A Leadership Challenge: Developing a High-Functioning Team

A key challenge as a leader is to develop a high-functioning team.
Twelve months ago my challenge was to create a new teaching team  for a newly created department comprising five existing teachers and six new teachers.
As I approach the end of my first year, have we achieved this goal?  Have we been successful in becoming a high-functioning, cohesive and motivated team? What does a cohesive team look like? How do we know? Where’s the evidence?
My first reflective action was to determine the behaviours that are indicative of a cohesive team and I drew upon Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (2002) a model as it have been actively promoted across the school prior to my arrival.
Below is the iconic Lencinoni Pyramid:
I also used The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes and Pozner) as a guide for implementing practices and found many similarities with Lencioni.  The five key practices are:
The-Five-Practices-of-Exemplary-Leadership
The evidence
My main evidence comprised: observations, conversations from our Annual Review Process, informal discussions and through a short survey with a number of team members.
The following is a visualised of the comments and observations in a word cloud. [SIDE NOTE: I use word clouds with students to get them to summarise text and sources and have them write down a prominent emerging sentence which in this case might be:  “Group members support team work”.]
The evidence indicates that the team has emerged as high-functioning and when I presented this at our Annual Retreat, there were many comments from the leadership team that supported this claim.
What did I learn?
So how did this happen? What actions did I, as a leader, take to grow this team? What were some of the strategies? Can we replicate this? What will I need to do next year to on-board new team members?
The following are some of the actions and comments that outline some of the key actions and strategies that worked this year:
Building a Committed Team through an inspired vision: The department has been provided with clear direction and development. Communication is very open and questions may be asked at any time.
Encouraging Conflict – Challenge the Process
  • Lively, entertaining meetings/work place environment make critical issues visible for discussion
  • The sustained use of data walls and collective discussions highlight areas for intervention.
  • Meetings are practical, useful, collaborative, and provide interesting insight into other subjects within the group.
  • Problems are identified quickly due to a free interchange of objective views on approaches being taken
  • Colleagues are free to promote, accept, modify, and challenge views on approaches in order to push for continued improvement and problem-solving.
Building trusting relationships by being open and accessible:
  • Developing strong insight into the unique characteristics of team members through observing and listening through the formal annual performance process and through informal interactions.
  • Following through – making sure that I follow up and get back to individuals. I use a small book that I carry everywhere and make a point of opening writing and referring to my notes in the book,, being accessible and demonstrating credibility 
  • Encouraging the heart (Kouzes and Posner) by recognising contributions from the team and seeking out individuals to acknowledge their achievements (celebrating small wins is very powerful tool in a long journey).
  • Including a good news item in each team meeting & supporting team social events.

Next Steps: Next year, with the introduction of Year 7, MYP and a new DP subject, we will certainly be busy. There will be new challenges as we grow our team and onboard new staff members. I will revisit Kouzes and Posner and Lencioni to refine the processes as we develop our newer and expanded expert teaching team.

Improving Student Learning Outcomes in IBDP Business Management: A mini case study

One of our big success stories this year has been the turnaround of our IBDP High Level Business Management results. At the beginning of the year, our data showed that a number of our second year students (DP2) across four classes were at risk of underperforming in the final exams. My role was to lead the teaching team through a process to get our results back on track by putting together and implementing an action plan.  The following is my reflection of the process and an attempt to explain why this process was effective.
The starting point for this school improvement journey was a collaborative process of gathering rich information about the factors impacting on students’ outcomes – the scan and assess stage.  We examined what had happened (the past) and what is currently happening (the present) in order to set expectations/targets (envisioning the future). We examined the results, breaking down into components, looking at the cohort as a whole, individual classes and drilling down to each student. We looked for patterns and in/consistencies in areas such as teaching teams, resources, work programs, delivery of program, diversity of learners.
Cycle of inquiry diagram
From this we the prioritised and determined what practices and actions needed. We were very clear to understand WHY, before we moved to the WHAT and the HOW.
A summary of the actions taken were:
  • Identifying individuals in the team to take responsibility for various actions, for example, one teacher took responsibility for monitoring attendance of students attending our Learning Enhancement program (LE) which is a 2:1 alumni tutoring program to follow up student attendance.
  • Increasing support for lift students (students performing at a low level 4 or below) through the LE program, for example on teacher observed the alumni tutors in LE program and then provided guidance for the tutors to enhance the effectiveness of the tutorial sessions
  • Analysis and review of formative assessments and work programs to determine strengths and areas for development. For example, introducing a rigorous and reliable moderation process for the internal assessment to ensure consistency across all classes.
  • Working with students to develop their own Personal Learning Programs (PLPs) allowing for a narrow and sharp focus on their learning (increasing student efficacy)
  • Using PLPs and results from student feedback surveys (known as student voice) to developing specific plans, know as Subject Development Action Plans (SDAPS) for each of the four classes to differentiate and accomodate the learning needs of individual students, for example, for students who struggled with the content, developing personalised exam techniques such as revising definitions and content to maximise achievement by focusing on knowledge & understanding style questions before attempting the more complex extended responses that required synthesis and evaluation. 
  • Based on the PLPs and SDAPS, researching and implementing differentiated pedagogical strategies such as grouping of students in collaborative activities to leverage the expertise of the stretch students (high performing students) to support/coach/aid lift students. 
  • Empowering Senior Teachers to mentoring colleagues new to the IB through team seating, opportunities for collaboration to enhance team building and co-planning to ensure consistency between classes leading to the development of differentiated strategies for lift (students performing at a low level 4 or below) and stretch (students performing at a level 6 or 7) students. 
  • Effective analysis of data with continual review of walls and headline indicators, tracking cohorts and individual students triangulated with data and information recorded in the students information system (OneSchool) to find general patterns and stories of each student. For example, by identifying a number of students with English as a Second language who were underperforming, we were able to identify learning strategies to support their needs such as use of ‘traffic lighting’ vocabulary lists. 
  • Prioritising time to review, reflect and update action plan through allocation of time in faculty (Synergy) sessions and organisation of meetings during non-contact times leading to extensive documentation of process and is as a valuable resource for developing/sharing practices within and beyond the team.
Results:
Our aspirational target for the cohort is a GPA 5.69 (out of 7).
Term 4 2017 Results: GPA 4.82; Stretch 31%; lift 82%
Term 1 2018 Results: 4.90; Stretch 33%; lift 86% (commencement of the Action Plan)
Term 2 2018 Results: 5.35; Stretch 48%; lift 94%
Term 3 2018 Results: 5:49; Stretch 62%; lift 87%
Going into the November examinations,  16% above our target for Stretch, on track for the aspirational GPA target (5.69) and with the individualised student action plans, we are aiming for 100% lift in line with our EIA target (100% of graduating students will achieve a minimum or 12 points across HL).
Analysis:
Why or to what extend was the plan effective? As a team, we have been discussing these questions at length and we have currently highlighted two key factors/influences that have high effect sizes as measured by Hattie.
collective-teacher-efficacy-1-57-effect-size-john-hattie-visible-learning
Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE ) is the belief that it is us, the teachers, that make a difference. The concept was introduced  in the 1990s by Albert Bandura which he defines as  “a group’s shared belief in the conjoint capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given levels of attainment.”   Hattie emphasises, as does Bandura, that the positive effects of CTE  on learning outcomes far outweigh the negative effects of low socioeconomic status of students. As Hattie ranks CTE  at the top with an effect size of 1.57 (with 0.4 being the hinge point), this may explain why our action plan was so effective (see here for a more detailed account).
Teacher Credibility which, according to Hattie, is vital to learning as students are very perceptive about knowing which teachers can make a difference (0.90).  Hattie defines credibility as  trust, competence, dynamism and immediacy. As a team, we were all responsible for each of our BM students no matter what class they were in and throughout the year, as we all knew the students (made visible through our data walls, and through co-planning & co-teaching), we were all able to make emotional deposits with individual students and build trusting relationships so they knew we cared about them personally and about how they learn.   The team developed as an expert teaching team, competent with the subject matter and managing class behaviour. and  through the team’s passion about the subject, about teaching and most importantly helping students to succeed.
Our task now is to collect evidence/data other than our own professional observations and anecdotal interactions with students to determine if our analysis is valid.

Why Blog? The WHY and the HOW in a High School Setting

Currently I am in the process of applying for a position in State Education in Queensland. As part of the journey and to prepare for my interview, I am revisiting some of the work that I have done over the past few years and curating here.

Here is a presentation that I put together to share @FriedEnglish101 and her team at UWCSEA. This is based on the work that I did as part of my MEd on Connectivism and Blogging.

Pedagogical innovation using technology: Owston’s explanatory model of sustainability

Contextual factors that sustain innovative pedagogical practice using technology

There are many models for change; however, Owston’s paper is one that I keep revisiting and sharing. A few years ago @sbradshaw and I presented this model through the lens of two  innovations that we had brought in at WAB as we looked for reasons for the success of our 1:1 laptop program and our failure with Interactive Whiteboards.

This is a quick post what will act as a place for me to find and revisit this paper and graphic.

Abstract:

Pedagogical innovation—whether involving technology or not—is shaped by a complex interaction of the innovation with contextual factors such as school and school district policy, leadership, cultural norms and values, teacher attitudes and skills, and student characteristics. This study examined school and classroom contexts in which pedagogical innovations employing technology were successfully sustained. Data were obtained from 59 cases drawn from the Second Information Technology in Education Study—Module 2, a project that examined 174 cases of innovative pedagogical practice in schools in 28 countries. An explanatory model of sustainability was derived from a qualitative analysis of the cases using grounded theory techniques. Essential conditions for the sustainability of classroom innovation were teacher and student support of the innovation, teacher perceived value of the innovation, teacher professional development, and principal approval. Contributing factors for sustainability were supportive plans and policies, funding, innovation champions, and internal and external recognition and support.

Reference

Owston, R. (2007). Contextual factors that sustain innovative pedagogical practice using technology: An international study. Journal of Educational Change (Vol. 8). http://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-006-9006-6

Case Study Proposal: The Affordances of Digital Tools for the Self-Directed Learner

Background

The Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) defines self-directed learning as ‘teaching students how to learn for themselves . . . [where] learners take responsibility to set goals, access resources and choose strategies for learning’ (2016, para. 2). To support the shift towards a culture of self-directed learning (SDL), high school students are provided with many opportunities for SDL experiences such as three 70-minute blocks of non-contract time in school each week. McLoughlin & Lee (2010) suggest learning technologies in conjunction with appropriate strategies afford greater agency to the student by allowing autonomy, a key characteristic of SDL (Du Toit-Brits & Van Zyl, 2017) through, for example, the promotion of social and participatory learning experiences and the use of rich digital media. WAB is technology-rich school where students and faculty have access to a wide range of digital tools and systems, many of which could or have already been purposely configured to support self-directed learning experiences.

Research Question

How, and to what extent, can digital tools support self-directed learning experiences in a high school?

Expected Outcomes

  1. Insight into the characteristics and attitudes of a self-directed learner (Du Toit-Brits & Van Zyl, 2017).
  2. An understanding of the types of digital tools, in conjunction with appropriate strategies, that support self directed learning experiences (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010; Robertson, 2011; Song & Hill, 2007) leading to the creation of a SDL Digital Tools & Strategies Map.
  3. Exploration of what and how digital tools currently support students involved in SDL at WAB.
  4. Insight into the challenges and barriers faced by students in using digital tools to support SDL in general and specifically at WAB (Lee, Tsai, Chai, & Koh, 2014).
  5. Recommendations to promote the use of digital tools at WAB, and potentially for high schools in general, to support self-directed learning that may include new tools, coaching and training for teachers and students, repurposing existing tools, training guides.

Proposed Research Plan

Dates Tasks Resources
Aug 11 Submit case study proposal submission

Continue literature review/scan to define self-directed learning and the general features, skills and/or characteristics.

Journals, blogs
Aug 20 Continue literature review/scan

Formulate draft of SDL definition and skills for SDL

Discuss with WAB curriculum leaders (f2f) and with PLN (online)

Refine SDL definition and skills.

Participatory research may include: use of Twitter for discussion, posting of blog post for feedback from PLN, face-to-face interviews.
Aug 27 Create SDL Digital Tool & Strategies Map: Use secondary research and consult with PLN to create map of types of digital tools and strategies to support skills for SDL

Compile list of digital tools at WAB that support SDL Digital Tool & Strategies Map.

Consult literature and PLN for SDL Digital Tool & Strategies Map.

At WAB: Interview(s) with eLearning team, IT support and other experts

Sep 3 Conduct interviews with 3-4 students to confirm/test WAB digital tool kit and to add further suggestions from students.

Analyse data to create a survey

Students TBD
Sep 10 – 17 Disseminate survey to student group and collect data Student group TBD

O365 forms

Sep 24 CHINA STUDIES WEEK – No students on campus
Oct 1 – 11 Analyse data, write up findings and after discussions with experts, determine the recommendations

Final edit and proofing of report

Oct 11 Submit Case Study Report

References

Du Toit-Brits, C., & Van Zyl, C.-M. (2017). Self-directed learning characteristics: making learning personal, empowering and successful. Africa Education Review, 1–20. http://doi.org/10.1080/18146627.2016.1267576

Lee, K., Tsai, P.-S., Chai, C. S., & Koh, J. H. L. (2014). Students’ perceptions of self-directed learning and collaborative learning with and without technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(5), 425–437. http://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12055

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2010). Personalised and self-regulated learning in the Web2.0 era: International exemplars of innovative pedagogy using social software. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(1), 28–43. http://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.1100

Robertson, J. (2011). The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning. Computers and Education, 57(2), 1628–1644. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2011.03.003

Song, L., & Hill, J. R. (2007). A Conceptual Model for Understanding Self-Directed Learning in Online Environments. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 6(1), 27–42.

Western Academy of Beijing (Ed.). (2016). Targets. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://blogs.wab.edu/flow21/the-targets/

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/he-boden/1676660521

Embarking on a Case Study: Looking at Self-Directed Learning (SDL)

I am presenting a case study for my final assignment in my final subject in my MEd KNDI where I will be examining the extent to which our students entering the High School are prepared for self-directed learning (SDL). The following are some of my reflections as I start this journey.

Interpretation: an essential component of research

One of the first preparation readings provides good examples to show what research is and, more importantly, what it isn’t. I know that I need to learn more about SDL and as tempted as I am to suggest that a quick scan of journals and websites might be described as research, in reality this is just a quick dive or perhaps ‘information discovery’ (Leedy P. & Ormrod, 2013, p. 1). As I rummage around further in the readings to cobble together a better understanding of SDL, this is still not research but an ‘exercise in self-enlightenment’ (p. 2). Even when I pull out and begin to form a list of characteristic and features of a self-directed learner, this is still not research but perhaps more aptly described as ‘fact organisation’ (p. 2). According to Leedy & Ormrod (2013), the essence of research is the interpretation which is something I have yet to do with this data.

Cognation vs Metacognition

In my readings, I discover that both cognitive and metacognitive strategies are both important characteristics of SDL. What, therefore, is the difference between these two terms? A great example is given here on a website (Cognition vs. Metacognition) that does lack authority (see the citation below); however this example was somewhat supported after a another quick scan (Anderson, Betts, Ferris, & Fincham, 2011). A cognitive task may be to use find the sum of a set of numbers. A metacognitive task may be to add the numbers up again. The cognitive task is knowing how to reach the goal, in this case add up the numbers, whereas the metacognitive task is to check that the goal has been reached, in this case check the answer. Therefore, for my case study, I may need to gather data on both cognitive and metacognitive strategies which I will then need to analyse and interpret to determine the level of readiness for SDL.

References

Anderson, J. R., Betts, S., Ferris, J. L., & Fincham, J. M. (2011). Cognitive and Metacognitive Activity in Mathematical Problem Solving: Prefrontal and Parietal Patterns. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 11(1), 52–67. http://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-010-0011-0

Cognition vs. Metacognition. (n.d.). Retrieved August 09, 2017, from http://whenmotivationmeetsmetacognition.weebly.com/cognition-vs-metacognition.html

Leedy P., & Ormrod, J. (2013). The nature and tools of research. In Practical research : planning and design (pp. 1–26).

Featured Image: https://flic.kr/p/nXubkZ

This entry is an slightly edited version of the post in my CSU blog. 

Making sense: digging deeper, classifying & visualising


I’m on my last subject in my MEd Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation at Charles Sturt University. This week in the readings, the online discussions and the colloquium with Bruce Dixon, I came across a range of terms, concepts and practices that initially seemed unfamiliar to me. It was like these were jigsaw pieces that seemed to have strayed from other puzzles. So I’ve been doing some digging to try to fit these pieces into this dynamic and evolving mental map of my learning and find that many of these were known to me albeit in other guises or ‘unnamed’. Here are some examples:

Socratic Circles Augmented with Technology

The readings touch the use of Twitter in socratic circles, using the tool as a shared platform for ‘back channel’ device for wider commentary. This was certainly something we experienced with in Monday’s colloquium where there was a lot of commentary and questions posed; however, one point to note was from @hunch_box (https://twitter.com/hunch_box) about the potential distraction of the back channel in that we may lose our focus on the discussion.

Backchanneling is hard for me, I can only focus on one thing at once. I think research supports this on multitasking?

With socratic circles, the learning experience comes from the inner circle and the discussion in the outer circle moves the class forward through the stages of reflection, self-assessment and goal setting (Copeland, 2005, p. 77). As we experienced in our colloquium, a shift occurs when technology is introduced. Of course this experience was not set up as a traditional socratic seminar; however, we can note that the outer circle discussion was in real time and simultaneous with the inner circle discussion and the inner circle was a mix of slides, oral debate/comments and questions and comments added to the chat. Therefore the chat tool, a key tool for the outer circle, allowed the communication to be synchronous and visible to all participants with far more agility in moving the conversations forward, branching in different directions and, most importantly, perhaps, responding to the needs and questions of the participants. Circling back to the distraction element, if we experienced this in a more traditional setting would the conversation move more quickly? Would we have more or less take-aways? Would our learning experience be more or less richer? This is something I would like to explore with my students in the future.

Visualising Learning

To make connections and make sense of the learning experiences presented to me, I often have to reformat, remix or mash up elements. I wanted to see if there were any central or recurring concepts in our back channel and so took the rtf of the dialogue from the chat of our colloquium with Bruce, removed all the names and any keywords that dealt with the mechanics of the session (for example, sound, thanks, mic) and then put into a word cloud (below). I’m not sure if there is anything significant that stands out in the cloud. Besides the obvious LEARNING, STUDENTS, TEACHERS and SCHOOL, SCAFFOLD prompted me to revisit that non-linear discussion of the challenges of over-scaffolding versus providing new directions for students; likewise, the term FAILURE prompted me to revisit the discussion (just search for FAIL in the rtf and you will see the discussion intermingled with other threads and themes) where the tension was raised between students’ negative perception of failure versus the positive role of failure in the learning process. Overall, for me, sometimes making a conversation visible using a cloud generation tool, such as tagcrowd, can often trigger further thought and connections.

Open Learning
This is a new term for me and was posed in the colloquium and in the discussion forum:

The term ‘open learners’ is replacing the term ‘21st century learners’. What does the term ‘open learners’ mean to you – and is it a useful term?

I am wondering if this is a term that is used widely in Australia or I have missed/ignored it up until now.These are my initial questions:

  1. What is an ‘open learner’?
  2. What are the characteristics of an open learner?
  3. Where did the term come from?
  4. Where is the term being used?
  5. What is the connection (if any) between an open learner and/or open learner models and/or open learning?

Interestingly, others jumped in with some confirming that they too were unclear. Although it’s early days, this certainly is a lively and responsive group and so it’s interesting to note the lack of immediate replies with the exception of a reference to the paper Beyond Learning- as-Usual: Connected Learning among open Learners passed by @lisanash9. Although there was no explicit definition, the initial mini-case study revealed open learning through this example:

Reflective Blogging
The paper from Ross was an interesting but quite challenging read as I struggle with the rich scholarly vocabulary and I want to explore her work further to get a better understanding of the concepts of spectacle and placeholder in reflection. What resonated with me was how she linked tags to wormholes:

Each time I reuse a tag – knowingly or unknowingly – I am producing a link, a wormhole between my experiences and present and someone else’s (which might be a past self) (Ross, 2012, p. 263).

I have had a blog since 2010 but rarely have I used tags effectively although I do revisit posts to see how my thinking has developed or changed over the years. In #inf530, my final assignment (Connectivism in a K-12 Blogging Environment) looked at the role of blogs in a K-12 connectivist learning environment and have since presented this in two k-12 conferences; however, despite the availability of blogs and online environments for learning (in international schools, which is my area of practice), I do think that blogging has a long way to go before we see it as an embedded and sustainable practice with students. As I prepare for the new academic year, I really do want to rethink the approach to blogging with students, by exploring further.

References
Carfagna, L. (2014). Beyond Learning-As-Usual: Connected Learning Among Open Learners. Irvine, Ca. Retrieved from http://dmlhub.net/publications/beyond-learning-usual-connected-learning-among-open-learners/

Copeland, M. (2005). Socratic circles : fostering critical and creative thinking in middle and high school. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au

Ross, J. (2012). The spectacle and the placeholder: digital futures for reflective practices in higher education. {…} of the 8th International Conference on {…}, 260–265.

This entry is an slightly edited version of the post in my CSU blog.

Image: Creative Common from https://www.kijiji.it/speciali/blog/

Days 7 & 8: Temples 21 to 23

Lots more walking up to temples and down into valleys and then back up again. Thank goodness for leg support socks, a knee sock and a big stick – protecting my legs on the inside trying not to tear a ligament and on the outside – fear of  those pesky snakes – unlike Crocodile Dundee with me who just wears shorts.


Some wildlife:

And some images around the temples:

And some lovely views now we are at the coast:

Days 5 and 6: I think

The signposting is not great and we’ve got seriously lost in the past couple of days. Yesterday we decided to take a more obscure route over a mountain instead of through a city/town and ended up hiking up and up and thinking we had definitely got higher than 140m and eventually came out on a road and ended up walking for miles down the hill only to find we had gone completely wrong. Damage: about US$25 for about 10km ride! Today was the same, we were supposed to start at temple 18 but somehow missed it and had to come back on ourselves then we did it again at temple 19 and somehow manage to bypass it without noticing in the pouring rain. This time we were given a ride back to the temple from the service station. Then off again to temple 20 and looking forward to getting some snacks at Lawson (like a 7-11) and it was closed! However, one again a young man on his moped helped us out – asked us to wait 5 minutes and went and got his car and drove us 5km to the next 7-11 type store. For our final challenge up to temple 20 – a mere 550m climb – I decided to take my chances on the 5.5km wiggly road and let Stephen race up the 3.5km walking track (more like ladder). I won! I cheated as a kind old man stopped and offered me a lift straight up to the temple door! Had a lovely hour lying on a bench, drying out my shoes and socks and listening to BBC podcasts! Here are a few photos:


Days 3 & 4: From Temple 11 – 13

I have to say that had I known what was in front of me, I would never have done these two days! To get from 11 to 12 was about 12.8km BUT required a three massive consecutive climbs with no break in between. From temple 11 was a climb up to 600+m then down to 500m then back up to 800m then down again this time to 400m then back up to 700+m to temple 12 then another descent to our ryokan at what seemed like below sea level! It was supposed to be about 16km all up – but my iPhone recorded 22.3km. 


Not feeling amused! This was a killer!


The next day was not as bad but slow – we had to do one small climb then the rest of the day on the flat but my legs were sore! 

A lovey Japanese man gave us these bags of lollies and crackers – it was like Christmas!