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Time to reframe leadership learning for the middle tier of school leadership Physical Education New Zealand 2015 Conference Keynote Associate Professor Susan Lovett, University of Canterbury, November 2015
Outline for presentation 1. Use an existing leadership program for middle leaders as a springboard for exploring the learning needs of MLs 2. Drawing on international research findings about MLs’ professional learning needs 3. Introduce some frameworks for identifying learning needs (criteria & leadership content knowledge) 4. Possible directions for the design of middle leaders’ professional development programs
Research focus on middle leadership • Recent move to recognise importance of middle leaders as leaders of learning; • Current crisis in attracting people from middle leadership into higher leadership roles (Harris, 2007); • Professional learning for middle leaders tends to assume upward movement rather than staying in the role • Being a leader of learner requires a particular skillset to ensure professional conversations with colleagues are empowering, respectful and not controlling.
Urgent need to: • rethink the leadership roles for middle leaders; • have professional learning which improves MLs’ capacity to enhance their own and teachers’ pedagogical leadership
Middle Leadership Program example: QELi in Australia • Queensland Educational Leadership Institute under licence to National College of Leadership & Children’s Services in England. • 12 month program • 4 day workshops plus online discussion and reading & thinking on key ‘think’ pieces • Key feature is the identification & implementation of a school-based leadership challenge project
Framework for evaluation of QELi program(1) • Participation rates • Completion rates • Impact – Confidence – Knowledge & skills – Explicit school improvement – Career development – Positive student outcomes – Reach of participants, school type & locations
Framework for evaluation of QELi program (2) • Engagement The ‘learning’ (extent to which energised & challenged The ‘doing’ (task level promotes discussion & critical thinking) The ‘approach’ (extent of guiding role by facilitator) Satisfaction Program structure, content, delivery, & connection to learning outcomes
Framework for evaluation of QELi program (3) • Pre-program survey to all participants • Facilitator individual interviews & follow up focus group (pre-program & midpoint) • Follow-up interviews with sample of principals around their staff member’s school-based challenge (about 5 months after program completion) • Post-program survey to all participants (about 5 months after program completion)
The relationship between middle leaders and teachers • interested in improving personal understandings of themselves as leaders, and how to develop and lead teams of teachers. • Challenge to get staff buy-in to projects in which middle leaders were engaged 25% to major extent, 40% to moderate extent • Having the knowledge and skills to facilitate collective action by teachers was the challenge many experienced.
The QELi evaluation has highlighted the value middle leaders place on fostering and sharing leadership with teachers. These findings suggest we need to give greater attention to understanding the development preferences of middle leaders.
Literature on middle leaders : 6 matters of prominence • general malaise that surrounds people being attracted to leadership roles; • apparent privilege of principals’ professional learning; • visible tensions in middle leadership; • seductive cry that everyone is a leader; • on-going contest over middle leadership functions; and • relevant essentials in middle leaders’ learning.
The general malaise that surrounds people being attracted to leadership roles • International concerns about the inadequacy of preparation & learning support for educational leaders (Brundrett & Crawford, 2008); • Global concerns about recruitment & retention of school leaders; • 70% current MLs in the UK were not aspiring to headships & 43% of incumbent deputies not attracted to headships (Rhodes & Brundrett, 2009); • Pool of MLs moving to headships has shrunk in last 5 years in Hong Kong (Ng & Chan, 2014)
The apparent privilege of principals’ professional learning • Fewer examples of leadership programs for MLs; • Those that did exist were more likely to be ‘stepping stones to senior leadership rather than concentrating on the exercise of middle leadership’ (Thorpe & Bennett-Powell, 2014); • Moral imperative to support those in leadership roles other than the principalship.
The visible tensions in middle leadership • Leadership density is now accepted as necessary for a school’s success; • MLs leaders caught between whole school agendas & agendas of subject departments & networks; • Conflict between hierarchical line management & professional concern for collegiality (Thorpe & Bennett-Powell, 2014); • MLs are often trapped, mendicant to the compliance & control exercised by the leadership layers above them, rendering them unable to respond to their colleagues as they would wish
The seductive cry that everyone is a leader • Call for distributed leadership may be turning teachers away from leadership work as they can face roles for which they are unprepared & not supported (Gurr & Drysdale, 2013); • “Leader plus”. We need to think of distributed leadership as behaviour rather than role definition (Harris, 2004) • Now harder to see who the leaders are; • Leaders can be in formal & informal roles (Fitzgerald, Gunter & Eaton, 2006)
The on-going contest over middle leadership functions • Principals & middle leaders have differing views about the functions required of MLs (Thorpe & Bennett-Powell, 2014) • MLs themselves despite confidence in matters to do with the improvement of teaching & learning & raising standards, still want more professional learning in this area. • A NZ study by Marshall (2012) showed those hierarchically above MLs held MLs primarily responsible for staff management ignoring MLs’ role in fostering collegiality
The relevant essentials in MLs’ learning • Ng & Chan (2014) suggest: - interpersonal skills, - understanding of current curriculum requirements, - strategic directions, • Thorpe & Bennett-Powell (2014) suggest: - breadth in learning options because likely to have portfolio outside specialisation, - managing people & leading teams, - time management, - accountability for disparate team, - dealing with new & failing staff Anderson & Curtin (2014): - knowledge & strategies related to coaching & mentoring
Criteria for determining quality of leadership PD programs (Lovett, Flückiger & Dempster, 2014) 1. Philosophically & theoretically attuned 2. Goal-oriented 3. Informed by weight of research evidence 4. Time-rich 5. Practice-centred 6. Purpose-designed 7. Peer-supported 8. Context-sensitive 9. Partnership-powered 10. Effects-oriented
Learning for MLs moving to principalships Task: identify questions under each of the following leadership content knowledge focal points Pedagogy People Place System Self (Lovett, Dempster & Flückiger 2014 extending earlier work of Clarke & Wildy, 2011).
Sample questions: What do I need to learn … • in order to ensure that I create & lead effective opportunities for professional development with my future staff members? (Pedagogy) • to enable me to create good leadership team working relationships & helpful and supportive communities of practice? (People) • about my local community, its families & students and the policy environment in which I will work? (Place) • to ensure that I have the necessary grasp of legislation & regulation for which I am accountable at my school? (System) • about my personal & professional values & their implication in ethical leadership decisions? (Self)
Learning for MLs staying in their position Questions related to pedagogy: - Do I understand learning sequences & progressions in order to help teachers plan activities? - Am I able to help teachers design and use smart tools to evaluate learning? - Am I aware of banks of teaching strategies from which teachers may draw, irrespective of the learning area? - Am I aware of what the research tells us about strategies which hold potential for the greatest learning effects?
Sample questions related to people • What opportunities am I providing for my team members to see themselves as leaders? • How are we describing and practising leadership? • Can I name leadership contributions from all of my team members?
Sample questions related to place • How will I know that I have understood the context of leaders and learning in my school? • How effective are my learning conversations in empowering teachers to ask questions about their own practice? • Am I seeing other teachers using disciplined dialogue in discussions with colleagues?
Sample questions related to system • Do I know what and when the system requires reports? • What strategies do I employ for supporting teachers to produce necessary data? • To what extent am I collating achievement data so parents understand?
Sample questions related to self • How well do I and my colleagues articulate and implement the shared moral purpose to improve student learning? • Are my practices in working with others based on consistent professional values? • To what extent do my strategies and language when mentoring align with best practice?
Conclusion (1) • 2/3 MLs in QELi program saw themselves as leaders of learning rather than as promotional applicants for principalships; • Programs which incorporate pedagogical leadership skills & provide opportunities to develop these in situ with scaffolded support are most needed for the greatest number of MLs • Programs should provide opportunities for MLs to improve their capacity to enhance their own and their teachers’ pedagogical leadership • Education systems have an obligation to provide role-relevant professional learning for leaders who see middle leadership as their career path
Conclusion (2) • suggest different types of leadership learning are needed • further research into middle leadership program development & implementation is needed • Middle leadership should be seen as a rewarding career choice because its primary aim is clearly focussed on fostering talented teacher leadership teams working collaboratively on an agenda committed to the moral purpose of schooling