadership team, for whatever purpose, has equal weighting no matter who it is from.

Leadership Goal Elevator Pitch Reflection

The end of the year and my performance management cycle is coming to a close. My principal PLG is a regular forum where we all share progress towards our leadership goals and with the last one for the year approaching we are using the elevator pitch strategy to share progress related to one of our goals.

Now our elevator is pretty slow so we have 5 minutes to make our pitches interesting, memorable and succinct, using a framework of subheadings to guide our reflections;

  • My goals is…
  • I have made impact on students/staff by…
  • My main leadership learning has been…
  • I will continue to work on…

My goal is…

1.2 Performance Objective
Lead the development & implementation of key systems to support improved outcomes for priority learners.

Expected Outcomes

  • Accelerated progress is apparent for priority learners
  • A planned & co-ordinated approach to investigating, planning & monitoring effective practices for priority learners is established
  • Teachers demonstrate the ability to inquire into & adapt their practice for priority learners in an ongoing way

I have made impact on students/staff by…

Students

  • Actively including them in the fact finding and intervention decision making process. Staff were released to capture student voice, work with students to draw learning maps and ask them questions related to learning and what works for them and doesn’t. Some of the outcomes from this include increased voice and choice for learners in their learning.
  • More clarity/transparency for them around what they need to do in order to progress. This was enabled through classroom discussion, learning conferences, access to their own achievement data (e.g. e-asTTle), revised written reporting formats with clarity around next steps, changes to classroom programme (e.g. self managed timetables, workshops).
  • For the majority of priority learner cohorts identified in our achievement plan progress has been noticeable. For example:
    • In reading, 14 students were identified from 2015 data, 10 have made accelerated progress (71%).
    • In writing, 18 students were identified, 10 have made accelerated progress  (56%).
    • In maths, 20 students were identified, 18 have made accelerated progress (90%).
    • Of those who have not accelerated, only 1 student is a real cause for concern as there has been little to no progress, even with increased tiers of support.

Staff

  • Our priority learners were agended into staff, team and leadership meetings, ensuring that their needs were kept on top and that actions to addressing their needs were reflected on in an ongoing and collaborative way i.e. raising student achievement is a whole school responsibility, not just one teachers.
  • TAI practices were re-introduced and further built on, highly valued to acknowledge the importance of an ongoing and reflective professional inquiry.
  • Teachers were expected to make informed decisions about the impact of the teaching based on achievement data, student voice, feedback from colleagues, and critical self reflection including videoing their own teaching.
  • Teachers were asked to consider and discuss the implications of an equity v. equality approach to addressing the needs of our priority learners.
  • Staff increased their professional knowledge and capability around the use of a broad range of assessment tools to inform decisions related to teaching and learning.
  • Conversations regarding priority learners changed to be about learning not behaviour.

My main leadership learning has been…

  • Importance of focusing all changes and professional learning centred around students and improving their outcomes. i.e. don’t do it for me, do it for your learners.
  • Getting the pace of change right and balancing this with the;
    • wellbeing of staff and workloads
    • amongst the other needs across all areas of review and development
    • time for teachers to embed practices
    • culture of growth mindsets, recognising change happens a different paces for everyone.
  • Acknowledging the huge value in the ongoing review of what and why we do things, acknowledging when things haven’t gone to plan, and being flexible and adaptive to change.
  • Giving value/resourcing  to teachers coming together to have professional based dialogue during the school day.
  • Being patient.

I will continue to work on…

  • Gaining a deeper understanding of the staff in order to better recognise, utilise and accommodate their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Providing more effective feedback across a range of forums, in order to support teachers in becoming more effective in their roles.
  • Explore a more personalised approach to TAI, professional learning and appraisal/accountability.
  • Further exploring professional collaborative practices and opportunities.
  • Continuing to prioritise our priority learners but consciously use a gradual release of responsibility model as practices are normalised.

So there’s the pitch. Quite an easy, quick and worthwhile strategy to pull together the key points related to progress towards a goal. I would certainly consider using it with my staff as another reflective approach as part of the TAI process.