Learning and Teaching at Gilson College

Learning for living, Character for life, Hope for the Future

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‘Lead Like Jesus’ – Ken Blanchard

A tweet today pointed me to this YouTube video (April 2012),

Lead Like Jesus‘ – presented by Dr Ken Blanchard.

While Dr Blanchard, the global and spiritual leader of the Ken Blanchard Company, speaks from the point of view of leading within business the points he makes are equally applicable to we Christians who lead in Christian or secular educational settings.

Ken speaks of how Jesus took 12 unlikely men and transformed them from novices into master leaders. He also speaks of his own journey as a follower of Jesus and how he puts the principles found in the life of Jesus of servant leadership, into practice in his life and business.

Where did Jesus learn about leadership?

Who was the first servant leader?

Why did the Father make Jesus a carpenter?

What principles from the Saviour’s life will always hold us in good stead in our role as leaders?

The Video is 1 hour 19 minutes long but if you have the time it is well worth viewing and reflecting on.

A related 55 min. video is the one linked here: ‘Developing your leadership point of view‘, where Ken outlines more of the principles of Jesus’ servant leadership. Also well worth the time to view and reflect on.


Teacher Appraisal and Professional Learning go hand-in-hand

56:365 working AITSL

I am following the blog ‘Thinking is Hard Work’. (The title of the blog appealed to me and  I have been interested to read the authors posts!)

The author is Colleen Sharen. She is a Management and Organizational Studies Professor at Brescia University College at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada.

In the light of ASV’s journey towards implementation of teacher standards-based appraisal, (and for that matter leadership appraisal) measured against the AITSL National Teacher and Principal Professional Standards, Colleen’s  recent post ‘The Above Average Effect’ is an interesting one.

ASV is just beginning to trial its new appraisal process, which will be fully implemented in the coming years. This new direction is moving us away from a sometimes-used, tick-the-box, teacher-self-appraisal system that was usually ratified, or not, after an annual conversation with the principal.

The process being trialled now is a goals-and-evidence-based appraisal system where the principal, sometimes in conjunction with his or her leadership team, will use regular conversations with staff members to monitor and coach them as they progress towards achieving standards relevant to their experience level. Accordingly principals as well as most of our deputies and heads of school have received regular consultant-led professional learning in unpacking the standards and how to appraise using the standards.

Despite the new direction however, and because teachers will set personal goals and gather evidence of their achievement, standards-based appraisal still brings with it a measure of teacher self-assessment of, as well as reflection on, their own progress towards goal attainment.

Consequently, with some level of self-assessment being part of our process it is my opinion that (while Colleen writes about performance self-assessment and appraisal in industry) the principles and information from the studies she references about the ‘Above average effect’ will apply to some extent in our emerging context.

Colleen writes:

‘Performance evaluations and regular feedback are a part of corporate life.  They are designed with the assumption that if people receive feedback, that their performance will improve. But does performance improve? It depends.

‘People tend to evaluate themselves as above average. Consistently researchers have found across professions, tasks, skills, industries, that we rank ourselves as better than average, creating what is sometimes called the Lake Wobegon effect, where everyone is above average. Of course, this isn’t mathematically possible. But is this tendency to rate oneself more highly than our peers consistent across all people?…

‘…The research shows that people who are least competent, that is those in the bottom 25% in a particular task or skill, are most likely to over-rate their skills…

‘…So how can you improve people’s understanding of their own ability? Paradoxically, you do this by making them more competent…

‘…The good news is that with training, which leads to improved competence, most people can more accurately self-assess their performance.  And of course, you get the benefit of improved competence…The solution isn’t feedback. The solution is developing competence…’  Read full post.

Further, the main implication for ASV education that I took away from my reading of Colleen’s post is that while appraisal (for us, against professional standards) is welcome and very necessary, we must be sure we continue to assist our teachers to develop competence and excellence by providing them with quality professional learning.

How are we doing so far? Those in our schools company realise already that our schools leaders have, over a number of years now, been refining their programs and processes for developing whole-school professional learning that engages their teachers in development around at least one data-identified school goal – often more. The level to which teachers have implemented this professional learning in their classroom practice has been a matter for each individual school to gauge. Most schools have used student achievement data and some, classroom observation.

To assist with this professional learning direction, the appraisal process expects teachers to review relevant teacher standards and include a whole-school goal in their individual teacher appraisal plan along with two personal goals for improvement. As well they are now expected to gather and provide evidence of achievement of their goals and their progress towards meeting the related professional standards. From this data, principals and leadership team members should be able to more easily see whether teachers are developing competence, moving towards excellence, and achieving implementation of initiatives related to their goals. The required regular professional conversations will also reinforce leadership’s understanding of teacher progress.

As well, I’m sure that rolling out a standards-based appraisal process, along with expectation that teachers include personal goals as well as school goals, all assisted by provision of professional learning, will demonstrate that teachers can continue to develop competence, indeed excellence in their ability self-assess their accomplishments and decide where they need to move to next.

Of course ultimately all of this will be of  great benefit to our students and the wider school community! That is our main goal!

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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Professional Learning – Teachers need as much differentiation as students

Over a number of years now teachers in most schools in our system have been fortunate to have had access to whole-school-focussed professional learning opportunities. For us a number of these opportunities have been partially funded through application to programs such as the Australian Government Quality Teacher Program, Smarter Schools National Partnerships Program and Targeted Funding Program. These have been supervised by colleagues from Independent Schools Victoria. For several schools this year an aspect of ICT professional learning has been included in these programs.

However, one of the challenges for our system and school leaders when developing and leading the whole-school professional learning programs (which are based on each schools’ data-identified teaching and learning needs), has been knowing how to be sure this learning is also differentiated according to teachers’ needs and takes into account teachers’ experience levels.

In order to move students from where they are to where teachers want them to be – effectively working to close the gap in their achievement levels – we expect our teachers to differentiate teaching and learning according to their students’ needs – and rightly so! It follows then that leaders for the same reasons, must also differentiate teachers’ learning.

Mark Gleeson in his post, quoted and linked here, writes about how to work with teachers to develop the skills required for integrating ICT and 21st century learning skills in their classroom programs and practice. He pleads for leaders, rather than merely providing ICT and expecting it all to ‘happen’, to consider more seriously the provision and scaffolding of teacher ICT professional learning so teachers may develop their knowledge and skills collaboratively and at their own pace.

While we must take notice of Gleeson’s concerns, I feel we can also benefit from applying to our whole-school teacher professional learning programs the general principles Mark outlines! His ideas for ICT are worth serious consideration for all professional learning situations.

Gleeson writes:

As teachers, we have come to learn over the years that we should never expect our students to fully understand a new idea without some form of structured support framework, or scaffolding as the current buzzword defines it. If we want them to solve a problem, we tend to provide them with a range of strategies and tools to assist them. Before writing a persuasive text, teachers present a text framework and spend time developing the language structures and features required. It’s common sense thinking that we need to help learners when exposing them to new experiences.

The same, of course, should be the case in supporting learning for our fellow teachers. From Literacy Co-ordinators to Mathematics Leaders, Education consultants to teacher mentors, it is accepted practice to take a methodical, measured approach to develop teacher capacity in any given curriculum area. With one glaring exception. For reasons that have no grounding in common sense or educational practicality, Technology is just thrown at us and expected to magically stick to us and develop. What actually happens is that it slides right off, repelled by the totally justified and expected reluctance of older teachers who trained as teachers before computers evolved beyond command lines or inexperienced teachers who are still getting their heads around making their challenging students stay in their seats. The lack of a systematic framework for developing teacher capacity and competency in teaching with technology is a massive black hole in Education today. We bandy around the term 21st Century learners every day at school but where is the plan for ensuring 21st century teaching and learning is taking place?

At the moment , I am reading the book, “Leading for Instructional Improvement – How Successful Leaders Develop Teaching and Learning Expertise” by Stephen Fink and Anneke Markholt. Chapter Eight begins by focusing on the idea of Reciprocal Accountability.

“Reciprocal Accountability simply means that if we are going to hold you accountable for something, we have an equal and commensurate responsibility to ensure you know how to do what we are expecting you to do (Elmore’ 2000; Resnick and Glennan, 2002). Practically speaking, this important concept means that accountability must go hand in hand with organizational capacity building with a specific focus on ensuring that teachers and leaders have the expertise necessary to ensure high achievement for all students. ” ( pg 221-2). It goes on to say that “teachers must know deeply each of their students as individual learners, differentiating their instruction accordingly so that each student meets the expected standard regardless of the student’s starting place……..the concept of reciprocal accountability provides the same useful lens to examine the relationship between teachers and principals…..Although principals don’t take the relationship between teachers and students for granted, they often fail to recognize the similar reciprocal nature of their roles with their own teachers.” ( pg 222)…

For me [Gleeson] it comes down to these points.

  1. PLTs [Professional Learning Team Meetings] dedicated to Technology integration into our teaching practices
  2. A constant focus on Technology throughout lesson and unit planning
  3. A restructuring of the role of ICT Leaders/teachers in schools
  4. A greater focus on Technology in Teacher Training programs
  5. A commitment to Technology Professional Development courses on an equal footing with Literacy and Numeracy Projects.

…Read more…

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Life of an Educator by Justin Tarte: Great leaders build great teams…


Justin Tarte states on his blog ‘Life of an Educator’, that he is  ‘Starting in a couple weeks [to] assume the role of the Director of Curriculum and Support Services in a district of 3,000 in the suburbs of St. Louis, MO…’ He has some insightful advice to share about building strong leadership teams. While his context is in the USA, the principles apply worldwide…

Great teams are few and far between, but I believe that’s because the premise of building a great team might be flawed. It’s so easy to build a team of educators who all think alike and have similar backgrounds and experiences. That is safe. That is comfortable. That is easy. That is too easy…

Great leaders assemble teams and tap into the strengths of the members of the team and openly seek out new members with vast and varied backgrounds. Great teams challenge and push each other while always questioning the status quo. Great leaders are able to build teams that believe and trust in one another, while also having high expectations for each and every member. Read more…

What are your thoughts about the make-up of leadership teams?

Life of an Educator by Justin Tarte: Great leaders build great teams….

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What Does It Mean to Be an Educational Leader? – Finding Common Ground – Education Week

What Does It Mean to Be an Educational Leader? – Finding Common Ground – Education Week.

by Peter DeWitt

Via ASCD Smart Brief, Aug 6 2012

“If school leadership were a true/false test, we could raise our scores by looking over the shoulder of an unsuccessful principal and choosing the opposite answer to each question.” Todd Whitaker
…What is an educational leader?

It’s an interesting question. Those of us in leadership positions struggle with what it means to be an educational leader because we have to maintain a balance between the management aspects we do and the instructional leadership we want to do. Being an educational leader means we have to know a great deal about curriculum and instruction so we can provide guidance to staff when they have questions. It also means that we research best practices and look for the most innovative ways for staff to engage our students. It also means that we spend time getting to know students and working with families. Unfortunately, it also means we have to sort through what is good and bad about all of this accountability we are facing.

I feel that it is my job as a leader to make sure staff are informed and I strongly believe it is my job to inspire staff to speak up and question rules and decisions that they oppose even if that means that I’m on the receiving end. Not every day has to be a debate but in order to become better educators we all have to question the status quo, not just go along with it. The problem is that the same status quo we may be questioning is seen as progressive by those making the decisions.
Read more…

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‘Making the Most Out of Teacher Collaboration’, by Ben Johnson

Reblogged from Edutopia – Teacher Leadership

Nose to the grindstone, I prepared for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday — what to teach, what to test, and how to learn. I gave it my best shot, alone. I was the only Spanish teacher. What did I have to say to teachers of other disciplines? Other than collegial greetings, I did not seek them out. How stupid could I have been! I should have taken the time and effort to collaborate!

I remember feeling so frustrated about classroom discipline that I had decided to teach college instead of high school. My teaching career began in the tiny town of Patagonia, Arizona. Looking back, I had an ideal situation: class sizes of no more than 15 students, in a small community where everyone knows everyone, and a four-day work week! I now wonder how different things would have been if I had taken the initiative and sought advice, wisdom, and assistance from the other experienced teachers.

Nope, I was intent on saving the world by myself. What did I need from my fellow teachers?

A lot of help! What did they need from me? Being a newbie, I couldn’t really share pedagogy, but what they could have used to their benefit was my eagerness, energy, and enthusiasm.

Avoiding Teacher Isolation

Perhaps I am an extreme example of what not to do, but I have witnessed a general sense that teachers, when it comes to their performance in the classroom, tend to stick to themselves. This could be because of self-consciousness or embarrassment, but the attitude of professional privacy is not conducive to professional development. I was lucky to have a mentor in my next school that knew what teaching was all about. He would actually seek me out, ask me for advice and would share what he was working on in his classroom. I felt comfortable doing the same with him. I learned a lot from him. I could have learned even more if I had realized how much my professional development depended on effective teacher collaboration.

Personal Steps to Effective Collaboration

If I had it to do again, this is what I would do to get the most out of my formal and informal collaborations with other teachers:

  • Build relationships
  • Observe the best
  • Ask questions
  • Share
  • Come prepared

First of all, I would get to know them and not wait for them to get to know me. Even though I might be overwhelmed with paperwork, planning and preparing, I need to be with other teachers, not by myself. I must seek them out, spend time with them, help them, and build relationships. One of the benefits of this is that rather than simply having the other teachers know me as the “new guy,” or the “weird guy,” they will know my name and consider me a colleague.

Secondly, I would observe as many teachers as possible, and seek out the ones that I would like to emulate, regardless of the academic discipline in which they teach. I would arrange to visit teachers on my conference periods to watch them and see how they go about the business of teaching and learning, looking for things that I could use. Afterward, it would be beneficial to ask them questions about how to imitate what I saw, though care must be taken to not be inquisitorial, or judgmental.

Thirdly, I would develop a list of “how to” and “why for” questions regarding student data, instruction, discipline, etc. that I would ask these colleagues on my own. In those cases where I am lucky enough to have formal opportunities to collaborate, I would bring my list of questions pertinent to the agenda in order to pick the groups’ collective brain for answers.

Fourthly, rather than wracking my brain for answers that others have already solved, I would share my frustrations, with these colleagues and get the answers I need quickly so I can go on to other important matters. In my informal meetings with teacher colleagues and in the formal “collaboration” meetings, I must be prepared to share what I have learned. Though my idea may not be 100 percent useful, it may spark other ideas from which the other teachers may synthesize even more powerful ideas. Common lesson planning is powerful especially when combined with common assessments, but even if all I do is share them with a colleague, I find that they always have a suggestion for improvement and can save me embarrassment and frustration by correcting mistakes in content or judgment.

Preparation is Key

Finally, and especially in formal collaboration meetings, but not solely, I would have to be prepared. What I mean by this is that one of the reasons that schools do not improve as fast as we would like them to is that when teachers get together for a purpose, rarely has research been done by the teachers, neither have ideas been mapped out prior to the meeting. So everyone in the meeting is flat-footed, and in the course of the short meeting, they are expected to come up with some grandiose solution from the top of their heads.

I remember spending a summer doing this for “restructuring” and the best that 100 educators could come up with were portfolios and an advisory period! So, for formal meetings, I would look at the agenda and do some thinking and research so I have some valuable things to share.

My experience has been that my preparation sparks much deeper conversation, more complete answers and better solutions. For informal collaborations, before I attempted to try out any new idea, I would ask one of my esteemed colleagues what they thought of it. In terms of assessments, the easiest way to improve the validity of the assessment is to have a colleague or group of colleagues review it. Of course, this assumes that I am on the ball enough to have prepared my assessment before I begin instruction (Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins of Understanding By Design would be proud).

What does this add up to? Teachers must take the bull by horns, and be deliberate in how we collaborate (i.e. work together in the business of teaching and learning). Michael Fullan, author of Change Forces, states emphatically that every teacher “…must be a change agent.” The skills of individual and collective inquiry, as well as moral resolve that Fullan refers to do not come from the administration, they have to come from the true instructional leaders of the school: the teachers.

What have you found works best to get the most out of collaborating with other teachers?

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25 Ways Teachers Can Connect More With Their Colleagues | Edudemic

Are our teachers, or indeed leaders, isolationists or collaborative? Are most conversations in our educational workplaces professional or personal?

25 Ways Teachers Can Connect More With Their Colleagues | Edudemic.

In response to an article on this issue published in April in the USA (in The Atlantic), Edudemic.com  suggests a number of ideas that could assist leaders as well as teachers to enhance their connections with colleagues as they seek to pursue a more collaborative future in their schools and systems.

I’m sure a number of the ideas listed in the Edudemic post are already in place in your particular school or educational setting? Nevertheless, I’m sure you will find other ideas in the list to spark further interest in your continuing quest to develop your professional learning communities (PLCs) as well as to promote more professional conversations?

The following is a quote from the Edudemic post:

A growing criticism of the American education system is that teachers spend too much of their time distanced from their colleagues (a recent survey found that teachers spend just 3% of their school day collaborating with other teachers), encouraging competition rather than collaboration, and making it difficult for teachers to work together to solve educational and institutional issues.

Things don’t have to be that way, however, as there are many ways that teachers can reach out and connect with their colleagues and build a more collaborative atmosphere in their schools…[Edudemic has] come up with just a few here, but feel free to share your own experiences and ideas that can help other educators to connect and ultimately improve the quality of instruction they can offer students…

One idea – another PLC:

9. CREATE A PERSONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY. One of the most common ways that teachers these days are battling feeling isolated from their peers is by building a personal learning network or community. This can be composed of teachers at your school or from around the world. No matter who you choose to include, spend time sharing, talking, and collaborating on educational projects and ideas… Read more