Leadership in education, maximizing leadership impact

Here are some thoughts on the impact of leadership dimensions on student outcomes from two well-known influencers in this area, Vivian Robinson, and Michael Fullan.

Student-Centered Leadership

What specific leadership practices make a difference for students?  According to Viviane Robinson, there are five dimensions of leadership practices that have an impact on student outcome. Here illustrated with effect sizes.  As a general guide, anything below 0.2 shows a weak or no effect, and anything greater than 0.6 reveals a significant impact. See table for details.

  1. Clear goals, usually around learning or some aspect of student well-being. 0.42
  2. Resourcing the achievement of those goals through the way you use money, time and teaching resources. 0.31
  3. Leadership that is deeply involved in the core business of teaching and learning through getting involved with planning the curriculum, what’s being taught and how well it is being taught. 0.42
  4. Leadership that is involved in how the staff is learning how to achieve the goals because quite often teachers need to learn more about how to teach a particular group of students differently. Leadership that is involved in teacher learning is a very powerful sort of leadership practice. 0.84
  5. This all sets on a foundation of both staff and students feeling they’re working in a safe and orderly school environment. 0.27

In schools, we are trying to create a system more about collaboration, a more professional community, and more organizational learning.  It is the notion of having everyone exercise leadership.  Leadership for me is an influence process. I am attempting to influence you to accept particular ideas to think about particular things to practice differently. Leadership is an influence that is based on my relationship with you that is based on trust. Another source of leadership influence is my ideas.  We talk and you change the way you think or you consider something you wouldn’t otherwise considered because of the ideas I’m bringing and so school leaders who have ideas that help colleagues solve problems of teaching and learning in their classroom are likely to be much more influential than school leaders who don’t have ideas that are helpful for you in solving problems that you experience in the classroom.

The third source of influence is positional authority. Most principals  want to exercise leadership through the other two influences which are our relationship and the ideas we are discussing. Key words here are reciprocal, collegial, relationship, obligation to help and to challenge. Vivian Robinson

Three Keys for Maximizing Leadership Impact, Michael Fullan

“Love your employees” means you need to set up conditions where people are motivated individually and collectively. If there’s one word that captures change and change theory, it’s motivation.  People have tried extrinsic motivation—rewards, and punishments. They get a little bit of progress, but not much. What really is the heart of successful change is intrinsic
motivation, which is about purpose, mastery, capacity, working with others, and having a degree of autonomy. The best way you can love teachers is to create the conditions under which they can become successful.  If you want to motivate teachers, you can’t just try to convince them through, for example, research evidence. That doesn’t work. Nor can you motivate people just through moral exhortation. You convince them by giving them experience as teachers in relatively non-threatening circumstances, with others who can be helpful. And then when they start to experience success with their students, with other teachers, they really get motivated. Then it kind of accelerates. Let’s take a principal that goes into a school that’s siloed: Teachers are teaching on their own. There’s very little interaction. So what would an effective principal do in relation to the teachers? In my experience, that leader would do two things. One, he or she would start to interact with teachers individually and collectively as a learner, creating a climate where teachers are encouraged to take risks, to work together, to be supportive. A climate of trust, but one focused on results. The other thing the leader would do is “use the group to change the group.” Teachers are less likely to fall back into that pedagogical legacy if a whole bunch of teachers—helped by the principal—are pushing for what’s more effective. Teacher autonomy;  The checks and balances that occur between the individual’s degree of freedom and the interaction of the group are quite strong.

They allow you to sort out what is effective. Feedback is one of the hardest things for humans to get right. People will say, “I like feedback. I don’t get enough of it. But I only want feedback that’s positive.” That’s a natural human tendency. Even under the best of circumstances, we don’t want feedback that feels, to us, judgmental. So in our work, we try to help schools reduce inappropriate, negative, judgmental interventions, those that really decrease the possibility that feedback will be heard, and instead emphasize collaborative cultures.

Some argue there is a 7th C; Culture

A collaborative culture has all kinds of feedback built into it. Teachers visiting one another’s classroom, looking at what works with students together—if you’re a teacher inside that, you’re getting lots of feedback from colleagues. In this way, feedback is organically built into the day-to-day culture of the organization. Here’s one exciting thing. When you start to implement those global competencies, the six C’s, with the new pedagogy, students gravitate towards wanting to do something that’s worthwhile. More students and teachers get turned on because they’re doing something relevant—and they feel they need to help change things. It’s obvious that the world is a lot more complex and anxiety-producing now; even little kids know something’s up. The challenge with instructional leadership is that there are not enough hours in the day,  not enough possibilities of affecting one and one therefore the principal has to be someone who leads the group.

Lead learning, what are the characteristics of the principle that has the most impact on class and student achievement? Fullan refers here to Vivian Robinson’s five impacts as described earlier. He agrees with her that the most powerful impact is if the principal participated as a learner with the staff on moving the school forward. Participates as a learner. In a school that moves from being highly individualistic to collaborative, the teachers stop thinking about “my kids” and “my classroom” and start thinking about our kids in the whole school. Principals who are in networks of schools become almost as interested in the success of other schools as their own in that network. If you are a system player you get better ideas and better allies.

Leadership from the middle

Top-down change doesn’t work, we also found out that bottom-up change doesn’t work. School autonomy is the enemy of systemness. It was based on the notion that it let a thousand flowers bloom. But it turns out that a thousand flowers didn’t bloom if they were left on their own. They came and they went. So we asked where is the glue here? And the glue is when the middle gets stronger and the ability to seize the agenda. The quality and sustainability of an organization is a function of the strength of its lateral relationships. When you invest in capacity building, not just your own role, but building the team, and building a collaborative culture, it is the most powerful strategy.

What is the most important key factor of change leadership?

  1. To innovate and implement.
  2. The ability to surround yourself with a talented team.
  3. Collaboration
  4. Ability to manage two outcomes, you have to mobilize the group to do that

The sophistication of the change process: To be right at the end of the meeting, not at the beginning of the meeting. You need impressive empathy, that is when you have empathy for people who are opposed to you.

Leading in a digital age

Pedagogy needs to be the driver of digital. The main strategy should not be acquisitions. Digital has a stimulating power, but you have to have the pedagogy in place. Regarding the integration of pedagogy and technology and change, all three are getting better and they are getting more connected. And the agenda should be to push the connection. One push factor here is that the evidence is unequivocal, with traditional schooling, students are more and more bored as they move up the grade levels. (and actually, teachers are bored too). The pull factors are pedagogical partnerships between students and teachers and families. The new pedagogy using technology is a learning partnership between and among students, teachers, and families.

We have a project called New Pedagogies for Deep Learning. There are five factors that need to be in place:

  1. The solution must be irresistibly engaging for both students and teachers
  2. It has to be elegantly efficient and easy to use
  3. Technologically ubiquitous 24/7, school should be open-ended
  4. Steeped in real-life problem solving

Communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, creativity, citizenship and character education (grit conscientiousness). Some also mention culture as the 7th c. The surprise here is the bottom up forces that is coming from the students and teachers to push the deep learning and use of technology forward.


One comment

I would love to hear from you