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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

  1. Leadership and Learning

    21 September 2014 by shartley

    I am Here for the Learning Revolution

    Image source: Wesley Fryer (Flickr)

    This post (aka rant) is a result of being part of a team driving change at my school; studying not one, but two university subjects focusing on leadership; and having numerous conversations about leadership in recent times beyond these circumstances.

    There’s a fine balance between the autocratic/transactional style of one-way communicating telling staff how things are to be done and a constant consultative style that becomes caught in trying to please everyone so that nothing ends up being done.  It isn’t a dichotomy but a spectrum of leadership style.  As a leader I like to work alongside people but realise there are times strong decision making and even discipline may be required (although I know to treat the action not the person, just like with students).

    Character traits apply to leadership style but a lot of the traits demonstrated by leaders are an act, not necessarily something they are given at birth.  I’m naturally an introvert but assume a stronger persona because I’m someone who strives to be a high achiever (if a job needs to be done I want to do it well). This is why most people view me as an extrovert.  For instance, I hate conflict as a passive observer but being in it or trying to reconcile conflict between others is worse.  Yet, I am good at it.  I once went to a psychologist who helped in career matters and he told me that my sense of pride in doing things well over-rode being out of my comfort zone but it wasn’t sustainable as a constant practice.  At uni we were once asked what we thought was the most important aspect of leading change, and everyone else said communication while I said, all-in.  Communication is just a method for driving an all-in attitude.  I therefore work on solidarity, cohesion and an all-in attitude within teams.

    I believe there should be a clear vision in schools and that a vision should have at its core a focus on learning, but too often I see schools avoiding the word learning and making the vision more about character.  I wonder how much this is to absolve parents from that role?  I think developing character is important but learning across all aspects of life is important and surely, the main purpose of secondary education.

    I think it is important for my current school to move from a transactional leadership paradigm to a transformational paradigm (Bass 1997) but beyond this, it needs to bring in more open leadership style, with a focus on people more than administration (Kotter 1990).  I want to be part of that paradigm shift.  I like what Robinson, Lloyd and Rowe (2008) and Davies and Davies (2005) have to say about leadership because although they simplify leadership, they don’t oversimplify it into unrealistic expectations of a mere series of steps to follow. For instance, I like Robinson et al emphasise building trust and it appears genuine, not just a means for meeting goals.  Davies & Davies are excellent at moving leadership theory for product based organisations to the school environment and taking context of environment into account.

    I love Eacott’s (2011) analysis of Bourdieu (who I studied extensively as part of a writing and literature course) partly because “A central aim of Bourdieu’s sociology is the attempt to remove the dichotomy between the individual and society” and partly because Eacott demonstrates how the accountability of schools have become the end-goals in themselves (p.42).  The HSC should be a measurement, not the goal in itself.  The learning involved in undertaking the HSC should be the goal.

    We need a focus on learning in an environment of trust and strong relationships.  Otherwise, schools become a competitive arena about point scoring, amongst staff and amongst students.  Even between teachers and students.  Some of the top academic achieving schools seem to want to foster an individual selfish competitive environment, taking away the focus on learning to a focus on marks, and even though I’m competitive by nature and take pride in high marks (mine and my students’), a system that thrives on that is my idea of hell.


    Bass, B.M. (1997). Does the transactional-transformational leadership paradigm transcend organizational and national boundaries? American Psychologist, 52(2), 130-139. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.52.2.130

    Davies, B.J. & Davies B. (2005). The strategic dimensions of leadership. In Davies, B., Ellison, L. & Bowring-Carr, C. (eds) School Leadership in the 21st Century (pp.8-16). London: RoutledgeFalmer.

    Eacott, S. (2011). Leadership strategies: re-conceptualising strategy for educational leadership. School Leadership and Management, 31(1), 35-46. DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2010.540559

    Kotter, J. (1990). Management and Leadership. In Kotter (ed.), A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management (pp.2-18).  New York, NY: The Free Press.

    Robinson, V. M. J., Lloyd, C. A., & Rowe, K. J. (2008). The Impact of Leadership on Student Outcomes: An Analysis of the Differential Effects of Leadership Types. Educational Administration Quarterly44(5), 635–674.


  2. ICERI 2013

    2 December 2013 by shartley

    ICERI A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to attend, present and chair at the International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI) in Seville, Spain (18-20 November 2013).  This came about due to the comprehensive research completed by a group of us at school, upon the request of our principal, into ‘ICT and Active Learning’.  The investigation involved visiting a variety of innovative schools, surveying our own community and secondary research.  The report ended up being 60 pages long and has resulted in the implementation of REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning), a concentrated effort for a paradigm shift to more student-centred learning in a Year 7 pilot program for 2014.  Since we had already completed the research we wrote a couple of different abstracts to apply to present at international conferences and were surprised to be accepted by both.  The school is paying for the Innovative Learning Team (ILT) to attend the International Conference on Learning in New York, July 2014, so couldn’t send us to the ICERI one too.  I therefore asked for leave and attended under my own steam (except for accommodation).  I also gained permission to add a couple of days in Paris to visit my 16 year old daughter on school exchange there.  From lift-off to landing I was gone for a total of 9 days, only absent (in body) from school for 5 of them.

    So why would I go to so much expense, effort and jet lag to be at ICERI 2013?  Put simply, the experience.

    For the first time I’ve had an academic conference paper published (with my two colleagues, Melissa Carson and Nick Cook).  Although it’s not the level of a peer-reviewed journal, it’s still something.  It had to be submitted back in October; I wrote it during the school holidays, heavily based on our report for the principal.

    For the first time I’ve presented at an international conference.  I was the first to present during my session, forgot to mention a couple of key points, but generally thought it went well.  We were asked to use either Adobe Acrobat (pdf) or PowerPoint for our presentations.  I was quite pleased with my slides, prepared the day before I left and I wrote what I said during the flight over.  I was asked which I thought should come first, the pedagogy or the technology, and I replied quite definitely, the pedagogy, but what I’ve read since has made me question my decisiveness a little.

    For the first time ever (beyond the classroom) I’ve chaired a session of presentations.  This meant I had to introduce each of the presenters with a supplied biography, pronounce their names as correctly as I could, and ensure they adhered to the tight time regulations.  The duo that followed me were speaking for a couple of minutes before I remembered I had to time them but I recovered and nobody knew.  The next presenter was so nervous that I concentrated too much on calming and preparing her that I forgot to introduce her.  She ran out of time so I concluded with a comment about how fast the time slips away when up front that I also forgot to introduce her and did it then, at the end of her talk.  From then on I was much better and even managed to gain a laugh with my comments about the last speaker’s presentation.

    Of course there is the added benefit of the credibility it provides to me and my school.

    Unlike the various school conferences I’ve attended, this conference was wholly based on academic research.  Each presentation went for 15 minutes and I attended approximately 50 of them on a wide range of topics.  Some were highly technical analysis of statistics that bored me but then I was often surprised by the interest some audience members displayed in the following Q&A.  Most presentations had something that fascinated me.

    By theme the sessions I attended were:


    The highlights for me were Morten Fahlvik (@Fahlvik) speaking about blended learning, Ruth Bridgstock (@RuthBridgstock) speaking about educating for digital futures, Alex Tyman presenting on perceptions of leadership and the presenters in my session who had researched teachers’ responses to the introduction of or increase in ICT usage in classrooms.

    Some of the issues that had me thinking include:

    • technology increasing the income gap and the lack of ICT adding to the poverty cycle
    • pedagogy being taken hostage by the tools
    • ‘massification’ resulting in the requirement of large halls; personalisation resulting in the requirement of smaller learning spaces; and ‘interactive classes’ requiring convertible settings
    • parallels between digital media professionals and teachers networking through PLNs on Twitter and TeachMeets
    • how we keep judging leaders against our prototypes (men, tall, suits, aggressive, etc) instead of what we say leadership should be about (consultative, caring, diplomatic, etc)
    • a study of US songs have had a recent exponential rise in use of the words ‘me’, ‘myself’ and ‘I’ in lyrics
    • how students condemn cheating but justify their own cheating but also how this has been researched with many underlying assumptions (eg what actually constitutes ‘cheating’)
    • how to assess social and ethical behaviour/attitudes
    • the language used in relation to shifting teaching styles should not be “make them”
    • focusing more on students’ competencies than knowledge


    The other important aspect of the conference was simply talking with other earnest educators, the vast majority being from universities around the world.

    Before the conference, I had already connected with @davidwebster (David Webster – University of Gloucestershire) via Twitter through the hash-tag #iceri2013 and found each other in person during the first break.

    At the first day’s lunch I sat next to Tony Scafide of SUNY Oneonta (USA) and we talked intensely all lunch and throughout the cocktail party the following night about life, the universe and everything.

    On the second day I lunched with Ruth Bridgstock (QUT) and Margaret Mackay (University of Portsmouth) and we discussed how people learn and how to motivate students and teachers to want to learn (without finding definitive answers).

    It was truly an international conference.  In my session alone the presenters were from Norway, Nigeria, Israel, Poland and Turkey.  But I must say, for a conference about innovation in learning, Twitter was rather quiet.

    Overall, despite the rotten cold I had the entire time I was away (and still), it was the conversations with intelligent and passionate people in education that will stay with me the longest.  It motivates me to continue with my study, my teaching and my interest in student-centred learning.  Somebody described me as a border collie, meaning I’m the one who rounds everyone up, gathering them in to try and face them in the right direction.  I think that is a pretty good summary and a conference like this will keep the wag in my tail a little bit longer.

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