Leading the process; Building a Culture of Learning
Having a vision is a good start, but it is not the whole story! To create meaning, a vision needs to be articulated clearly and regularly. So, make sure your vision is simple, memorable and something you really believe in.
The role of leadership is to facilitate a culture of learning which will support staff in working together towards the school vision. This means providing technical leadership in the shape of plans and systems, as well as human leadership, building trust in one another to take risks and try new things.
A common language for the school improvement process can be framed as these 3 Questions: ‘Where are we going?’ ‘Where are we Now?’ and, ‘So what are our Next Steps?’ Having a collective understanding of the answers to these questions, helps to ensure that next steps are based in the current reality and aligned to the school’s goals.
Where are we going?
Your vision is the most important aspect of knowing your destination. Clearly articulated and in language that everyone can remember, your vision will act as your guiding star and your filter. In leadership terms, your vision should engage the heart.
At the same time, you are also creating a clear structure in which to work, so that your vision – although a long way off – still seems attainable and progress is transparent to all.
The Challenging Learning Collaborative Model for Organisational Change demonstrates how each level of the organisation can work together to contribute to improving the culture of the school. Ultimately, capacity to sustain good practice requires both top-down and bottom-up leadership!
Click on the model to enlarge it, and to use it to track progress, monitoring where you are now in your growth and development. If progress is slow in any area, is there is a piece of the model missing from your school structure? If impact hasn’t shown up in the students’ learning yet, has every layer of the model been involved in designing and taking action?
Where are we now?
Knowing your current reality means that you can more accurately design the right school improvement plan for your future.
As John Hattie puts it in his Visible Learning for Teachers (2012):
The key to improving education is knowing the impact that we are having on students learning; the magnitude of that impact, and the implications that understanding has for decisions about what we do next.
To help with this, on the [champions] page of this Learning Hub you will find the tools to support the collection of impact data to track and share progress with your [champions] and staff. These will be updated throughout the process, to help collect data at the time it is needed.
The baseline visit aims to capture data that will help us understand ‘where you are now’ in relation to your aims. The purpose of any data collection in school should be to ascertain the impact of teaching on student learning, so our focus is the students: we observe students learning, talk to students about their learning and talk about students’ experiences.
This allows us to identify patterns of practice across the school which creates a ‘window into the experiences of the students’ on a typical school day. The data we present is a record of what we saw and heard in relation to your aims and is not intended to be a judgement on the school or any individual.
At Challenging Learning, we do not believe that data is absolute truth: it is a perspective from which we can discuss our current reality and engage each other in thinking about the best possible next steps.
What are our next steps?
Even a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Planning your next step needn’t be complicated – outline some simple actions that you, [your champions] or your staff can take immediately. Remember that any actions should help everyone move towards the vision and wherever possible, provide opportunities for ‘quick wins’!
Having identified your first priority in the baseline statement, follow the link to complete your Priority One Action Plan. The 5 boxes are a simple way to record intended actions that you think will help your staff learn what your vision looks like in practice.
As with any learning process, reflection is key. You can use the slides in the link in a staff meeting to support reflection on action.