Michael Fullan recently addressed 100+ of our aspiring leaders in the context of leading change and learning in their schools.
This was a marvellous experience for leading teachers to be exposed to someone of Fullan’s calibre – armed with research and case studies on what makes an effective school leader.
It is evident that one of our greatest challenges as a system is how we continue to recognise leading teachers, how we develop their leadership and more importantly connect them with similar cohorts to expand the depth of talent across the profession.
Part of the process of challenging and empowering teachers is ensuring that core messages around instructional practice, collaboration, effective use of data and feedback etc are being disseminated across all levels. As one of the principals of Fullan’s ‘turnaround schools’ explained – you need to know the message is getting past the usual bottle-necks. To ensure teachers are across the agenda requires constant…… ‘feedback’.
I know many leaders and educators are uncomfortable with the ‘f’ word but it is critical to how we lead and plan. It begs the question of how we encourage principals in every school (large, small, primary, secondary) to seek honest feedback and evidence of their own school improvement strategies? Why do we too often feel uncomfortable getting and giving feedback?
For Fullan, building strong communities of practice comes from building communities of trust. As a system, we need to continually measure the temperature of trust and progress if we are to see what is working and what needs to be done next. This is the way to overcome this “uncomfortableness.” Learning becomes the focus of the work not individual performance.
In raising the bar, we need to be rigorous in our approach to gathering feedback and presenting evidence. It requires not only a common language of learning but as John Hattie recently said ‘a common indicator of progress that is applied across every school’. This ‘common’ but sharply focussed lens provides schools, systems, parents, governments with an honest snapshot from which we can understand, monitor and promote good learning rather than judge school performance.
Taking this approach builds the credibility of the profession as well, and will place the profession in the centre of developing education policy – not at its margins