This week has been a week of learning. We spent a day in a poverty simulation, a day with McREL building an understanding for writing across the curriculum, a few days at School Administrators of Iowa Annual Conference, and a day diving deeper into Sheltered Instruction Observational Protocol. My mind is swimming with the great things we are doing and the things we must do to leverage our resources and focus to address our needs.
My takeaway learning that has shaped my vision for the upcoming school year is grounded in three major areas: Teacher Input and Collective Efficacy, Collaborative Leadership, and Feedback for Learning.
Teacher Input and Collective Efficacy
Our teachers know I struggle at delegation. This is true in both thought and action. I struggle at handing over tasks that I know I can do and do well. Handing things over will help us achieve our goals. First brought up through our work this week with McREL in our Writing Across the Curriculum foundation work, we discussed what we can do as a team that we cannot do alone. I must give up the idea of "being the one" to improve student achievement. The first thing that must be done is to improve the avenues for teacher input in the academic program of our school. This will be more evident on the first day back with teachers. By increasing teacher input, we should simultaneously increase our school's collective efficacy.
At the right is a picture from @PeterMDeWitt and his research on collaborative leadership and visible learning. The "Collaborative Leadership Framework" illustrates the four quadrants of instructional leadership and places leadership styles along the continuum of partnerships and outcomes. Using this model, I am a negotiator. I revel in "knowing" the best practice and what must happen to get it done. I work tirelessly to achieve the goal and usually without delegating and doing it alone. Creating teacher buy-in (through input and conversations), student learning will improve. When teachers believe they make a difference, that their peers are competent in curriculum and instruction, our school will be better place for student to learn and grow because it is a better place where teachers learn and grow.
Feedback for Learning
A common theme this summer, in the sessions I attended at SAI and journals/books/blogs I read, has been the decline in the usefulness teachers are experiencing with observations and the evaluation process. It has also become evident in the conversations I have had with teachers. Just this week an EDWeek Blog addressed the topic (Click Here to read that blog). The current process for many schools, including our own, has become more of a task of compliance than of growth or reflection. Our leadership team has reflected on the process by which we use observations and evaluations to enhance student learning and teacher performance. Through team meetings, we have decided to pursue an enhance process to make the observation and evaluation cycle more meaningful. Michael Fullan states that collaborative cultures where the focus is on improving teacher practice, where teachers learn from on another, and ones that are "well-led and supported" by the principal, are the most effective in closing the achievement gap (Learning is the Work). This requires principals to provide feedback on three main areas: teacher collaboration, implementation of professional development in the classroom, and teacher reflection. We understand that feedback focused on things that matter (Hattie's work shows that formative feedback for teachers has an effect size of 0.9) will have a substantial impact. Those things that matter are planning, instruction, and assessment.
Ryan Dumkrieger is the principal of Sioux City North High School.