One of the biggest challenges school leaders face is how to redesign the learning system to have the greatest effect on our students? With researchers such as John Hattie (2012) focusing his lens on the impact of the teacher on the student’s learning there is the push to have teachers identify ways that they can redesign the learning environment, redesign pedagogy and redesign assessment.
How do we re-imagine the concept of school to make the teaching have the greatest effect on student learning in real and authentic ways and what will this look like?
As we drill down into this question the focus is drawn further away from the upfront teaching and redirected firmly to student centred learning. Having a shared understanding of what learning looks like is essential as practitioners we can identify ways of embedding this into practice. Learning is the essence of what happens in the classroom every day, but when we discover what good learners are and the keys to switch all learners on we unlock their adaptability and willingness to engage with education.
Rennie (2015) adds more insight by drawing our attention to the evidence of leadership. She highlights there are significant links between this and learning outcomes, teacher efficacy and school improvement. As leaders push forward with vision and adopt a reflective mindset they draw the voice and support of those they lead (Fullan, 2001). In a school context this may sound complex; however, it means the core business of learning is the focal point and everything else while important becomes more peripheral.
As learning takes priority (Rennie, 2015), the practices used to engage and build the knowledge and understanding of students develop (Hattie, 2017). Our willingness as educators and leaders to explore and experiment, to iterate and learn through failure as part of the culture of growth increases so to the measurable impact on the students. Learner development can be observed in a myriad of areas, socially, emotionally and academically, moving towards the one year's worth of progress for one year's input as Hattie (2015) puts forth. We see in students a heightened disposition to go through the pit of learning (McDowell, 2017) and come out on the other side as they see their journey is built with the support of others in an environment of trust.
As by-products of this drive towards greater outcomes for the student, we may see recreations of learning spaces, innovative ways of engaging students and the greater inclusion of the “real world”.
Through this realignment onto the core business of learning, we will see collective leadership (Petrie, 2004) increase and create quality learning opportunities for all (students and staff) within the community of learners (Gurr, 2015). These communities will look different at different schools, although shared characteristics will be collaboration, communication and creativity outplaying through actions such as co-teaching, monitoring, mentoring, observations and feedforward coaching (Petrie, 2004). This type of collaboration provides rich and genuine professional development for teachers within an authentic and known context. To do this in such a way that all learners learning is maximised, it will become essential for us to move beyond the four walls.
Tim Bowden identified "Teaching is improved when it's not a solo practice, teachers working in the presence of one another can give each other feedback and support" (2017). Inviting the opportunity for each other to explore how might our capacity and practice could be enhanced to amplify the learning.
School leaders are role models, therefore, as they have the potential to impact the lives of students in positive ways. Their willingness to grow and expand capacity is a must. Any time they can expose themselves to new educational theories and practices, their teacher efficacy increases (Rennie, 2015). To have a culture grow there is the need to have a vision of where schools can position themselves and grow too, the structures and the mechanisms to support this. Technical decisions need to be made to ensure this works. Where I envisage the future of education is heavily driven by the framework of teacher leadership (Harris & Muijs, 2002) under the distribute leadership (Leithwood & Jantzi, 1998) of our principals as it is a pertinent vehicle to empower this goal of placing learning at the core of what we do by creating more effective teachers, revitalising school systems and impacting student achievement.
Bowden. T (2017). Quoted by Singhal, S. & Ting, I (2017) Composite classes on the rise as some schools go even further. Sydney Morning Herald 21 May. http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/composite-classes-on-the-rise-as-some-schools-go-even-further-20170517-gw6jdp.html
Harris, A., & Muijs, D. (2002a). Teacher leadership: Principles and practice. National College for School Leadership.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge.
Hattie, J. (2015). What doesn't work in education: the politics of distraction. Pearson.
Leithwood, K., & Jantzi, D. (1998). Distributed Leadership and Student Engagement in School.
McDowell, M. (2017). Rigorous PBL by Design: Three Shifts for Developing Confident and Competent Learners. Corwin Press.
Mathewson, T. (2017). These 7 trends are shaping personalized learning. Education Dive http://www.educationdive.com/news/these-7-trends-are-shaping-personalized-learning/434575/Rennie, L. (2015). What are future trends in School Leadership? Perspectives No 3. ACEL