Thanks to Mark Walker for sharing a recent interview with John Hattie in the Melbourne Age.
Hattie is currently in Australia, continuing the Visible Learning crusade and making a lot of common sense.
Australian principals are mired in tasks that don’t have much influence on how their students perform academically. Thirty-two per cent of their time is spent on administrative tasks, much higher than the international mean of 22 per cent, according to an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study. The proportion of their time spent on staff development, instructional leadership, and parent and community relations are all lower than international means.
We can’t argue with the data nor can we continue to make exceptions and excuses for practices that evidently have little impact on student learning outcomes. Hattie is correct in saying that principals have to see themselves as the ‘chief evaluators of student and staff achievement in their schools’.
For too long, we’ve burdened principals with the task of being factory managers, not leaders of learning. Urgency outweighed importance but the scales are beginning to tip.
It is time for reshaping the role and reasserting the responsibilities of principals in light of the irrefutable research (Hattie, Robinson, Timperley et al). And this has to be done in collaboration with the Principals, not at arms length to them. This is how a true profession builds its practice capacity. The mark of a respected profession is the rigour it applies to how contemporary theory and practice can improve the work of the profession, and ultimately the leadership it provides for policy agendas.
Improving student learning requires a laser like focus on what matters and for principals, what matters most should be learning and teaching.