Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Leading Learning for School Improvement

Today I was privileged to attend two thought provoking presentations at the NZ Primary Principals Conference, Power to Innovate, in Hamilton.

The first presentation was from Jeremy Kedian of the University of Waikato who spoke on the importance of leadership - leaders leading learning in their schools. He asked the question - When was your last leadership failure? Reminding us that as leaders we need to be experimenting, taking risks and modeling the dispositions of learning.  He talked about leaders as architects - working with their communities, leading the design process for the physical, social, learning and future environments. He emphasized the importance of passion, creativity, growing relationships, cultural literacy and globalism and referred to John West Burnham: Seven Questions for leaders of learning.  He then drew on a quote from Leadbeater & Wong (2010) - Schools might be hitting the target, but are they missing the point?' In closing he referred to research (and I didn't capture the detail) showing that only 15% of leaders time is spent on leading, making the point that we better make it count!

I then attended a presentation by  Dr Viviane Robinson - Too much change - not enough improvement.  In the introduction Dr Robinson reminded us that change and innovation do not always lead to improvement. As school leaders we need to be discerning and have processes to ensure that the initiatives we are undertaking will generate sustainable school improvement that is focussed on raising student achievement. She referred to the issue of school leaders and schools taking on too much, too many initiatives that resulted in little or unsustainable improvement.  Dr Robinson highlighted the importance of focussed and deep learning - taking time to clearly identify the problem, establish goals, identify barriers, locate expertise, plan, strategize, monitor and adapt to generate improvement that is sustainable. This learning can then be transferred, promoting a strategic and sustainable process for improvement.

On reflection - both presentations highlighted to me the importance of vision? Do we know what type of learning environments we want to create? Do we have shared understanding about learning -what is powerful learning and what is powerful to learn?  I think when we have clearly identified this - we have a point of reference for where to next. The key is planning how to get there!

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