Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Student -v- Teacher -v- Relationship Centred Coaching

On Monday I did a half day workshop with a visiting consultant Diane Sweeney.  While I've been reading a lot about coaching recently, and have been doing a MOOC on coaching through Coursera, I've never really focused on the different types of coaching.  On Monday, however, it became crystal clear to me why the MOOC and the books I've read seem to be saying completely the opposite things:  it's because the emphasis is on something different.  Diane consults around student-centred coaching, the MOOC deals with teacher-centred coaching and some of the books I've read deal with relationship-driven coaching.

Let me try to give some examples of what the differences are between these 3 approaches:

  • In student-centred coaching the coach works with the teacher to design learning based on a specific objective or standard for student learning.  In teacher-centred coaching the focus is on the teacher implementing a programme, or a way of instructing.
  • In student-centred coaching the focus is on looking at student work to make decisions that are differentiated and needs-based.  In teacher-centred coaching the focus is on what the teacher is or isn't doing.
  • Relationships are of course the basis of all coaching, but in relationship-driven coaching the coach is seen as a provider of support and resources in a way that doesn't threaten them.
Back again to a chapter that I've just read in The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar which states "a coach helps build the capacity of others by facilitating their learning."  Aguilar also discusses different sorts of coaching, describing one form as a way of changing behaviours and another of changing beliefs and ways of being.
  • Directive (or instructive) coaching is all about changing behaviours.  Here the coach is the expert and provides resources, suggestions, models lessons and so on.  It's common to have this coach working in a particular subject or instructional framework where the coach is the expert responsible for teaching a set of skills or sharing a body of knowledge.  This type of coaching often results in short-term changes, but since the teacher is not reflecting or making decisions the change is for a limited time.
  • Facilitative coaching can build on changing behaviours in order to support someone in developing ways of being, or it can explore a person's beliefs in order to change their behaviours. This type of coaching promotes new ways of thinking as a result of reflection, analysis, observation and experimentation.  The coach does not share knowledge, but instead builds the teacher's existing skills.  Cognitive coaching (which I'm going to learning more about in the summer) is a facilitative coaching because it focuses on exploring the way we think.
  • Aguilar points out that transformative coaching offers the most potential for changing our education system.  It is aimed not just at the individual teacher but also at the institution and the broader educational and social systems in which s/he works.  The idea behind this is that the impact of coaching is not simply on an individual but on the other levels too.
To be honest I have been rather confused over the past few weeks when considering all the different types and viewpoints about what makes an effective coach.  Thinking about the main purpose of coaching is certainly able to help me sort these out.

Original artwork by an ASB student

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Transformation - the ability to see something that is not yet and change the thinking behind the thinking

Around four and a half years go I started this blog and called it Tech Transformation.  I've always liked the idea of transformation - the idea of something changing so much that you couldn't recognize it at all (for example a caterpillar turning into a butterfly) and I wanted the blog to reflect that technology can give us the power to do things that were previously unimaginable.  Now I'm applying this same idea to coaching.  Can coaching bring about a transformation in the teaching of technology, the ways students are using technology, and what they are able to do as a result of this?

I've started a new coaching book called The Art of Coaching - Effective Strategies for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar.   In the introduction Aguilar writes "Coaching requires an ability to see something that is not yet - but could be - in existence, and the willingness to surrender to the process and trust that a worthwhile product will emerge".

So what has to happen, what has to be in place, for coaching to be transformative?  On our PD 3.0 R&D task force we have been studying coaching as one way of improving professional learning.  We know that teachers need to be improving their knowledge and skills all the time, and we also know that it takes around 50 hours of PD to improve a teacher's skill so that it has an impact on student learning.  The traditional model of a few days of PD/orientation at the start of a school year, and a fews days of PD spread across the year in a sort of "spray and pray" model, is unlikely to have much impact in teaching practice.  Coaching, however, offers an alternative.

Aguilar writes "coaching can build will, skill, knowledge and capacity because it can go where no other PD has gone before:  into the intellect, behaviors, practices, beliefs, values and feelings of an educator.  A coach can foster conditions in which deep reflection and learning can take place, where a teacher can take risks to change her practice, where powerful conversations can take place and where growth is recognized and celebrated."

Why is coaching so successful?
  • It encourages collaborative, reflective practice, allowing teachers to apply their learning more deeply, frequently and consistently than teachers working alone.
  • Effective embedded professional learning promotes positive cultural change which can affect the culture of a school.
  • It promotes the implementation of learning as the likelihood of using new learning and sharing responsibility rises when colleagues, guided by a coach, work together and hold each other accountable for improved teaching and learning.
  • It supports collective leadership:  coaching uses the relationships between coaches, principals and teachers to create the conversations that lead to behavioral, pedagogical and content knowledge change. 
  • It promotes a collaborative culture where everyone feels ownership of and responsible for leading improvement efforts in teaching and learning.  Also, through attending to the "social infrastructure" there can be deep changes in school climate.
How can you tell if a teacher is ready to be a coach?
Aguilar believes a coach needs to have been an effective teacher for at least 5 years before becoming a coach.  They must also have strong communication skills, in particular listening, and high emotional intelligence.

How can you tell if a school is ready for coaching?  
Research points to the importance of effective leadership (fostering the vision or mission, instructional foci, creating a collaborative culture etc)  In a school with ineffective leadership coaching won't result in whole-school change.  I'm interested in this as at a previous school when the management wanted to bring about changes we were told that it was simply "re-parking the cars in different places in the car park."  Now I've come to see that this cannot possibly lead to transformational changes (which the school badly needed).  Here's a great quote by Danah Zohar that embodies what is needed:
Most transformational programs satisfy themselves with shifting the same old furniture about in the same old room.  But real transformation requires that we redesign the room itself.  Perhaps even blow up the old room.  It requires that we change the thinking behind our thinking.
Photo Credit: thefost via Compfight cc

Freedom and Responsibility

Dr Shabbi Luthra, Director of R&D and Technology at ASB, sent out a link today to a presentation from Netflix (below) to members of the IT and R&D departments.  This presentation has already been viewed over 5 million times online.  As I read it I couldn't help but think about how these slides apply to ASB and to previous schools where I've worked, how in many ways the keys to an excellent culture in those schools has been the concepts of freedom and responsibility.

A few reflections:
Nice sounding mission statements and values that nobody at the school appears to model, yep, I've worked in places like that that bandied such words in their mission statements and yet in the day to day treatment of teachers in the school these sorts of values were just not in evidence. As pointed out, the actual values of an organization are shown by who is rewarded, promoted or let go.   Here are some of the things that Netflix values and rewards (I've worked in schools that value these too, as well as one school that did not value one of the items on the following list):
  • Communication - treating people with respect independent of their status or whether they agree with you
  • Curiosity - learning rapidly and eagerly
  • Innovation - challenging prevailing assumptions and suggesting better approaches
  • Courage - saying what you think even when it is controversial, questioning actions that are inconsistent with values
  • Passion - inspiring others with a thirst for excellence
  • Honesty - candor and directness, only saying things about people that you will say to their face. For me honesty is such an important value - I've been horribly disappointed when working in a place where people did dishonest and unethical things and routinely lied to you and lied about you - especially when those were people who had been promoted/rewarded and were part of the admin.  

Here's another interesting thought:  imagine if everyone you work with is someone you respect and learn from.   There's a great section on the difference between mediocrity and excellence in the slideshow:  in procedural work the best are 2x better than the average, in creative work the best are 10x better than the average.  Really, that's something to think about!

The section on freedom and responsibility really speaks to me - I think it does to most excellent teachers who put in hours and hours of time in evenings, weekends and holidays.  "Responsible people thrive on freedom and are worthy of freedom ... with the right people instead of a culture of process adherence we have a culture of creativity and self-discipline, freedom and responsibility."  The vacation policy is an interesting one and supports some of what we've been talking about in our PD 3.0 task force about people wanting different contracts.  Not everybody needs to work every day - we are exploring alternatives (when the report is published I'll provide a link to some of our ideas).

Another section is about context -v- control.  I agree:  you get great outcomes by setting appropriate context, not by trying to control everyone.  I find this a very interesting section and may well write a whole blog post about just these few slides once I've thought through a few things.  

Many of the ideas towards the end of the slideshow align with what I've been reading recently in Accelerate by John P Kotter about a dual operating system of a network and a hierarchy.  I very much like the description on slide 93 of highly aligned but loosely coupled teamwork depending on high performing people in a good context.

Enjoy the slideshow below.  I know it's based on the corporate world, but I can really see how it resonates with the education world too.  Share and discuss it with your colleagues and feel free to leave me comments.  It's always good to reflect on the organization you work for, and whether it values the same things that you do.  Today I'm feeling grateful that I'm in a place that does.

Original artwork by an ASB student

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ideas from the future

I was sent a link to the TED Ideas website this week and read an article entitled 26 Ideas from the Future.  I'm not going to write about all 26 of these ideas, but I do want to mention some that I think are really interesting.

  • Progress in medicine - several TED speakers mentioned this.  The idea is that greater life expectancy will drive innovation, in particular the ability to diagnose a disease very early - even before you know there is anything wrong with you - the human body will be infused with technology and implanted chips will be able to measure health data.  Medicine will also become more personalized - it will be designed specifically for you.  Predictions are also that bioengineering could become a new field of innovation.
  • Other speakers mentioned travel.  For example autonomous vehicles that will cut energy consumption and air pollution.  The prediction is that this could lead to the disappearance of road congestion and that we will save huge amounts of time that are now spent sitting in traffic.  Predictions are also that people will be able to travel from any major city in the world to another in less than a couple of hours.  Predictions are that everyone in the world will be connected with new methods of transportation, including ariel vehicles or drones.
  • Energy consumption is mentioned by others.  If future energy is clean and cheap then this will lift people out of poverty.  Energy will allow us to desalinate water and incinerate trash to reduce waste.  The prediction is therefore that we could leave large portions of the world to nature.
  • Personalization is another theme.  The prediction is that we will all experience a different view of reality - we will see and hear a different world from anyone else as we augment our experience of the world with our personal electronic devices.
What do you think the future will be like, 20 or 30 years from now?

Original artwork by an ASB student

Feedback -v- feedforward part 3

In Week 3 of the Coursera MOOC on coaching the focus is on the quality of feedback that coaches give to coachees.  I think there is some good advice here:
  • Focus on one skill at a time - implementing a new skill takes a lot of time and practice
  • Spend about 1/3 of the coaching session reviewing the past (the lesson being observed) and the other 2/3 of the session planning and practicing new instructional skills for the future
One thing I'm still puzzled about is that it seems with this model it is the coach who selects the goal and who makes the teacher being coached accountable.  I'm still not sure that this approach works.  This is called Directive Coaching and according to the MOOC this gives teachers a concrete framework within which they can independently reflect on how they are doing.  I really do like the aim of creating reflective practitioners, but I'm wondering how much of what a teacher is doing is really going to change when it is the coach rather than the teacher who is the one setting the goals.

Original artwork by an ASB student

Monday, May 19, 2014

Finding your own path

I'm doing a MOOC on coaching and at the same time I'm reading a book on coaching and the two are not  really giving me the same information.  Today, however, another MOOC participant posted a reply to me that led me to this video by John Whitmore (the author of the book I'm reading).

I like all the sentiments in this video.  I really like the idea of trusting life, rather than fearing what may happen.  I especially like this sentence:  Stepping outside the norm is the greatest liberation that most people can find.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Coursera MOOC on Coaching - Week 3

As I move into the materials for Week 3 of the MOOC, I decided to use a slightly different protocol for reflecting on the ideas.  First of all, I do want to say that the handout provided for this week's module is one that I would have loved to have had as a first year teacher.  It gives very clear instructions for what we used to call "the craft of the classroom" which many new teachers struggle with.  However having moved out of the state education system in England, I find that some of the idea that were presented this week are less relevant to inquiry or project based constructivist classrooms.  The protocol I am going to use to think about this week's module is the 4As (Agree, Aspire to, Ask, Argue with).  In fact I'm only going to use 3 of these As.

Agree - here are some of the statements that I generally agree with:

  • The bottom line in teaching is outputs, not inputs. The most important measure of whether you did a good job is what your kids can do as a result of having been in your class.
  • A teacher's job is to increase student learning in the most efficient way possible.
Ask - here are some statements that I need to think about some more or maybe get other participants' opinions of in the discussion forums:

  •  A teacher's job is to create a classroom environment that maximizes opportunities for students to get practice and feedback.  I'm not sure about this because I think one of the most important jobs of a teacher is to set up conditions for students' independent inquiries.  
  • Teaching is about being as invisible as possible - again I'm not sure about this.  I do agree that the teacher should be the guide on the side, but I find it hard to think that the feedback that teachers need to give to students can be done invisibly.
  • There was a quote by Daniel Willingham “Memory is the residue of thought.” In other words, what students are thinking about in your lesson is what they’re going to remember.  I don't really agree with this because I think remembering is simply a lower order thinking skill and that we want to aim higher.  Understanding can come through application, analysis, synthesis and so on.  I'm also wondering how things like creativity and innovation fit in with this.
Argue with:
  • We firmly believe that the teacher needs to know exactly what will be learned, for each student, before each lesson.   I don't agree with this because I think one of the jobs of teachers is to ask powerful questions and to set up powerful provocations and that the teacher may not actually know the direction the students are going to go as they reflect on the questions and provocations.  I think inquiry should look different in each classroom and for each student.  
I'm interested to know how these develop further in the Week 3 discussions.

Original artwork by an ASB student

Friday, May 16, 2014

Learning the new -v- giving up the old

The MOOC I've been doing about coaching has raised some interesting questions this week.  One of these is whether you should concentrate on coaching those teachers with a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset, and another question has been about which teachers are most likely to have a growth mindset - those who are young, new to the profession and eager to learn and improve, or those who are older, more experienced, veteran teachers.  The question about how to approach resistant teachers, those with fixed mindsets, is important and often it may simply be about the way in which the coaching is introduced.

Another thing that I read that may have some bearing on this is to do with learning something new. The statement made was that "it is easier to learn the new - the basis of coaching - than it is to give up the old."  Coaching and in particular questioning teachers about their goals, what is actually happening in their classes, and what options they could and will pursue to improve may seem very strange at first when most of us expect to be told or instructed how to do something in an area that we need to improve.  John Whitmore sums this up very well in the following way:
No matter how much better the new might be, letting go of the old is always hard.  But learning and adopting new behaviours demand that we let go of old ones.  The system and skill of coaching are simple and not hard to learn.  Letting go of a well-used command-and-control habit to make room for coaching is much harder.  Once they do let go of the old, the new rushes in to fill the vacuum.  Remove the blocks and the potential emerges.
Original art work by an ASB student

Feedback -v- feedforward part 2

I came across this infographic on Twitter today.  It contains some great quotes about feedback based on articles from the September 2012 edition of Educational Leadership from ASCD.  Please click on the link at the end of this blog post to see the full sized PDF version of this infographic.

Based on the MOOC I'm doing and various things I'm reading I can relate very much to feedback being informative and not judgmental or evaluative.   A couple of years ago at a previous school we were given a book to read over the summer holidays about giving effective feedback to students.  It's a shame that a great opportunity was lost to really dig into this book and learn from it, as all we did on our return to school was to spend perhaps 20 minutes or so on the first day of school (staff orientation) in a group discussing one chapter of the book, which was never again followed up.  The book itself was thought provoking, and the ideas of what comprises useful feedback are relevant for both adults and students.  I'm glad that I'm able to revisit some of these ideas with participants in the MOOC via the various discussion forums.

Essentially, I think that giving good feedback enables the person receiving the feedback to be able to come up with his/her own learning goals and a plan of how they will achieve them.  In addition, feedback needs to deal with both the performance and also the motivation to do better - those being coached need to know how they can improve and they need to feel they are in control of how they move forward - only then will they be motivated.  I think therefore it is especially important to link the feedback of the coach with the teacher's own self-evaluation of his or her performance - they are the ones who can decide how close they are to meeting their goals and what they need to do to make progress.

Here is a link to the PDF of the infographic  Which of these quotes do you agree with most?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Feedback -v- feedforward

In his book Coaching for Performance, John Whitmore identifies 5 levels of feedback.  He writes that the first 4 of these produce only minimal short-term improvement at best, and can even cause a decline in performance and self esteem.

  • Personal criticism such as "you're useless" - this is devastating to self-esteem and confidence and will surely make future performance even worse.
  • Judgement such as "your work/performance is awful" - while this is directed at the work rather than at the person this is also very damaging to self-esteem and still provides no information that can be used for improvement.
  • Opinion of the work - avoids criticism and provides some information about what needs to be improved, but still keeps ownership in the hands of the person providing the feedback.
  • A question about how the person feels about his/her work - this hands over ownership to the person being coached, but will tend to result in a value judgement about the work on the part of the teacher.
  • A question asking for a description of the work - the person being coached can give a detailed and non-judgmental description of his/her performance based on thought and reason - it compels the person being coached to be involved and to articulate a response.  This process raises awareness, helps someone learn how to evaluate his or her own work and thereby gives ownership of the performance and the assessment of it to the teacher being observed and coached.  This leads to the person being coached taking responsibility for the standard of the work.
Now here's the interesting thing.  All of this is feedback - all of it relates to the past.  However the thing that improves performance isn't necessarily reflecting on the past, but being aware of what is happening in the present.  For this you need feedforward.  Feedforward means tell the person being coached beforehand the question that you will ask afterwards, so that they can be aware in the present.  For example a coach might say to a teacher, "After the next observation I am going to ask you ....."

Appraisal systems almost always focus on the past.  Whitmore writes that "when they categorize only past performance and not future potential, or are judgmental and not descriptive, they are beneficial to no one."

Original artwork by an ASB student

Digital, Media and Global Literacies

Another great video posted by Bob Greenberg on his YouTube Brainwaves channel is Heidi Hayes Jacobs talking about Global Literacy.  Heidi talks about the intersection between digital, media and global literacies:

  • Digital literacy - the ability to choose a digital tool that will best match a purpose
  • Media literacy - a good critic of media and also the ability to create a quality media product
  • Global literacy - being a fluent investigator of the world, finding meaningful information about people and places, understanding different perspectives and being able to take appropriate action.

Coursera MOOC on Coaching - Week 2

My big take away from Week 2 of the Coursera MOOC on coaching is that there are 4 fixed mindset behaviours that you may observe in teachers being coached that prevent or slow down the impact of coaching on teacher improvement.

The advice given this week was to name the behaviors that show a fixed mindset so that teachers are aware of them - it allow you to have a conversation around them and let teachers become more mindful about what they are doing that is preventing them from moving forward and improving.

  1. You're right, I suck:  the teacher takes feedback as a personal criticism rather than seeing it as a way of helping them to improve their performance.  In this situation he coach becomes a therapist and has to spend a long time building up the teachers' confidence and supporting the teacher to try again.
  2. You're wrong, I rule:  the teacher also takes feedback personally but also doesn't accept the feedback about the problem that the coach has observed. This teacher gets very defensive and tries to rewrite the observation from his or her point of view.  The coach has to try to justify the data s/he has collected leaving little time to discuss solutions or ways of improving.
  3. Blame it on the rain:  teachers don't accept the problem is something they can solve - they blame their performance on external factors that they cannot control (such as it being the last period of the day, the end of a unit and so on).  The coach then has to refocus the session onto things that the teacher can change because the teachers don't accept the data that is being presented as anything that they can do much about.
  4. Optimist without a cause:  these teachers agree with the feedback but they don't treat the feedback with any much thought so don't move forward in solving the problem.  They are not internalizing what they need to do to make changes.  
It seems that with all of these behaviours, the first step is to encourage more of a growth than a fixed mindset.  Once this is done, and the teacher sees he or she is becoming successful and students are learning more based on accepting the feedback and implementing and practicing the suggestions of the coach, the teacher becomes more confident about his or her own ability to grow and improve - which leads to being more open to additional coaching.  Learning new skills from the coach will take less time as the teacher has developed more of a growth mindset.

Reflecting on this I'm thinking that all these strategies can be used to coach students as well as coach teachers.  I have seen examples of all of the fixed mindsets in students, but have also seen that students become more confident in their own abilities with just small successes.  These can be built upon to encourage further student learning and successes.

Original artwork by an ASB student

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Coursera MOOC on Coaching - Week 1

Today I started the Coursera MOOC Coaching Teachers:  Promoting Changes that Stick by Orin Gutlerner from Match Education.   This week's assignments are to watch a couple of videos, do some reading and answer a quiz.  The theme of this week's work is that instructional coaching can be a big driver of teacher improvement. Good coaching can make teachers feel good, but effective coaching changes their behaviours.
Here are some of my take aways from Week 1:
  • Effective coaching produces lasting changes in teachers behaviours that promote more learning in the classroom
  • Effective coaching is highly intensive, individualized, sustained and has high teacher buy-in
  • Teacher change can be written as an equation (see diagram below).  

In the diagram clarity of visions means the shared vision of the instructional coach and the teacher should have a shared idea of what a highly functioning classroom looks like - in particular what the students should be saying, doing and thinking.  This involves students being on-task, paying attention, working hard and feeling that the teacher notices their behaviour.  Students know the objective of the lesson and this objective is rigorous but achievable within the lesson.  Students also know they get feedback during the lesson so that they can master the goal.  It's important that the coach and the teachers being coached agree on this shared vision is a necessary pre-requisite to an effective teacher-coach relationship, without which feedback cannot take place.

The quality of feedback refers to what happens in a coaching session.  Fixed mindset -v- growth mindset refers to how much teachers believe they can improve with practice and effort. Even with a shared vision and with great feedback, a teacher with a fixed mindset will make only slow improvements.  

Artwork by a student at ASB

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Converting a discussion into a decision

The big thing about coaching is that the person being coached has to DO something, but that the coachee has to remain in control - s/he has to have choice and ownership which means that it is possible the coachee may decide to take no action.  Here are some questions that John Whitmore in his book Coaching for Performance advocates using as part of the coaching process:
  • What are you going to do?  Often a plan will involve a number of different options.
  • When are you going to do it?  When we give something a time frame it makes it real.
  • Will this action meet your goal?
  • What obstacles might you encounter?  It's important to prepare for these!
  • What support do you need?  Sometimes it's enough to share your intended action with another person as a way of encouraging you to do it.
In order to improve performance there needs to be learning - and learning involves self-motivation so that you want to change.  Whitmore writes that performance, learning and motivation are linked - if you don't have one of the three then the other two will suffer.  Performance cannot be improved if there is no learning or no motivation.  

Original artwork by an ASB student

Some more thoughts about donkey motivation

In the past, motivation was thought to come from a carrot and stick approach.  However as Whitmore writes:  "The carrot and stick analogy originates from donkey motivation ... if we treat people like donkeys they will perform like donkeys ... if people are going to perform, they must be self-motivated."

There is a whole chapter in the book about motivation and self-belief.  This is based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  At the top of the hierarchy is the state of self-actualization which emerges with the physical and self-esteem needs are satisfied.  In this state the individual is not driven by the need to prove himself - either to himself or to anyone else.  Further down the hierarchy work can provide for people's primary needs.  People work for money with which they can buy food, water, clothing and shelter.  Work also satisfies some higher level needs such as working in a community, promotion, prestige and good pay.  However Whitmore writes that many people today are striving not for these things but more for self-belief:  "traditional businesses and management methods are very poor at meeting this need.  In fact most managers fail to do so principally because their desire to feel in control discourages them from building self-belief in those they manage."

Whitmore writes about the fact that there is a huge difference between getting esteem from others and self-esteem (or self-belief as he calls it).  He writes:  "Self belief is not met by prestige and privilege, which are more symbolic than substantial.  It is built when someone is seen to be worthy of making choices.  Promotion without genuine empowerment and the opportunity to express potential is counterproductive."  I thought about this a lot.  It explained why even when in my last job I got promoted to a position of responsibility, I felt worse than when I was a simple IT teacher.  When someone else was still making all the decisions, especially ones where I felt I had greater knowledge and certainly greater principles about digital ethics, I just ended up feeling used.

It's interesting that Whitmore identifies most business leaders as being at Maslow's status and recognition level and also that he writes that it is here that they do most harm.  At this level these people are often arrogant, assertive, domineering and self-important.  He writes about the necessity for a leader to progress on to the next level, which is the need for self-belief.  At this level the leadership gets better.  With self-belief the leader is not arrogant but authentic and altruistic - those at this level are leading for others rather than for themselves.  The best leaders of all, however, are a level above that of self-belief - that of self-actualization.  This level is often referred to as the level of service - which is often what gives life meaning and purpose.

But the problem is that not many people get to this level.  Businesses (and schools) are full of people who are lower down the ladder.  They have power and they have people that they can use it on.  Many leaders are stuck on the status and recognition step and many never get beyond it.  It is these people who have a large amount of power together with a large amount of self-interest, and to be perfectly frank these are the sort of people that I hope never to work for again.

Photo Credit: iki-photos via Compfight cc

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Who owns the learning?

Bob Greenberg has been making videos with his students for many years, and has also posted a number of videos of interviews with leading educational thinkers on his Brainwaves YouTube channel. Yesterday I heard he had met with and videoed Alan November.   Thank you Bob for sharing this video with us, and the videos you have made of the many other thinkers, dreamers and innovators on your channel.

Click here to visit the Brainwaves YouTube channel

Monday, May 5, 2014

Setting different types of goals

Today I've been reading about coaching and about the importance of setting goals - or more to the point helping the person setting being coached to set his or her goals.  Even at the level of an individual coaching session, it's important to let the coachee decide what exactly s/he wants to get from the coaching.  In the book Coaching for Performance, John Whitmore defines various different goals for coaching.

Most people who are being coached will have some kind of an end goal in mind.  For teachers this could include student learning goals like getting their students involved in global collaborative projects, having them advance in their reading level, having them try out different genres of writing and so on.  Or it could be a teaching goal for example personalized learning for all their students.  The important thing about an end goal is that it is often not completely within a person's own control.

This brings us onto performance goals - and these are within your control.  A performance goal is one that leads you to your end goal, and it is one that you can measure in order to assess your progress.  Let's say, for example, that you want to be able to personalize learning for your students (the end goal). You can come up with a performance goal that will help you to achieve the end goal.  A performance goal is always within your grasp and so it's easier to take responsibility for achieving each performance goal than for achieving the end goal.  A performance goal might be to give students more voice and choice in the summative assessment for an upcoming assignment.

Another type of goal is a dream goal - which is a the thing that inspired you in the first place.  In the case of education it could simply be that you wanted to make a difference in a child's life, you want to inspire your students to reach their full potential and so on.  It's the dream goal that makes us willing to invest ourselves fully in the process.

Process goals are the steps you take in order to reach your performance goal.  In the example above of differentiating learning, this could be the individual lesson plans that a teacher is making on a daily basis to work towards personaliation.

Ownership of goals is very important.  Whitmore writes that managers often pass their own goals down the line "as imperatives not to be questions.  This denies ownership to those who are expected to meet the targets and their performance is therefore likely to suffer ... the value of choice and responsibility in terms of self-motivation should never be underestimated."

A new look at strategic planning

I've worked in a number of schools that have had strategic plans.  Some of these were goals that needed to be accomplished within one year, others had more longer term goals that should be met within a 3-5 year period.  In John P Kotter's book Accelerate, he writes about the future of strategy.  First he describes the 2 basic components:  creation and implementation.  Traditional one-year strategic planning is often done in organizations with a management driven hierarchy, where all the decisions and the responsibility for implementing those decisions is done by those at the top of the hierarchy. However Kotter argues that the world is moving faster and faster and one year strategy cycles are no longer useful.  He writes:  "Creation and implementation will start to blur as new data are discovered during implementation which immediately need to inform new creation."

Instead he sees strategy as more of a dynamic force, that is constantly seeking opportunities and identifying initiatives that will capitalize on them.  He describes this as "an ongoing process of searching, doing, learning and modifying".  In this new system, based on networks, he argues that more eyes and ears and hearts need to be in the strategy game, not just a limited number of senior managers. I agree with this.  The most dynamic schools where I've worked, the most strategic, are those that have won over the hearts of minds of the people working there, and where those people have a voice, and where that voice is listened to and respected.

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