An Example of Cycling Back…and learning more…

Yesterday elementary leaders cycled back to the theory surrounding our commitment to Assessment For/As Learning and to creating this culture of LEARNING by modelling the following strategies (the entire cycle) in our leadership practices



with our educators…those within our sphere of influence, those who we are influencing.  We revisited our understanding  that this work is truly grounded in the analysis of the evidence of our impact – as it is the analysis that truly drives our work forward.  We are “cycling back” to hone our practices – as this is how we, as leaders and as teachers, become more precise and personalized in our leadership and in our instruction, and thus, how we increasingly help our learners to meet “expectation” or “provincial standard”.

We need to delve even deeper into this work, moving from theory to practice- truly engaging in PRACTICING this work. This will ensure that  we have experiences that we can draw upon, allow us to engage in the analysis of the evidence that we collect during these experiences, and thus, help us to confidently name our learning and the learning of others and to reflect on what instructional strategies are working (or leadership moves in the case of school leaders). This process also ensures that we, as teachers or leaders, can identify the gaps that exist for our learners between the current knowledge/practice and the goal (success criteria), and then decide on our next move – which we find when we refer to the research.   This is our LEADERSHIP FOR LEARNING work.

One of our primary LEADERSHIP for LEARNING goals this year is to learn more about instructional leadership so that we assume this stance automatically as leaders. This involves us in engaging in reflective practice to continuously find answers to the questions “What is the learning and the impact of the learning? What is the thinking (not the doing) that we see apparent?”   Change is truly complex work, that has many components/conditions that we need to foster to maximize success.

VISION –  That we, as leaders, naturally assume an instructional leadership stance, which means that we are using formative assessment/assessment for learning to increasingly create the conditions for our learners to feel supported in their improvement work…that we respond to the learning needs that our educators make visible to us through observations, conversations and products.

SKILLS – “We learn to do the work by doing the work”. We need to develop our repertoire of formative assessment strategies so that we are planning opportunities for our learners to make their thinking visible to us. We need to learn to embed the assessment for learning cycle into our work, thus modelling this for our educators. We need to develop the trusting relationships that ensure that our learners see us as partners in learning, who are all working towards a common vision.  We need to learn to carefully analyze evidence so that we can respond. And we need to learn how to make this our daily work…not an add-on.  Work smarter, not harder.

INCENTIVES – When we see the impact of our work not only only the learning climate of our school, but on the learning of the students, we gain efficacy and are empowered to continue this work.

RESOURCES – What are the available resources that are sitting on my shelf yet to be accessed? Where do I start?  Perhaps we have too many resources…both print and people?  Resources will continue to be provided through teleconferencing and meeting together to unpack our thinking.

ACTION PLAN – To achieve this vision, we need to continue to invest deeply in our Problems of Practice, engaging with our critical friends, committing to our small moves, reading and researching, embedding this work (practicing) into our roles, and engaging in reflection to determine what we are learning. The action plan is truly one that each leader is in control of.  A key piece in this work is the collection and analysis of data…and we have more work to engage in as we learn more about how to do this authentically!

From this overall goal, below is the Leadership for  Learning Goal for the next months(it is huge and requires refinement based upon feedback from our leaders):


As we “cycle back” and revisit where we have been, I have returned to some of my previous blog posts.


One year ago, the post above was written…as I reread it (am encouraging you to do the same) I thought about the evidence that I have gathered in a formative manner about where we are as a district, and how, upon analysis and feedback, it is telling me that we need to move closer to the PRACTICES required to truly understand and KNOW OUR IMPACT. What are those leadership practices that support the theory above? How do we create a sense of urgency around explicitly using an A4L stance and practices in our work? What precisely is the LEARNING GOAL that will respond to the needs of all of the school leaders and leads at this time…Why this learning, at this time, in this way, with this group of learners?  These are the questions that I have given a great deal of thought to, and that have resulted from the analysis of evidence.

As I reflect, I believe that my learning is the result of not only reading everything that I can find about Assessment for Learning/Formative Assessment (they are very similar), but also because I REFLECT on the thinking that I engage in as I read. I try to embed this naturally into my practice (so that it doesn’t feel like an add-on but like something that is integrated into my daily work) through my writing of blogs, the creation of presentations that I deliver to others, the conversations that I engage in (as I am truly interested in gathering evidence of thinking so that I can respond to that thinking), and looking at examples of the thinking of others through School Learning Plans and Problems of Practice. These are the observations, conversations and products (some of them) that drive my work…my stance is one of FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT…defined not as a “thing” but as a way of being whereby I am collecting evidence all the time regarding where my learners are in meeting the targets.  I believe that, as a School Effectiveness Lead, I need to engage in this work so that I can figure out how to increasingly respond to the learning of those with whom I work…I still have a long way to go but I am know that others are on this journey with me and we are figuring this out together.

Until next time…where are you on this journey?  What have you read and reflected upon recently that is supporting you in moving forward in this journey?  What are you learning from your leadership moves? 

Post thinking to #NMCblog!



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