Aspiring Principals utilising the Leadership BES to promote better student outcomes
Graeme Macann 2010
‘In schools we spend a great deal of time placing oxygen masks on other people’s faces while we ourselves are suffocating. Principals, preoccupied with expected outcomes, desperately want teachers to breath in new ideas, yet do not themselves engage in visible, serious learning’ (Barth p. 42).
‘Learning is the lifelong expression of our sense of wonder and of worth’ (Barth, p. 72).
• • • • • Challenges in your current roles in relation to student learning?
What is a BES?
An overview of the Leadership BES: the key dimensions (leadership practices) which will have most impact on student outcomes What has the BES to say about the Knowledge, Skills and Dispositions involved in effective educational leadership?
Beginning to make some specific connections between key ideas in the BES and work you are doing at school
John Hattie in a recent review of Tomorrow’s Schools notes: ‘The principal is expected to be everything to everyone … - human resource manager, building and infrastructure overseer, chief executive officer, instructional leader, cultural guru, community leader…(and his list goes on). In Cognition’s downloadable Tomorrow’s Schools 20 years on…(2009, p. 127) - an excellent collection of essays evaluating those reforms.
Cathie Wylie in the same publication notes that the amount of ‘self-management’ we have is novel and leads to our school leaders being busier than those in less devolved systems.
School leaders have challenging jobs!
If we want to maximise our impacts on student outcomes, we will have to prioritise our time and efforts to focus on the goals that matter most. Viviane Robinson notes that ‘in education everything is important… The thing for school leaders is to say - given where our students are at and where our school is at, what are our priorities?’ (The New Zealand Education Gazette, 23 Nov. 2009, pp. 9-10)
Building Leadership Capacity - insights from some other writers
• ‘…surrounding yourself with people who agree with you is fatal’ (Fullan, 2003, p. 101).
• Premature clarity is a dangerous thing: ‘…people refer to gurus because they don’t know how to spell charlatan’ (attributed to Peter Drucker in Fullan, 2003, p. 29).
• ‘These days, doing nothing as a leader is a great risk, so you might as well take risks worth taking’ (Fullan, 2003a, p. 63).
‘To lead is to live dangerously…
Because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear - their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking - with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility…people resist in all kinds of creative and unexpected ways that can get you taken out of the game: pushed aside, undermined, or eliminated’ (Heifetz and Linsky, 2002, p. 2).
Your current senior leadership role
Reflection: • What’s in your current job description that provides scope for you to be a pedagogical leader?
• How have you demonstrated pedagogical leadership so far this year?
• If you are struggling to answer the first two questions satisfactorily, what could change?
What is a BES?
The BES ‘is a collaborative knowledge building strategy designed to strengthen the evidence base that informs education policy and practice in New Zealand.’ (BES Home Page: www.educationcounts.govt.nz
) Collaboration has included extensive consultation with practitioners through their representatives on reference groups for each BES. National principal groups and the teachers’ unions have been active partners in the development of the BESs.
BESs published so far are:
• Quality Teaching for Diverse Students in Schooling (2003) • Quality Teaching: Early Foundations (2003) • Community and Family Influences on Children’s Achievement (2003) • Professional Development in Early Childhood Settings (2003) • Effective Pedagogy in Mathematics/Pangarau (2007) • Teacher Professional Learning and Development (2007) • Social Sciences Tikanga a Iwi (2008) • School Leadership and Student Outcomes (2009)
The Leadership BES
‘…the big message of this BES is that leadership matters’ (p. 48).
and ‘…the closer leaders get to the core business of teaching and learning, the more likely it is that they will have a positive impact on their students’ (p. 201).
‘The central purpose of this BES is to ‘identify and explain characteristics of leadership in schooling that are linked to improving a range of outcomes for diverse learners…’ (p. 48)
Which student outcomes especially?
The BES guidelines make it clear that writers are to have a broad view of what counts as student outcomes. These desired outcomes include the values, key competencies and achievement objectives as well as Maori succeeding as Maori (p. 72).
‘The BESs are about best evidence not best practice. … There is no rule about what is best practice in any given situation. Knowledge of best evidence, however, is an excellent starting point for figuring out what might be good practice in a particular context’ (pp. 49-50).
‘This BES should be understood as a resource - a resource that distils an enormous amount of complex information about how school leadership makes a difference to students. It is not a guidebook about how to run a school’ (p. 50).
‘This BES has highlighted an almost complete lack of connection between theories and research on leadership and educational outcomes for students.’ For example, out of the 127 New Zealand theses relevant to educational leadership ‘only 12 included anything about student outcomes…’ (p. 209)
Congenial staff relationships won’t necessarily do the business
‘…the quality of leader-staff relationships is not predictive of the quality of student outcomes. This is because there is more to educational leadership than building collegial teams, establishing a loyal and cohesive staff, and developing a shared and inspirational vision. Educational leadership is about
focusing such relationships on pedagogical work’
(p. 201). (emphasis added) I’ll ‘eat my hat’ story
The range and depth of knowledge, skills and dispositions needed for effective school leadership ‘is far greater than could be acquired by any one head of faculty or department, assistant or deputy principal, or principal’ (p. 173).
That is, there’s an imperative to build leadership capacity right through our schools.
But note Howard Youngs’ research…
The Methodology (briefly)
• ‘Forward mapping’: It’s called ‘forward mapping’ because it starts with a measure of leadership and then traces its links to student outcomes.
• ‘Backward mapping’: The studies at the centre of this process focused on positive student outcomes and the writers of the BES then inferred from the ‘descriptive evidence’ in the studies what roles were played by leaders.
(pp 36-37) • See figure 1 from p. 37 reproduced on the next slide which summaries these concepts.
The Leadership Dimensions
By ‘dimension’ the writers of the BES mean “ a broad set of leadership practices. For example, the dimension ‘planning, coordinating, and evaluating teaching and the curriculum’ includes all leadership activities connected with planning a curriculum, coordinating it within and between year levels, and monitoring the results - as well as evaluation of teaching” (p. 94).
Each of these five dimensions is important, but one is at least twice as powerful as the others: “Promoting and participating in teacher learning and development” So what does that mean?
Their five dimensions from forward mapping and their effect sizes
The ‘effect sizes’
The writers of the BES have adopted Hattie’s practice and have taken an effect size of .2 to be small, .4 to be medium and .6 to be large They note Hattie’s argument that .4 should be a guideline to aim for ‘if we want to see students change’ (p. 95).
More on the dimensions from direct evidence (forward mapping)
Establishing goals and expectation Effective goal setting requires leaders to establish the importance of goals, to ensure that they are clear and to develop staff commitment to them.
Resourcing strategically “Leadership is … exercised through obtaining and allocating material, intellectual, and human resources” (p. 41). These resources must be aligned to pedagogical purposes!
Planning, coordinating, and evaluating teaching and the curriculum Successful leaders are personally involved in these things, including active oversight of teaching programmes.
Promoting and participating in teacher learning and development This dimension produced the largest effect size. “Leaders can participate in teacher professional learning as leaders, as learners, or as both” (p. 42)
Ensuring an orderly and supportive environment This includes respect for difference, a clear discipline code and minimal interruption to teaching time.
The Fourth Dimension
Participating means more than supporting or sponsoring staff in their learning. Educational leaders have to participate in the learning themselves.
1. How does that connect to your personal experience as a school leader? 2. What are some effective examples from your own practice/your own school?
3. What challenges for senior leaders in schools does this finding pose?
A further three dimensions from indirect evidence - ‘backward mapping’
Creating educationally powerful connections “This dimension is about creating connections - between individuals, organisations, and cultures - that have an explicit focus on student learning” (p.43).
7. Engaging in constructive problem talk Leaders who engage in this way of talking “describe problems in ways that invite ownership and commitment and can respectfully examine how they and others might be contributing to the problem” (pp. 43-44).
8. Selecting, developing and using smart tools These could include software tracking achievement and attendance data and redesigning report forms to provide better information to parents/whanau.
What’s a smart tool you have had a hand in creating/implementing in your school? Explain its beneficial effect on student outcomes.
Where is the need for more smart tools greatest in your school/across the system?
Knowledge, Skills and Dispositions
The BES writers developed the following Leadership Knowledge, Skills and Dispositions based on backward mapping mostly.
1. Ensure administrative decisions are informed by knowledge about effective pedagogy.
2. Analyse and solve complex problems 3. Build relational trust 4. Engage in open-to-learning conversations They note that lists of these things aren’t of much use (and can be off-putting given the expectations they can set up) unless we know why and how they are important (p. 171).
Ensure administrative decisions are informed by knowledge about effective pedagogy
• We need a working knowledge of how students learn and of the research evidence on quality teaching. • See appendix 8.2 (pages 269-272) for their summary drawn from the Quality Teaching BES. • If you haven’t done so, consider distributing copies of Hattie’s Visible Learning for the senior leaders and others in your school.
What curriculum knowledge should senior managers cultivate/maintain??
See the note on page 178: ‘…principals who have in-depth knowledge of one curriculum area are in a much better position (than those without such knowledge) to recruit, support and evaluate pedagogical leadership in their non specialist areas. Their specialist knowledge…will indicate the kinds of expertise to look for and the kinds of evidence that will help them recognise it.’ How are you faring in that area? What would help?
Analyse and solve complex problems (see pp. 179-182)
Problem solving is central to all leadership dimensions (p. 179) • Constraints need to be understood when problem solving. So we need to ask: What are the constraints in coming up with the best possible solution (e.g. time, money, school values…)?
• To do it effectively, leaders need ‘to understand the interests of different stakeholders without being captured by any of them, to see the big picture, and to put students’ interests first’ (p. 180).
Inadequate models of problem solving?
What might some of these look like and how might they create issues for schools?
An example for me would be senior leaders focusing on ‘war stories’ rather than addressing issues in a systemic manner. Or coming up with solutions that won’t work e.g. addressing the issue re fights amongst students… Your examples?
Effective problem solving?
What might be essential elements of effective problem solving?
From Page 181
Expert Principals …. Typical Principals
Problem solving in summary
• Experts bring a rich, task-specific knowledge to problems • They understand the constraints and the principles behind them • They avoid giving too much weight to vivid or dramatic examples • They interpret problems in terms of important goals and values (p. 182)
(See pages 182-190) ‘Trust is critical in contexts where the success of one person’s efforts is dependent on the contribution of others’ And ‘Trust is needed for all school relationships…’ (183).
‘It should not be mistaken for feelings of warmth or affection’ (p. 183).
Create a relational trust caption!
What qualities or behaviour engender trust?
• Respect for others (of the four, this is the most basic, p. 183) • Personal regard for others • Competence on role • Personal integrity (based on Bryk and Schneider Trust in Schools - Chicago) Consider a SMT colleague. Without divulging their identity describe specifically what they did during one challenging incident that demonstrated their respect of a student, parent or colleague and thus promoted ‘relational trust’.
How Relational Trust Works in Schools
‘Competence breeds confidence’ (Fullan, 1993, p. 113)
Describe a challenging situation you are familiar with where a leader’s personal integrity proved crucial in developing relational trust.
How Leaders develop relational trust
• Modeling is important, but is not sufficient.
• Leaders have to follow through regarding their expectations of others by confronting incompetence, rudeness etc.
• Integrity is crucial when there is conflict between the interests of students and staff. Read the boxed story on page 189. Your reactions? What are some parallels in a setting you have have worked in?
From page 190
Engage in open-to-learning conversations (pp. 190-199)
Sometimes these are called ‘difficult conversations’ (e.g. Bruce Patton) or ‘fierce conversations’ (Susan Scott).
What types of professional conversations might be included here, and what makes them so difficult??
Leaders need to be able to:
• Disclose their views and give reasons for them • Listen to others’ views and be open to reciprocal influence • Give and receive tough messages • Detect and challenge their own and others’ problematic assumptions. (p. 190)
According to Cardno (cited p. 191)
Leaders often ponder dilemmas at length.
They make seek advice, they may provide support, but they often delay action or avoid it Altogether.
A position to avoid…
Assuming we know the ‘truth’ about the matter we want to investigate and putting the other person in an unattractive role: ‘You’re a jerk. Let’s see if we can figure out why and what to do about it’ (Patton, p. 29).
Two ineffective strategies
What is the story?
‘There are always three sides to every story…’ So, avoid making too many assumptions. For example, you can’t know what another person’s intentions were, and until you ask them you can’t know what another person thinks about a situation that has troubled you.
An effective strategy for communicating concerns
(see table 21, p. 194)
• Disclose concerns • Disclose grounds for concerns • Leader indicates that concern needs to be checked rather than assumed to be valid • Don’t surround the conversation with ‘pillows’ or compliments…get to the point quickly.
We need to develop emotional maturity for this work…
‘Emotionally mature leaders are willing and able to enter anxiety-arousing situations in the interest of the learning to be had, instead of escaping from them as quickly as possible.’ The writers of the BES note that there are ‘no easy answers’ when asking how leaders develop emotional maturity. They quote Hackman and Wageman: ‘Emotional learning cannot take place in the abstract or by analysing a case of someone else’s failure. Instead it involves working on real problems in safe environments with the explicit support of others’ (p. 199).
Questions for reflection
In pairs briefly share a recent critical and tense incident at work where you had to make difficult ethical choices: • Briefly, what were the facts of the matter?
• Who were involved and what were their possible intentions/motivations?
• What tensions were experienced, and by whom?
• What choices did you and others make, and with what consequences?
• Reflecting on that incident now, what lessons have you learned about relational trust from it?
Be prepared to share some insights from this exercise with the group.
(based on Duignan, p. 62)
• The BES doesn’t dictate ‘best practice’.
• The BES is a resource, not a guidebook.
• It is research based.
• Amidst the lists of qualities that leaders are urged to aspire to the BES does offer us a very useful descriptions of what leadership practices will serve our schools best.
Barth, R. (1990) Improving Schools From Within. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Duignan, P. (2006) Educational Leadership: Key Challenges and Ethical Tensions. Victoria: Cambridge University Press.
Fullan, M. (1993) Change Forces. London: Falmer Press.
Fullan, M. (1999) Change Forces: The Sequel. London: Falmer Press.
Fullan, M. (2003) Change Forces with a Vengeance. London:RoutledgeFalmer Fullan, M. (2003a) The Moral Imperative of School Leadership. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.
Heifetz, R & Linsky, M. (2002) Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the dangers of leading. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Patton, B. Difficult Conversations with Less Anxiety and Better Results. Dispute Resolution Magazine, Summer 1999, pp. 25-29
Personal Reflections • What are three key messages you have taken from today’s presentation on the BES?
• What are three things you will do to modify your practice in response to your developing understanding of the BES?