Saturday, November 13, 2010

School Leadership that Works - part 3

This is going to be the final post about the ASCD book School Leadership that Works.  In the previous 2 posts I wrote about the behavious of school leaders that encourage improvements in the day to day workings of a school and the behavious that encourage innovation.  The research studied by Marzano and his colleagues, which cover a period of 35 years, identified 21 responsibilities or behaviours of school principals that impact student achievement.  Those that lead to first order and second order change are just half of those responsibilities, therefore the rest are what I would consider general traits of good leaders, and that would include teacher leaders as well as school principals.

  • Affirmation - involves systematically and fairly recognising and celebrating the accomplishments of students and teachers, as well as recognising the failures of the school.  Good leaders acknowledge and learn from failures.  According to the research, the biggest obstacle to affirmation is ensuring fairness, especially perceived fairness.  There must be a commitment to building strong relationships and trust.
  • Contingent rewards - recognising and rewarding individual accomplishments, in particular using hard work and results as the basis for rewards and recognition.  The studies refer to using performance versus seniority as a primary criterion for rewards.  Yet again this runs into problems with perceived fairness, which can make it extremely difficult to evaluate hard work and performance.
  • Communication - this refers to strong lines of communication school leaders have with teachers, between teachers and between teachers and students.  From the point of view of a principal, this implies being accessible to teachers, maintaining open and effective lines of communication with teachers and developing effective means for teachers to communicate with one another.  In excellent schools everyone should feel like they are being heard - and the knock-on effect of this is improved teacher morale, improved retention of staff and improved student achievement.
  • Discipline - this is defined as protecting instructional time from interruptions and protecting teachers and students from internal and external distractions.  
  • Input - This involves providing opportunities for teachers to be involved in developing school policies, providing for staff input on all important decisions and using leadership teams in decision making.  The challenge of allowing input is that the principal may or may not like the input.  My reflection on this:  probably the most motivating committees I have ever sat on that have made positive differences to the school - ASITAC when I worked at ISA (All School Information Technology Advisory Council), the IT Action Committee at my last school and the various works councils I have been a part of all involved positive changes in schools that were already excellent. This was because we felt we were a part of the decisions and therefore we were behind the implementation of these decisions and promoting them to the rest of the teachers.
  • Outreach - leadership in a school is not confined to the building.  Outreach involves being an advocate of the school with parents, with the school board and with the community at large.  My reflection on this is that outreach is vital.  The most dynamic leaders I have ever worked with were totally committed to this.
  • Relationships - this one is often a challenge and some leaders have better people skills, empathy and emotional intelligence than others.  What the research identifies as important is being informed about significant personal issues within the lives of staff members, being aware of personal needs of teachers, acknowledging significant events in the lives of staff members and maintaining personal relationships with teachers.  My reflection:  I have worked in schools where this sort of responsibility was delegated to a social committee.  However I have also worked in places where significant events were celebrated by the staff as a whole.  In particular some staff in my last school valued the "milestones" being marked (5 years service, 10 years service and so on).  
  • Resources - it goes without saying that in order for teachers to be effective they need to have resources.  They don't appreciate having to go shopping for these in their own free time.  Ensuring that teachers have the necessary materials and equipment and that they have the necessary staff development opportunities to directly enhance their teaching is vital.
  • Situational awareness - this refers to having your finger on the pulse of the school, so that you can accurately predict what could go wrong from day to day.  It involves being aware of informal groups and relationships among staff and aware of the issues that have not surfaced but that are bubbling along under the surface and creating discord.
  • Visibility - making systematic and frequent visits to classrooms, having frequent contact with students and being highly visible to students, teachers and parents.
Final thoughts:  a plan for effective leadership involves developing a strong leadership team.  This is true of schools as a whole, grade level and subject teams and within a classroom, as well as developing student leadership through activities such as student council.  It's important to distribute some responsibilities throughout the team.  Basically what it comes down to is getting the right people onto the bus, getting the wrong people off the bus, and ensuring that the right people are in the right seats on the bus.  After all that I guess it's time to sit back and enjoy the journey.

References for this series of blog posts:  Marzano, R.J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005) School Leadership that Works:  From Research to Results and Tom Jennings who presented these ideas in a PowerPoint.

Photo Credit:  The Scars Ran Deep.  Since Childhood.  by DRP

1 comment:

  1. Nice way to end - back at the beginning of the journey;)