Friday, February 12, 2016

Leading from the middle - is this the direction for education?

Toady I attended a global webinar with Michael Fullan (Canada),  Steve Munby (UK), John Hattie (Australia, and Viviane Robinson (New Zealand). The focused discussion was based on the paper written by Michael and Steve, 'Inside-out and down-side up: How leading from the middle has the power to transform education systems' (You can download a copy here! Thanks to Meg)
Or read more on Steve's Education Development Trust website and download the paper from there.

The essential discussion was about leadership for change and focused on middle level development of connected, networked and collaborative leaders. The reasoning? That bottom up and top down is not working in K-12 schools, therefore we need to be supporting the leader in the middle to affect this.

Some panel comments:

Michael Fullan:
  • Good collaboration reduces bad variation - A school would join a network with a goal of reducing your own variation
  • Leaders who do best participate as learners with others - when they do that they are learning a lot 
  • Need to develop a shared sense and depth of purpose about the work - by interacting on a regular basis 
  • Talking about FLAT organisation structures - organised collectively en mass - also connected autonomy 
  • Freedom in the middle to take initiative and work on agendas to improve the learning
  • Democratisation of leadership
Steve Munby:
  • Robust peer review - not about proving but about improving - challenges complacency - collective voluntary accountability 
  • To affect the three A's - Autonomy, Austerity, Accountability - the solution is 'collective autonomy' - neither bottom up or top down, voluntary but inevitable
 John Hattie
  • Visible learning - new #1 influence - critical factor is teachers’ collective efficacy 
  • System-wide school collaboration 
  • Impact - what do we mean by this - needs some external engagement 
  • Network is successful when it is not geographical - school network through UNiMelb - 26 schools - finally shared their data 
  • Notion of collective autonomy - easy to setup, tough to maintain, but failed. Each school wanted to claim the success and not share it, and each one wanted to have their own data. 
  • The research base shows TEACHER collective efficacy, not LEADERSHIP collective efficacy

As moderator Tony McKay suggested four areas of action: (in my shorthand)

  1. Need to go deeper and further for effective leadership
  2. Can we think more deeply about the network systems, structures and processes?
  3. Accountability is a network-based system deserves a lot more treatment
  4. Need to be more explicit about the theory of action
Make sure you follow #globaldialogue to track ongoing conversations

My brief response to the conversations and speakers:
  • Leadership can come from any level and needs to be encouraged from all levels - the role of the Teacherpreneur, Outlier and Learning concierge is important to consider here
  • Systemic change will not take place until teachers / leaders have more autonomy to do what they believe is best for learning. The discussion about collective autonomy is fascinating
  • Education leadership today is synonymous with the ability to network, form and manage communities, understand collaboration and enhanced learning outcomes for teachers and students
  • There is no point talking about leadership without assuming (do we all assume this now?) or at least referring to the need to be an online leader - digital fluency, networked learning, connectivist approach, online local and global collaboration - building online communities that function for better learning outcomes - these are all skills a 'leader' in education must have. This goes beyond knowing how to communicate online - it is deeper than developing a PLN and joining PLCs!
BTW - read this excellent post by Tessa Gray on Reimagining Professional Learning 2016
 - and this one by Derek Wenmoth, A new era of professional development.


Sonya Van Schaijik said...

Hi Julie
Thanks for sharing your thinking about #globaldialogue.
I always learn a lot from you. I was really excited to see our principal tweeting too from the webinar and because she had made so many connection on twitter. She identified being digitally fluent and the importance of being seeing as an online leader through participation in the discussion. I look forward to reading your new book.

Julie Lindsay said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog Sonya. I was excited to see the Newmarket team in the webinar and actively tweeting as well. In fact I was pleasantly surprised to see many principals and teachers from New Zealand participating. Looking forward to my trip in October to uLearn!