Two weeks ago I was asked a simple question, “How do the Conditions for Learning connect to the Assessment for Learning Culture?”. I realized that if this individual wasn’t sure about the connection, then many others potentially might not be sure. I then wondered if there was a common understanding of where we were going with our district learning this year. Had we, in our eagerness to ensure that our Board Learning Plan represented the needs that had been reported by the School Learning Plan evaluations in June, missed making the connections explicit? So I asked the Leadership Team to make a visual representation of our learning for this year. The responses to the question provided me with excellent diagnostic/baseline information that I could then respond to. There were a number of representations, however most of them require explanation and some were too large for one photo! Here is one that captures our thinking and the notion of balance in our worlds.
So, what does this graphic tell me about our thinking (keeping in mind that the “thinkers” behind this graphic had a mere minute to make their thinking visible orally)? I will try to delve into this over the next couple of weeks!
1. The weights on either side of the image represent the need to find a place of balance between instructional leadership and management. I wonder how we can find the integration of these two necessary pieces? I recall a video from the Ontario Principal’s Council that spoke of the need to make instructional decisions through a managerial lens, and managerial decisions through an instructional lens – hence, the integrated approach.
As a district, we have been working on unpacking the effective leadership practices and actions behind Instructional Leadership (and I would actually push this a bit to call it “Shared Instructional Leadership”); to allow us to consider what we need to do in the schools to see ourselves as instructional leaders – and to determine if those practices are impacting learning. We have started to co-construct those effective practices using our background knowledge as leaders and a resource entitled, Student Centered Leadership (2011) by Vivian Robinson. Robinson (2011) asks us to consider the following question, “Do the decisions and actions of the school’s leadership improve teaching in ways that are reflected in better student learning, or is their focus so far removed from the classroom that leadership adds little value to student learning?”(pg. 4). She suggests that we see the overlap between leading and managing.
As a district, as we build the “success criteria” for instructional leadership, we are making this overlap explicit. For example, when we think about the instructional practice of strategically resourcing materials, we see our decision to purchase student texts according the goals articulated in the School Learning Plan as one that overlaps our leadership and managerial roles. Or our essential role as a member of the Health and Safety Team (which is often seen as purely operational) as one that ensures a safe and orderly environment for educators to engage in uninterrupted teaching and learning. Our hypothesis is that perhaps instructional leadership, as a concept, was too vast and that by breaking it down into measurable, actionable, success criteria (that we can both self-assess and peer assess and provide feedback), we might begin to increasingly see ourselves as instructional leaders.
Stay tuned…next week thoughts about well-being and academic achievement.