Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Leadership, motivation and change

As I continue to think about leadership for change, I'm considering the chapter in Michael Fullan's book Change Leader entitled Motivate the Masses.  Fullan writes that to be a successful change leader it's important to be able to motivate people - in order to have the commitment of the group behind him or her.  The thing that most motivates people is experiencing success/improvement.   Fullan argues that motivation doesn't come first, and then followed by better implementation - it is the accomplishment that comes first that then causes motivation to increase.

Fullan writes about something called "motion leadership" for change that has 9 characteristics:
  • Putting relationships first - very important in new leaders because if you want to encourage people to change you have to first build a relationship and not simply take action.  It's important to listen and to solve problems collaboratively, which may mean slowing down, getting to know everyone and engaging everyone in determining goals.
  • Focus on the right priorities and take action sooner rather than later - beware of "fat plans" that take a long time to implement and see any impact.
  • Change behaviours before beliefs - new experiences lead to new emotions and feelings so successful leaders need to create purposeful experiences that lead to changed behaviours.
  • Watch out for the "implementation dip".  Anyone who experiences change knows that you go through a honeymoon period and then a dip.  Change is hard so leaders need to work on building capacity and working through frustrations and times when gains are hard to see.  A good leader understands and helps people to get through the dip.  (It occurs to me that this is very typical of international teachers moving to a new job/country - at first it seems great but around about October people find themselves in a dip.  A good leader needs to empathize with this and support teachers as they move through the dip.)
  • Communicate during implementation - Fullan writes that this is more important than communicating before implementation.  It's important that this is open, two-way communication so that leaders can see what the problems are and perhaps redefine the goals.
  • Learn during implementation - build collaborative cultures so that people can give feedback and learn from each other.
  • Avoid hype before implementation - but strive for small, early successes because excitement comes from seeing the results of doing something worthwhile.
  • Encourage people to take risks in order to learn - successful leaders need to establish a non-judgemental culture and appreciating that people learn from mistakes.
  • Combine authority with democracy - good leaders can be assertive when they have good ideas only after they have built relationships that empower people to act upon the ideas.
In situations of change, motion leaders need first to establish the conditions where people become intrinsically motivated and collectively take ownership of the initiative so that they are committed to keeping it going.  Once staff are motivated they will become the leaders who will sustain the changes.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Leadership and Change

I've been reading a lot about leadership recently, and at the same time am in a school environment leading a subject (technology) that is constantly changing.  In recent discussions with teachers in other schools, I've been asked about how teachers can be persuaded to change - mostly this question was asked in relation to getting them more onboard with technology.  What I've often replied is that it's no use spending a lot of time winning hearts and minds, but that if you change practice, belief will follow.

Michael Fullan writes a lot about change and leadership and in his book Change Leader the first chapter is devoted to this idea - that practice drives theory.  He writes that while theory can be useful in moving forward, it is the day to day practices of a leader that provides learning and so becomes the most powerful tool for change.  One thing he recommends is to examine the successful practices of others, to try out these ideas for yourself and then to draw conclusions about what you have learned.  It is reflective practice that leads to discovery about what works.

I really like the term "deliberate practice".  Fullan explains that most of us are not born with talent but that we can develop it deliberately through practice and extensive feedback.  He writes "practice is the driver of improvement."

There are a lot of overlaps with Michael Fullan's work and that of Jim Collins.  Collins refers to Level 5 Leaders as having an unwavering resolve to do what needs to be done, Fullan calls this "resolute leadership" - focusing on a small number of key priorities and staying the course.  However this is not enough as there are numerous examples of leaders who have stuck to a particular course regardless of the human dynamics.  Fullan argues that you also need to have "impressive empathy". There needs to be ownership of change on the part of the people who work in schools, and where there are deep divisions purpose and empathy must be combined to bring about true and lasting change.

Fullan argues that you can learn to become a resolute leader, but at the same time you must develop empathy as you also need to believe that your teachers have the ability to grow and learn over time through practice.  In fact it is only empathy that allows the resoluteness of leaders to reach out and motivate people.

In all the books I'm reading, motivation is coming up as important, over and over again.  As I think more about leadership and change I feel I need to delve down more into what motivates people to want to change.  More thoughts about this coming soon.

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How many TWIRLS are your students doing?

Since doing an IB Workshop on Flipping Classrooms in August, I've had lots of people ask me about flipped learning - what do the students do at home and how do you use the class time?  As I've been reading about individual teachers' experiences with this, I came across the term TWIRLS as something that teachers want students to demonstrate on a daily basis.  This acronym stands for:
Listening and
One thing that struck me in the chapter by Crystal Kirch was that she said that before flipping her classroom there were a lot of TWIRLS going on in her classroom - but that they were being done by her and not by her students.  She described her students as "spoon-fed learners" who didn't take ownership of their learning.

Crystal writes about a tool she uses to help students engage with videos at home.  She calls it the WSQ tool.  Students first Watch and take guided notes.  They can re-watch the lesson as often as they want.  Then they need to Summarize what they have learned and to ask Questions about it on a Google Form.  Back in class, students spend the time discussing their learning - Crystal has already looked at the form and so has been able to break the class up into groups for "WSQ chats" or reteaching to individuals.  The questions the students have written are used in class to challenge other students and to guide discussions.

Brian Bennett also describes how he uses his class time in order to have engaged, active learning. He found he had to create new materials that pushed critical thinking, reasoning and questioning and just like Crystal, discovered interaction to be the key.  He writes that time discussing the material and working one-on-one with his students has made the biggest difference as "flipped learning is simply using technology to remove a component of a traditionally taught class, which allows us to focus on the more important things during the day."

More examples of how individual teachers have flipped their classrooms can be found in the recently published ISTE book Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.

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Leadership PLN - part 2

Last week I didn't make it to the Leadership PLN as I was out of school on a PYP Evaluation Visit.  Our group was looking at First Who ... Then What?  I have to admit that I was skeptical about this concept, having seen it used in a very negative way in the past as a way of getting rid of anyone who didn't "toe the line".  I was determined to look at it again afresh this time round.

The idea behind this concept is that it's important to get the right people onto the bus and the wrong people off the bus and then decide where to drive it.  Most school leaders do this the other way round - they decide where it's going to go first, and also, of course, for various reasons, in international schools it's often not very easy to simply get rid of teachers and replace them with new ones, especially in some schools that are in not so desirable locations.  I certainly do agree that if you start first with the who, and make sure that these are all dynamic and adaptable people, that you can more easily change direction to adapt to a changing world.  However I would say that the success of this depends entirely on having a Level 5 Leader.  Reflecting now, I think my previous experience with this concept was simply the result of having a Level 4 Leader making these decisions about the who, and as a result the wrong people were being kept on the bus.  Level 5 Leaders are those who are driven but at the same time humble, as opposed to Level 4 Leaders who are egocentric and like having "plastic people" around who make them feel good and simply submit to dictates.  Jim Collins writes: "If you have the wrong people, it doesn't matter whether you discover the right direction, you still won't have a great company.  Great vision without great people is irrelevant."  Great people with a Level 4 leader will also get nowhere.

One of the things I've come to see is that great leaders build other leaders, and I think this is the key difference between ASB and some other places where I've worked where the leadership didn't want strong people around them - a situation described as the "weak generals, strong lieutenants" model where generals are keep weak and the lieutenants stick around for lengthy periods.  This is totally the opposite of what happens in great schools where the leadership team is a "strong team of equal partners" some of whom move on to other great opportunities and themselves become leaders of great schools.

Another interesting concept I thought about this week is the model of "a genius with a thousand helpers", which is exactly what a Level 4 Leader is.  They don't build great teams because they don't need/want one, they simply want people to help implement their own ideas!  So this is what the difference looks like:

Level 5 Leader + Management Team -> gets the right people onto the bus and builds a great team -> then decides what is the best path to greatness
Level 4 Leader ("Genius") -> sets a vision of where to go and develops a road map -> then enlists a crew of "a thousand helpers" to make the vision happen.

I was interested (and pleased) to discover that there is no pattern linking compensation with moving from good to great.  The right people are building excellence for its own sake, they are doing the right things regardless of the compensation/incentive system.  The idea isn't to pay people more to do a good job, but to provide the environment where great people will thrive.  From personal experience this is certainly true.  I've moved from Switzerland, a country where salaries and quality of living were very high, to India where living can at times be quite difficult, yet the school environment is amazing.  Anyone who has been reading my blog for any length of time will know which place is the one where I've been able to thrive.  Jim Collins writes that good to great companies place a greater weight on character attributes than on educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge or work experience.  I think that is certainly something to aspire to.

As I was away last week I will need to catch up with what our next discussion topic will be.  In any case my next post about our Leadership PLN will be after the Diwali holiday.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Leadership PLN - part 1

Some years ago at a previous school I read the Jim Collins book Good to Great and hated it.  It was often referred to by admin as a way of putting people down (there was a lot of talk, for example, about getting people off the bus).  When I heard that our Leadership PLN was going to be discussing the book this year I wasn't very enthusiastic, yet this morning changed all that.  I was working with another teacher and we were discussing the question:  to measure schools going from good to great, what 5 variables would you consider?

This was a difficult question.   I think without a doubt we felt it was important to nurture the right people - which brought us onto a discussion of professional development and the importance of creating opportunities for growth and leadership.  We felt this was particularly true considering that Jim Collins' research showed that great leadership invariably comes from within the company rather than being recruited from outside.  We talked about how it is important to consider recruitment, retention and turnover along with PD (though in international schools with highly mobile educators this can be difficult).

We also talked about our core business and about how important a personalized or differentiated programme is to caters to different learner styles abilities and interests.  Our core business is learning, or perhaps preparing students for the future - but for which future?  For their future at ASB, for their future when they transfer to another school, for their future when they leave and go to college, or for life beyond college.  All these, it seems, could be pulling us in contradictory ways.

Another factor that we thought distinguishes schools that are going from good to great is that everyone is on board with the mission of the school - that everyone has a similar vision of what the best in the world looks like, and that we will not stop until we got there.  We talked about a culture of discipline that did not require a hierarchy, bureaucracy or excessive controls.

We talked about the fact that if you are not the best in the world at your core business then you need to change your core business.  This brought us on to a discussion about what we have to stop doing - what used to be the core business some years ago that we are still holding on to but that may now be unnecessary?  A few of us started to talk about grades and GPAs at this point.

Generally schools are very resistant to change - they settle for goodness rather than greatness, for mediocrity rather than for growth.  We talked about the fact that few other professions would be content with this.  One area we are dissatisfied with as a school and want to change is the whole process of teacher recruitment.  Schools are aware that the services that are offered by large recruitment organizations is poor and the cost of this poor service is high.  This year 35 international schools have decided that enough is enough - they have joined our global recruitment collaborative because they have decided that change needs to happen.

One of the final things we talked about was Level 5 leadership.  Collins' researchers noted that every company that moved from good to great had Level 5 leadership during the pivotal transition years. These leaders are ambitious for the company but display a remarkable sense of personal humility, and they work to set up their successors to be even more successful than they are.  Reflecting on this, and on the school leaders in the various schools where I have worked, it is really clear to see a difference between those Level 4 leaders who are simply egocentric and whose personalities/characters lead to mediocrity, and the Level 5 leaders who are not doing the job for personal gain.  And then I started to reflect on how these mediocre Level 4 leaders select others for leadership positions in their schools - and it is clear that they totally overlook those with the potential to evolve into Level 5 leaders.  In some cases it is even more toxic than that - it's the "tall poppy syndrome" of not wanting to be eclipsed by anyone else.

Here's our final question - why is it difficult for schools to have/find/nurture Level 5 leaders where the success of the school is more important than the success of the leader?  If anyone has any ideas on this, please leave me a comment below.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Efficacy and goal setting

Earlier this week I was in a coaching session with a parent volunteer and we were talking about efficacy and how sometimes you can be in a situation that appears to be overwhelming because you feel that events or people outside of yourself are in control and that you can have very little power to make changes.  I started to think about a situation in the past when this had been true for me, and realized that at the time the problem was that I was completely focused on this weakness, and that I was trying to do something about combatting this weakness, when in fact I should probably have focused instead on my strengths and building those up.

Then I started to think about this in relation to a blog post I wrote last month about the difference between competency and capability - and how as a coach I want to help teachers to develop their capability, because capable people are those who can "operate in unknown contexts and with new problems".  This is particularly important when coaching for tech integration because you are working in a situation of rapid change, with new tools appearing all the time.

Phelps and Graham in their book Whole School Professional Development for Capability and Confidence write extensively about capability and point out that if a teacher is simply trying to develop his/her competency (usually around a tool or skill) then they will need a very different approach from a teacher who is trying to develop capability.  Teachers who want to become competent are wanting an expert to novice flow with PD that is highly structured and planned. Interestingly, these teachers are more likely to feel overwhelmed by the range of skills they need to learn.

On the other hand a teacher who is aiming for capability is more likely to want just-in-time or an "un-conference" type of professional learning experience.  These teachers see technology knowledge as something that is more flexible and that they can discover the answers themselves and often solve their own problems.

This week I have started goal setting with our teaching assistants.  Over and over again I have heard that 2 years ago these TAs were lacking in confidence and could only do the very basics with technology (such as print out something that was sent to them by the teachers).  Now they are brimming with confidence and enthusiasm, and are motivated to take charge of their own learning.
Here are some more differences:
Competency-based learning can lead to quick progress - but has limited outcomes.
Capability-based learning takes longer but has greater outcomes.

Competency-based learning requires training by another person.
Capability-based learning relies on a two-way interaction between people - a dialogue or conversation - which is why coaching is so important.

In order to build capacity, then, efficacy needs also to be high.  You have to believe that you have the knowledge and skills to do or learn something.  If teachers lack confidence and think they cannot use technology, that it is too complicated, then they will not be motivated to try something new.  It's important, therefore, for coaches to build efficacy and this can often be done by setting small, achievable goals and for the coach to recognize and celebrate their successes as they move towards building technological capability.

During my goal setting meetings with teachers and TAs, I have started out by pointing out what I noticed about their learning last year and asking them to reflect on their growth and previous achievements and the things that they do well with technology now.  The thing that I'm hearing most is the huge growth in confidence in using technology.  From that it is an easy step to talk about the things they want to get better at or learn more about.  We can talk about the strategies that they have used before that were effective and some of their choices this year for professional learning.  We always get back to talking about how this will enhance student learning.

Efficacy therefore relies on teachers and TAs taking responsibility for their own learning.  It means they have choices about what they want to learn, when they want to learn it and how they want to learn it.  It means that they are going to become problem solvers and that, most important of all, knowing that we are supporting them, they are going to be motivated to take action.

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Deep -v- Shallow Learning

In the book Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement there is a chapter by Carolyn Durley that contains a very interesting table about deep and shallow learning.  I'm going to reproduce the items that I think are most important in the PYP schools where I have worked, where students use inquiry to go deep into the concepts and where there is an emphasis on transdisciplinary skills and approaches to learning:

Shallow:  students are highly dependent on the teacher for specific instructions.
Deep:  Students are interdependent and work peer-to-peer as well as with the teacher.

Shallow:  Students dislike trying new activities, as lack of success may negatively impact their grades.
Deep:  Students see value in taking risks in their learning, are able to learn from their mistakes, and reflect and take appropriate action.

Shallow:  Students focus on strategies to acquire grades.
Deep:  Students focus on strategies and habits to improve their learing.

Shallow:  Students are passive and compliant.
Deep:  Students are active and engaged.

Shallow:  Students find it difficult to explain or find connections between topics or units.
Deep:  Students can explain connections between units and explain how topics relate to the big picture of the course.

Shallow:  Students view evidence for learning as a grade or mark.
Deep:  Students view learning as an ongoing process.

Shallow:  Students see topics as lists of facts to be memorized and quickly forgotten.
Deep:  Students can relate topics to the bigger picture of the topic and explain why and how it relates.

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