Tag Archives: leadership

The WHY of our Leadership Structure

Over the past 3 years the leadership structure at RSS has gone through a recognisable change. This has essentially meant a move from a hierarchical model to a networked model.

e.g. From this……to this.

The purpose of this doc is to outline the reasons why and to clarify what it means for our school.

Firstly, let’s clarify the former hierarchical model. This approach supported the existing information flow up and down the school and was closely aligned to how the school was structured. The school was clearly divided into 2 teams and each team was co-lead by 2 leaders. These co-leaders were part of the leadership team alongside the principal and other key staff. Information flowed down from the leadership team via the team leaders and then flowed back up on a reverse route. The teams came together fortnightly to discuss, unpack and feedback and this was complemented by whole staff meetings every other week. If a teacher required clarification or had a question, they usually went to their team leader first.

There was nothing really wrong with this model at all but as a different style of leadership emerged, combined with a restructuring of the school, I felt that this approach could be improved and at the same time be more closely aligned to our school vision of empowering agency, innovation and leadership. Over time this has seen the Team Leader role be deemphasised and naturally morph into a leader of everyone.

Before we get to the low down on the networked model, let’s first recognise that at times we need to revert back to a hierarchical structure. Not everything can be handed over to staff to self manage and make decisions and connect with those they need to. For example, the recent COVID-19 pandemic and returning to school under Level 2 and 3 conditions required a clear plan for everyone to follow and one that wasn’t up for negotiation.

However, the aim is to stay predominantly in the preferred networked end of the continuum, but acknowledge it doesn’t suit all situations (and for that matter doesn’t suit all staff).

So why a networked approach?

  • Collaborative: A networked approach is based on the ability to utilise both the individual and collective intelligence of every staff member at RSS. This is underpinned by collaboration where we work together to productively grow and improve our school.
  • Valuing everyone: The approach is also underpinned by valuing every staff member and recognising that everyone can contribute positively to our school community.
  • Strengths based: A networked model is built around utilising everyone’s strengths. You go directly to the person who can best help you solve that problem or answer that question. Experts can reach out or offer their knowledge and support to best suit other’s needs.
  • Timely: Support, information, coaching etc is there when you need it. There is no need to wait for next week’s meeting or the availability of certain staff members. 
  • Responsive: Leaders stay in tune with staff to listen and gauge feelings. This enables them to respond to known or emerging issues and to know when to pause and recognise to celebrate great practice. Any meetings are determined by the needs of the staff rather than the needs of the leadership team.
  • Learning alongside: Like our approach to coaching, the network model places all staff on an equal footing where everyone learns alongside each other, rather than a master/apprentice relationship.
  • Flexible: Networks can form as needs arise and fall away when the purpose has been reached. ‘Membership’ is not fixed. Connections are made with those who can best support one another for a shared purpose.
  • Alignment to: 
    • School vision: A networked approach is closely aligned to our school vision of empowering agency, innovation and leadership.
      • Agency: a high professional trust environment where teachers are given the space and autonomy to make decisions with each other about what is best for learning.
      • Innovation: Research is clear that environments that provide high trust and allow staff to make decisions for themselves result in increased innovation and creativity. 
      • Leadership: This is leadership in a post heroic environment where leadership is about growing other people, creating high-trust environments, encouraging critical conversations.
    • Ngā uaratanga: Our values outline our school’s expectations for learning, behaviour and wellbeing. There is a strong alignment between our values and a networked approach e.g.
      • Kotahitanga: We all have a role to play in our learning community.
      • Motuhaketanga: I know when and how to seek help.
      • Ngākau Tapatahi: I can learn with others and get our learning done.
      • Haututanga: I know when to lead and when to follow.
    • School structure: We have moved away from larger teams of teachers to smaller autonomous groups. A network structure supports this through decentralising the chain of command and allows smaller groups of teachers to make decisions relevant to their learners and class or school initiative.
    • The leadership team now: The way we work harnesses the benefits of a networked approach. We consciously model this approach across all aspects of our leadership work.
  • Current thinking/best practice in leadership: There are plenty of great readings to be had in how organisations are decentralising leadership and control. Here is just a snapshot – I will leave it over to you to read and reflect.

What needs to be in place for a networked approach to work? Here’s my thinking…

  • Communication: This is vital in any organisational structure and no less important within a networked approach – but not just from the leaders to everyone else. Effective communication between everyone is vital and as such everyone must take the responsibility for its success.
  • Openness: Everyone needs to trust each other, be open to giving and receiving feedback and open to learning from anyone else.
  • Value: Everyone’s ideas and voice are highly valued, and opportunities need to be provided for sharing this knowledge as well as voicing opinions and concerns. Giving time to each other, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, and listening is super important.
  • Knowing: You need to know who it is best to connect with so knowing each other, and the strengths and weaknesses that people have. Being in tune with who needs support and who best can support them is also a key aspect.
  • Recognition: That hierarchical approach to leadership is not the current vision. We have a desire to lead alongside, not from above. That is the bus we are on.

What does it mean for the staff at our school?

  1. Recognise that the school vision drives everything we do. It is not just for our learners and learning.
  2. The most significant is understanding the changing role of a leader:
A shift fromto
Low trustHigh trust

Two things – I think it is really that simple. If you understand what drives the school and the leaders role in that process, you know how to function effectively within that system.

Further food for thought…

A reflective prompt for you;

  • Is there a parallel between how you teach and what type of leadership structure you prefer? or
  • Is there a parallel between how you lead and what learning in your school classrooms look like?
Do you prefer this leadership structure?
So is this what learning looks like in your class?
Is this what learning looks like in classroom in your school?
Or is this what learning looks like in your class? Or classes across your school?
And as such, do you align to a networked leadership approach?

Which approach to classroom practice and leadership more closely aligns to your school vision?

So what does it mean for staff at our school?

Time to decide: Personalised PLD

Now the the 2018 school year is underway it is time to put the theory into practice and get the personalised PLD up and running.

Step 1 was to invite staff to present their ideas about what our inquiry streams would be. This took place at our staff retreat prior to the school year starting up. Ideas were presented in a ‘smackdown’ style (those of you who have attended an Educamp will be pretty familiar with this approach). If not, it is all outlined further in the slide show embedded below.

There were guidelines that presenters had to follow and some key reminders for their inquiry stream concept;

  1. Your inquiry stream concept needs to relate directly back to the school vision and values.
  2. It is an active inquiry, inquiring into an area of need that will result in improved outcomes for our learners.
  3. You don’t need to have all the answers! If you share an idea it is not expected that you are the leader/member of the stream.
  4. A little hunch could be all that is required for some great professional learning…

Staff embraced the opportunity to share their thoughts on what the professional learning context/s could be with 20 slides created and shared.

The next phase of the process took the next couple of days of the retreat to process and ended at the last session where staff had to make an indiction of which stream they wanted to be part of.  This length of time was crucially important where everyone took the opportunity to consider the themes presented and reflect on which one they would like to be a part of. There were further conversations between the presenters and interested staff as they probed, questions and clarified the idea further and where it may potentially head.

Perhaps the biggest voice over this time were the comments related to;

  1. how hard it was going to be to choose between the streams;
  2. the similarities between some of the streams and the potential for some of them to be blended into one; e.g. the ones related to agency;
  3. that some of the streams would happen anyway as part of the charter/annual plan goals and outcomes e.g. reviewing the reporting to parents approach so didn’t need to be there.

As such when it came to the last session, where everyone had to choose an option the list had gone from 20 to ???.

My observations/reflections so far…

  • Asking staff a question a simple as “What would you like to learn?” provides such a richness to the potential learning and an extra level of engagement. Effective teachers are always learning and embrace the opportunity for any PLD but I think that when they are in the driver’s seat, the engagement steps up another level. Maybe kind of related to this this…
Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning by John Spencer & A.J. Juliani
  • The more I think about it the more pleased I am of how this approach is so in tune with out vision of Empowering Agency, Innovation and Leadership. I really do think it ticks them all.
  • As I consider the next step, I am wondering how prescribed it needs to be. Do I let the reigns go or do I put in place some guidelines. Firstly I know that whatever the next step looks like, it will be differentiated for different streams, just like a classroom. As i ponder this I refer back to a post by Katie Martin:

When professional learning is too standardized:

  1. Learning is designed for one size to fit all
  2. Focus on fidelity to programs, not learners
  3. Designed for the “average”, meets the needs of few
  4. Externally designed path and pace
  5. Lack opportunities to for voice and choice of the learners

When professional learning is too open-ended:

  1. Lack of clear learning goals
  2. Passion runs high for some and others become paralysed by too many choices
  3. No one is really sure what is expected of them
  4. Many left to figure it out on their own
  5. Little follow through and lack of cohesion on a team or staff.

My professional curiosity is running high. I am so interested to see where this approach goes and how;

  1. staff react to/embrace etc the process once it’s underway;
  2. the impact on learning
  3. how each stream manage their own PLD and use theri resourcing
  4. ahhh so much to look forward to!

#empowering #smackdown #agency #personalised #innovation #learneragency #leadership

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.

  1. PLD is personalised & involves teacher choice and voice
  2. Teachers have more ownership over their own learning
  3. Teachers ability to coach & facilitate conversations with each other is enhanced
  4. Teacher collaboration is enhanced
  5. The opportunities for teacher creativity and innovation are increased
  6. Teachers articulate that their professionalism has been valued & that high trust exists
  7. 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.

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.

Adapted from the thinking of https://longwortheducation.co.nz/

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.

#empowering #Personalisation #11 #play #innovation #leadership