Exploring the key role played by school leaders in relation to educational change
Relevant Australian Professional Standards for Teachers: 3.2; 3.4; 3.6; 3.7; 4.5; Professional standards expected for Principals: Leading improvement; Innovation and Change (AITSL, 2014)
This chapter will examine the essential role of school leadership in delivering meaningful change and improvement in schools. While it is clear the greatest effects in student achievement come from the quality of teaching, the behaviours and actions of school leaders is increasingly understood as a prerequisite to quality teaching. The effects leaders have on student learning will be explored by discussing how school leadership is being defined by governments and educational authorities. Recent studies have made explicit what actions school leaders should undertake to positively impact student results. The chapter will further examine some shortfalls with current thinking on educational change. While incremental improvements can be achieved, there arc many forces working at maintaining the status quo in schools. The rapidly changing world demands more than incremental change and school leaders need to apply the best of what is known to bring about significant change. The chapter will conclude by presenting a methodology for school leaders to apply that will provide insights into a school’s readiness for change referencing a growing understanding of Talent Management theory, in particular, how meaningful change can be enacted in complex environments with highly skilled professionals.
Chapter 1 outlined a profile of exponential change having occurred in society through four industrial revolutions. It concluded by stating that technological innovation and convergence has transformed every aspect of modem society and life, placing significant pressures on schools and teachers to realign the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of education to better fit students to this changed global profile. Chapter 1 further revealed that despite a profile of profound and fundamental societal change, the organisation and positioning of schools remains relatively unchanged. This theme, of change needed in schools and teaching, continued into Chapter 2, where it was revealed that a rhetoric of change abounds, yet the results of change attempts appear to coalesce around teachers doing largely the same things in their classrooms and lamenting yet another education fad. Perhaps these arc harsh words, and we do admit that there arc pockets of innovation occurring in some schools, but these examples are in the vast minority and therefore we view this situation as a fundamental puzzle given the world in which schools now operate.
In this chapter, we explore the key role that school leaders play in transforming schools. The central goal of the chapter is to explain and locate the school leader as the main agent in a change agenda focused on introducing Blended Learning. The chapter commences with a brief review of the literature around school leadership. This expose seeks to highlight the potency of effective school leaders, and to identify the attributes that effective leaders bring to successful change agendas. In order to scaffold the school leader into the Blended Learning agenda, and to explain how the effective school leader plans and executes their Blended Learning agenda, the concept of Talent Management is then reintroduced from Chapter 2. From this perspective we present the argument that effective school leaders are focused on nurturing and positioning their school staffing ‘Talent’ by creating states of alignment, capability and engagement (ACE), thus enabling their teachers to innovate, create and problem solve as key knowledge workers in a Knowledge Economy circumstance.
To conclude this chapter, we examine the premise of a new leadership mindset. The simple message is that the strategies and insights revealed in this chapter represent and require a new mindset for effect, a mindset that comes to see the world differently and to consider new things in a new light (Kascr & Halbert, 2009). Wc commence our outlining with an insight into effective school leadership.
Impact of school leadership
The central tenet of this book is locating Blended Learning into the curriculum of the school so as to generate required teaching capacities, but significantly, to engineer a schooling logic that best meets the profile of a society enmeshed in a fourth industrial revolution context, or what is commonly referred to as a Knowledge Economy. Our central argument is that in order to generate such change, leadership must be activated to achieve school improvement. Leadership, we argue, is a key focus in all school change agendas because, as Leithwood et al. (2008) note, ‘there is not a single documented case of a school successfully turning around its pupil achievement trajectory in the absence of talented leadership’ (p. 29). This view is also supported by Robinson ct al. (2008), who found that ‘the more leaders focus their relationships, their work, and their learning on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater their influence on student outcomes’ (p. 21). In summary, school management, leadership, and improvement are particularly important when it comes to school reform with leadership considered second only to classroom instruction as an influence on student learning (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012; Hattie, 2009; Louis ct al., 2010; Lynch et al., 2019).
The emphasis on leadership has been influenced by a wide range of studies which demonstrate leadership impact on student outcomes. For example, Macklin and Zbar (2017) argue that improvement stands or falls on school leadership and what it docs. Further, Leithwood (2013) found that certain practices which were useful for most successful leaders, were also important where instructional improvement was the goal, that is, ‘setting directions, developing people, redesigning the organisation and managing the instructional program’ (p. 636).
The importance of school leadership to school improvement requires further empirical research as well. In this respect, groundbreaking research work by Marzano et al. (2005) found that only 69 of 5,000 studies into school leadership over the previous 35 years had closely examined ‘the quantitative relationship between school leadership and the academic achievement of students’ (p. 6), and these studies provided clear indications of the behaviours needed for leaders to influence student outcomes. Of importance is that these influential leadership behaviours were those required for what is known as sccond-ordcr change (Marzano ct al., 2005, p. 113), that is, change that is perceived as a break from the past. Second-order-changc behaviours were shown to make a notable difference to student learning and included: affirmation, change agency, flexibility, ideals and beliefs, intellectual stimulation, knowledge of curriculum, instruction and assessment, monitoring and evaluating, and inspiring and leading innovation (Marzano et ah, 2005, pp. 42-43).
In their meta-analysis of research on school leadership and student outcomes, Robinson, Hohepa and Lloyd (2009, p. 656) revealed five key dimensions of leader impact on student outcomes (effect size in brackets):
- • Establishing goals and expectations (0.42)
- • Resourcing strategically (0.31)
- • Planning, coordinating, and evaluating teaching and the curriculum (0.42)
- • Promoting and participating in teacher learning and development (0.84)
- • Ensuring an orderly and supporting environment (0.27).
These dimensions are consistent with the view that leaders play an important role in the improvement of teaching quality and student learning by facilitating ‘organisational readiness’ for change (Lynch ct ah, 2019; Schiemann, 2014). In analysing the dimension with the largest effect, ‘promoting and participating in teacher learning and development’ (p. 39) with an effect size of 0.84, it is interesting to note that this involves the leader participating in and with teacher learning and development. Dinham (2016, p. 153) notes that these findings have also been reflected in several studies in the United Kingdom and Australia. This focus on the leader’s role working with teachers to promote school improvement demonstrated by better student performance also suggests that working with teachers to promote their alignment, capability and engagement optimises student academic performance (Lynch ct ah, 2019). We explore these three states in greater detail in a section which follows.
It is also interesting to note, however, that in a recent study Moir et ah (2014) suggested teachers preferred Transformational Leadership. Transformational Leadership is a term which has appeared predominantly in education writings since the 1980s (Leithwood et ah, 1996; Thomas et ah, 2020). This type of leader is said to demonstrate high levels of interpersonal skills, such as trust, which deepened their commitment to the school and who place a premium on student achievement. The Transformational Leader is one who empowers teachers to improve from within and engages staff to think about continuous improvement. In simple terms, this type of school leader seeks to make things better by promoting genuine collaboration between teachers and members of the community (Thomas ct ah, 2020).
We further note that an environment of continuous school improvement does not occur by chance. Lynch et ah (2019), Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) and Hallinger and Heck (2010) all argue that improvement largely depends on the leadership provided by the hcad-of-school, and this remains constant whether this leadership occurs in new schools or in reforming and rc-activaling existing schools. The energy and input of the school leader is a decisive influence in initiating, enhancing and sustaining school improvement (Kaser & Halbert, 2009). Moreover, according to Elmore (2004, p. 113), incentives that focus only on accountability have virtually no relationship to ‘the knowledge and practice of improvement’. Taken together, one can appreciate that Transformational Leadership represents a leadership approach or ‘style’ that is able to capture the requisite skills for Talent Management. This marks Transformational Leadership as an appropriate form of leadership for leading the change management elements that normally take place in conjunction with a school improvement initiative, whether this involves Blended Leaning or any other type of change basis. For this reason, we will examine Transformational Leadership in more detail prior to moving onto the relationship between this leadership style and Talent Management.
Transformational school leadership
According to Yahaya and Ebrahim (2016), and Wang and Howell (2010), understanding the transformational school leader requires a review of their distinctive attributes. For example, one set of transfonnational attributes has to do with the strategic organisation of key elements within the school, which can be understood as ‘transactional’ attributes. Another is how the leader acts, presents him-or-herself to situations and thus is perceived by their teachers. This set of attributes comes to represent a characteristic approach to staff, representing ‘approach to leadership’ attributes. When taken together, these attribute ‘sets’ allow Transfonnational Leaders to provide deeper levels of connection and higher levels of commitment, performance, and morality for both themselves and their teachers (Bums, 1978, 2003). Table 5.1 illustrates these two sets of transfonnational attributes.
Having completed a brief expose into the effects of the school leader and the notion of a Transformational Leader, the task now is to locate such insights into a strategy for preparing, enabling and supporting teachers into a Blended Learning schooling context. The key point here is that, by looking at the range of leadership responsibilities which influence student learning, research supports the position that for changes to occur in schools, and in turn for improvement to occur in student learning, school leaders need to influence the ‘organisational readiness’ of the school’s staff (Lynch et al., 2019; Schiemann, 2012). Following Sehiemann (2012), this means ‘optimisation of the Talent’ amongst the teaching body, and it involves the leader working with staff as a Transfonnational Leader by developing the required states of alignment, capability and engagement that optimisation requires in each member. We argue that these elements arc the cornerstone of how Talent is managed effectively in relation to preparing a school for improvement, managing for successful change during the improvement implementation, and ensuring that the improvement is sustainable. In this regard, the notion of Talent Management lies at the heart of being a Transformational Leader when it comes to successful and sustainable school improvement.
Table 5.1 Attributes of the Transfonnational Leader
Set one: Transactional attributes
Set two: Approach to leadership
(Adapted from Wang & Howell, 2010; Yahaya & Ebrahim, 2016)
Talent management as a means to create effective sustainable change
In Chapter 2, we introduced the concept of Talent Management. The Talent Management logic is a repositioning of the school’s leadership and management functions, from a preoccupation with managing static systems and processes, as traditional schooling seeks to maintain, towards identifying, nurturing and positioning the Talent that resides within an organisation for overall strategic effect. From this perspective, we can understand Talent as a natural aptitude that someone holds, an inner quality that emerges effortlessly when cultivated within the appropriate circumstances. Talent can be viewed as the confluence of collective competencies, knowledge, experiences, values and beliefs, energies and behaviours which manifest in an individual, and when actively positioned within the organisation spawns innovation, enables unique problems to be solved and new possibilities to be identified and acted upon (Schicmann, 2012, p. 37). In essence, Talent Management represents an overall transformation of the workplace, wherein the manager’s focus moves from labour oversight and supervision to talent enablement, placing a premium on the potentials that ‘knowledge work’ offers in a Knowledge Economy era. The case has been made that this is now needed in schools (North & Gueldenbcrg, 2011), which in the current circumstances surrounding this book, we sec as entirely applicable.
Having made these introductory statements about Talent Management, we now make a set of key contextual statements to locate Talent Management in the agenda of transforming a school through Blended Learning. These are intended as ‘seed’ statements here because they arc being introduced in order to pave the way for the more detailed Blended Learning preparations that are provided in Chapter 7 of this book. However, it is important to include these ideas here as well, because this will allow the reader to more clearly understand how the various relationships between teachers, school leaders, school students and educational researchers correspond and interact with one another in support of a successful Blended Learning program.
Talent management and Blended Learning
Blended Learning, as outlined in Chapters 3 and 6, comes to represent a strategic initiative that is designed to couple the traditional classroom teaching logic with technological innovation as represented by information communication technologies. This coupling is, in effect, a transition mechanism whereby the traditions of explicit instruction or ‘chalk- and-talk’ pedagogies are enhanced, and greater capacities generated by strategically harnessing technology. In this manner, Blended Learning comes to represent the best of the analogue (first through third industrial revolutions) and digital worlds (fourth industrial revolution), but with a distinctive agenda to move schools into a new teaching and learning paradigm. This paradigm was presented in Chapter 3.
Talent Management is basically about how the school head or principal establishes, engenders and sustains continuous improvement in a school within a Knowledge Economy circumstance. Talent Management is enmeshed in a leadership mindset that places a premium on identifying, enabling and nurturing talent within the school so as to optimise improvement effects and, importantly, deal with the logistics and contingencies that manifest in all change agendas. Essentially, it is about how everything that is needed, is orchestrated for effect on school improvement and in a circumstance where staff are motivated and engaged to participate at an optimal level (Lynch et al., 2019). In addition, Talent Management seeks to establish the required conditions for teachers to create, innovate and problem-solve: to create conditions in which staff feel they can make mistakes but leam from them, and importantly, position themselves as key players in a major improvement agenda (Lynch et al., 2019).
In line with the ACE model of school readiness, the premise of Talent Management is built on the school leader establishing in all staff (because together they represent the global resource - that is, the capacity-package for the school), states of ‘alignment’, ‘capability’ and ‘engagement’. In more direct terms this is an inter-related combination of:
Alignment', the extent to which staff agree to and have a knowledge of (a) the goals and the associated strategies of the school as well as (b) the espoused values and expectations of stakeholders. This element is expressed in terms of ‘strategic plan' and ‘processes within the school’.
Capability: the extent of skills, technologies and associated processes that staff rely upon to effectively and efficiently complete their jobs. This element is expressed in terms of ‘staff capability factors’ and ‘resources available for staff to do their job’.
Engagement: the extent to which staff are working towards the goals and aspirations of the school. This can be understood as staff actually doing what they say they arc doing. This element is expressed in terms of staff satisfaction with the school as a workplace and ‘their commitment to the school’.
Importantly, Talent Management requires each component of school readiness (ACE) to be achieved at an optimal level in all staff before a change agenda can be first implemented and then sustained (in this case a whole-of-school Blended Learning initiative). The initiating process is essentially through alignment, because it is alignment that galvanises the potentials of Talent to ‘the plan’ (in schools, to the improvement agenda) and the associated processes that will need to be engineered to achieve it. Because a school has teaching and non-teaching staff, and thus different contributions being made to the improvement agenda, the scope and substance of what the leader is aligning staff to will differ for teaching and non-teaching staff, and in a teaching improvement sense will have more significance to key players such as teachers. Yet the technological side of Blended Learning will also require the specific efforts of support staff, especially IT specialists, for its associated implementation considerations. Our key message, however, is that the overall staff complement represents the school’s global resource, and if not aligned accordingly will result in pockets of sub-optimal performance and invariably conflicting agendas, miscommunications and misaligned processes. Ultimately this situation amounts to an ineffective and unsustainable project. Put another way: a successful Blended Learning agenda begins to live and thrive via aligning the collective talents of a school’s overall staff.
What does an aligned Blended Learning school look and feel like?
A school that is aligned is one where all staff members know what the school plans to achieve and why, and, further, where the staff understand, and thus accept and appreciate, that new organisational elements must come into play. That ‘change’ means they will have to personally change what they do to deal with it. In simple terms, the alignment phase is where everyone has ‘bought into’ the improvement agenda that has been planned. In this sense building alignment is not just about telling staff the agenda, rather it requires the seeding, collaborative building, nurturing and ongoing tending of a central proposition (the plan) to achieve full alignment effect. We can characterise the aligned school as having the following attributes:
- • Staff can articulate clearly what the school is aiming to achieve and demonstrate an excitement about what it means for them, their work and the school more generally.
- • Staff conversations transition from day-to-day ‘gripes and snipes’ to pieces that seek clarification, offer up suggestions and possibilities, and generally speak in positive terms about what could or should be.
- • Staff begin to locate the ‘proposition for change’ in terms of themselves and in doing so, begin to formulate conceptions of how they will position themselves to be part of the agenda. Staff in effect come to tenns with their existing ‘self-interest’ and thus see ‘their new place’ or ‘their new fit’.
- • As alignment consolidates in the school, the rhetoric of what ‘can’ and/or ‘should be’ gives way to tangible actioning of things that contribute to achieving the plan/ agenda. This level of alignment is reflected as ‘capability’ and ‘engagement’ elements. But they too have to be built and sustained.
Building states of alignment
Schools are busy places and basically continue to operate irrespective of any desire for a new plan of action. Couple this with long-established mindsets and ways of ‘doing business’, staff turnover, one begins to appreciate just how hard it is to create alignment and then, of course, sustain it. It is a bit like trying to repair a leaking hose while the tap is turned fully on. It requires some clever thinking and a great deal of perseverance. All of which is time-consuming, but inherently about innovating and problem-solving, which further implicates the role of the leader.
One can understand the building of alignment as a function chiefly of the school’s leadership. Effective leaders explain, motivate and enthuse their staff to consider new ideas and new propositions and, in doing so, they aim to galvanise staff to agreement and acceptance of a plan of action for change. There are a plethora of readings available on leadership, change management and the like. Each offers a perspective on the role of leaders, and thus we encourage further reading in these areas to fully appreciate what it means to be an effective school leader. Our view is that the Transformational Leader comes to represent the required leader attributes for sustainable change agendas, and that Blended Learning as a whole school project is an appropriate example of how this can be applied to the ACE model of school readiness. In this respect, the following steps are given to help clarify the procedural elements of leading for alignment:
The first step in building alignment as a leader is to personally reflect on the following questions and seek personal clarity and resolution to them:
- 1. Why are you seeking to implement Blended Learning? What is the compulsive agenda that motivates you to embark on such a plan?
- 2. Do you fully understand this compulsive agenda and appreciate where Blended Learning will take you (and the school)? What are your reference points (a data profile?) for such an agenda, and are they going to stand up to scrutiny?
- 3. What are your strengths as a leader? What are your weaknesses? Who around you will attend to the things that you are not good at? Who will constitute your leadership team?
- 4. What is the talent you have as a whole school? How will you unlock this talent and enable it to flourish?
The second step is to establish the conditions and arrangements for you as the leader to lead, and for 'designated others’ to attend to the day-to-day, routine yet critical, elements of school management. In simple terms, decide who will be the ‘Blended Learning Program Leader’ and ‘who’ (and how) this person will attend to the day-to-day management considerations. This latter point is an important consideration because it’s the day-to-day elements that will distract and cloud the performance of your Blended Learning plan. When the established system of things begins to fail, the blame falls on the new initiative, the focus of concern then moves and alignment comes undone. If you as the principal are not going to act as the Blended Learning Program Leader, then you need to ensure that you symbolically present yourself at key meetings to give the project authority and status, and to signal the project’s overall importance. Having said that, Blended Learning is a whole-of-school, central pedagogic strategy, and our advice is that the principal should lead this strategy, given its importance.
The third step is to appreciate that you now have to ‘sell’ the agenda for change to your staff. While ‘sell’ is a crude term in this context, the reality is that alignment is an acceptance and an agreement by each staff member to go on ‘a journey’ with you. In effect, you have a proposition to present to them (note how it is not presented as a fait accompli by calling it ‘the plan’). Your objective at the start is to get staff to sec it as a ‘viable proposition’. You will want their input to achieve it and hence ‘the plan’ is still to be finalised and confirmed. So, it’s a proposition (at this stage), and you want them ‘to buy into it’ completely. There are many published examples of how to manage a change agenda in schools. Seek personal development in leadership if required and position yourself to hear regular feedback on your performance and the ‘plan’s’ progress. Accept feedback as part and parcel of ultimate achievement. Don’t process feedback personally. It is very important to realise everyone is now in the same boat and feedback is thus how engagement and capability are ultimately built. In summary, the following are important outcomes for this step:
- • Achieve clarity on the intention and the outcome of change. Generate the ‘compulsive agenda for change’ (using existing data/trends to do this is a good strategy).
- • Invest personal leadership time to achieve deep change in staff.
- • Create avenues for staff to provide feedback on progress and opportunities for them to increase their understanding of what is planned and its implications.
- • Identify and develop key (talented) teachers as ‘change agents’ as they will be a powerful resource in such agendas. This circumstance comes to represent ‘other staff’ taking the lead on ‘sub projects’, and in doing so, you begin to build the required capabilities and ‘engagement’ factors of readiness. This also paves the way for an associated mentoring program to further support the change agenda via increased collaboration, which we will discuss in more detail in Chapters 7 and 8.
With these points in mind, the following are appreciable indicators of leading for alignment:
- • Alignment takes time to be achieved. Do not rush alignment.
- • Staff will always process a change agenda in terms of what it will mean for them. If they cannot see a ‘place in the sun’ or they think they have no way of re-establishing themselves in the new agenda, you effectively place yourself in a battle of many (staff) wills. The trend in schools to date has been that staff will simply out-wait the leader: and they invariably win when pushed. The leadership must consider the current ‘theories of action’ of the people who will experience the change. They must ‘engage’ the teachers in the change process when it is a significant or transformative change that. A purely rational argument may well result in teachers ‘bypassing’ the change necessary (Robinson, 2017).
- • Staff are rational people when they are engaged in critical conversations about what might be and why, especially when such ‘opportunities’ are well thought out, logical and focused to achieving clarity. The more ‘vocal staff’ are best met in informal one-on-one situations. You need to invest time in these types of people because they invariably arc able to gamer an audience of discontent and you will often find once ‘won over’ they can become some of your strongest ‘agents for change’. This reinforces the point about Transformational Leaders collaborating with staff on decision making.
- • Staff asking questions, no matter how ‘loaded’ they may seem, needs to be accepted as an established way of staff seeking to know more about the agenda. Treat questions as an insight and an opportunity to plan your next steps in alignment.
If you’ve already started the change agenda and it’s not working, start again. Start again by going back to the first step, as outlined in an earlier section. Constantly check on the school’s current state of alignment. Engagement provides a good way of checking on current alignment, and we discuss this element in a later section. First, however, we need to explain how to extend from alignment to capability.
Building states of capability
Capability is at the heart of all ‘Talent’ and thus ‘the ongoing concern’ of the school leader. As we outlined in Chapter 2, Stephenson (1999) defined capability as ‘an all-round human quality, an integration of knowledge, skills, personal qualities and understanding used appropriately and effectively - not just in familiar and highly focussed specialist contexts but in response to new and changing circumstances’ (1999, p. 2). While Talent is the foundation for knowledge work, it is capability that enables Talent to rise to a particular challenge and to succeed in unknown territory. While professional learning is a common occurrence in schools and a requirement of most teacher registration authorities, many such programs focus narrowly on information updates or train only to specific competencies. In many ways, professional learning in schools today can be described as highly transactional learning and development activities, exampled by a preoccupation with behaviour management, understanding system priorities and curriculum design and development (Lynch et al., 2015). This type of learning is in contrast to capability building, where the focus is on harnessing knowledge and skills that enable performance in unknown or fast-evolving circumstances. We use Cochran and Ferrari’s (2009) 7 Skills of Knowledge Workers (sec Table 5.2) to represent the agenda for building the capabilities of teachers for establishing and maintaining Blended Learning in a school.
How are capabilities best developed?
Lynch (2012) and Lynch et al. (2018) cite research into a community of practice-type arrangement comprising a partnership with a university that has been used in teacher education regimes designed to increase the collective capacity of both individual teachers and the school as a whole. In this arrangement, the university provides Blended Learning
Table 5.2 The 7 Skills of Knowledge Workers
Thinking Skills - the ability to work with information effectively to solve problems, perform tasks, and design solutions
Communication - the ability to understand and share ideas effectively
Teamwork and Leadership - the
ability to work with others to achieve a common goal
Lifelong Learning and Self- Direction - continual self- improvement through the constant gathering of knowledge
Technology Lise - use of technology to accomplish goals or tasks
Ethics and Professionalism - An
ethical person makes him or herself personally accountable for their own actions and work
Personal Management - manage habits to maintain health (physical, menial, emotional, and spiritual)
This management should seek to maintain proper balance in all areas of life (family, work, personal, community). It includes the effective management and use of time to accomplish work and achieve goals.
(Reproduced from Cochran & Ferrari, 2009)
based expertise, specialist learning modules and associated supervision and access to accreditation as applicable. The teacher, as an individual within an assigned ‘Teaching Team’, has opportunity to provide input to the learning regime through a Blended Learning development project, so it meets their specific needs and the profile of their ‘classroom cohort’, while the school leader provides opportunities for innovating, creating and problem-solving by proving strategic vision, project organisation and sanctioning, access to resources and mentoring arrangements, as well as ‘help as required’. This arrangement requires all three parties to embrace mutual concern for shared values, flexibility, openness, responsibility and continuous learning (Stephenson, 1999). We view these operational relationships in strategic terms and identify them as elements of what we refer to as the ‘Blended Learning capability building model’, presented here as Figure 5.1.
Note that in this capability building model, professional learning tasks are based on the pursuit of real-time, formative Blended Learning focused projects that arc situated within the context of the teachers’ work, and formulated collaboratively by the teacher and their fellow team members, the school leader and university (Stephenson, 1999). A coaching, mentoring and feedback regime is introduced to enable, support, generate and consolidate the required learnings. In this arrangement, there is an immediate benefit to the school and the teacher’s own work through the completion of ‘classroom’ related tasks, while drawing upon circumstances where Cochran and Ferrari’s (2009) 7 Skills of Knowledge Workers arc honed and reflected upon.
We note that at one level this represents a ‘community of practice’ model, wherein each teacher generates their own agenda of ‘problems’ that are normally taken on and solved by associated colleagues and professionals working in collaborative teams. The knowledge gained from team solutions, however, is essential for dealing with the practical elements of introducing Blended Learning into the school and the respective teacher’s classroom curriculum at the individual level of classroom teaching and learning.
Building states of engagement
Having outlined the processes of building alignment and capability, the leadership agenda now turns to engagement. Engagement as such is primarily a psychological state
Figure 5.1 The Blended Learning capability building model (created by the authors) which captures the extent to which staff arc working towards the goals and aspirations of the school. It is chiefly indicative of a stall member’s commitment and motivation, and it references capability and alignment states in order to gauge these.
Engagement can be understood as staff actually doing what they say they are doing. According to Schaufeli (2013), engagement ‘is defined as a blend of three existing concepts: (1) job satisfaction; (2) commitment to the organisation; and (3) extra-role behaviour, that is, discretionary effort to go beyond the job description’ (2013, p. 5). Or, as Harter ct al. (2002, p. 269) argue, ‘an individual’s involvement and satisfaction with as well as enthusiasm for work’. With this latter point in mind, engagement can be understood as teachers having been successfully ‘aligned’ to a Blended Learning agenda and feeling as if they have or will be able to acquire the necessary capabilities. Engagement, therefore, is the litmus test of the success or otherwise of a Blended Learning change agenda.
The state of engagement has to do with the individual and as such is mediated by the values and beliefs personally held but, importantly, engagement also involves the quality of influences and experiences that each individual becomes party to. Returning to the capability building model outlined previously in this chapter, one can appreciate that engagement is engendered in such an arrangement primarily because of two inter-related occurrences. The first of these is peer pressure. Working in a team has the effect of building an interdependence within members and, by direct association, it sets up obligations to perfonn. There is, in effect, no free-riding in teams (Yahaya & Ebrahim, 2016). In relation to this, it is also important to note that coaching, mentoring, and feedback (CMF) reinforces these obligations as team norms, and more will be discussed about this in Chapter 7. The second occurrence, however, is self-interest. In a world of accountability, coupled with a professional logic that strives for success in their charges, teachers arc sensitive to strategies that will enable them to achieve their professional goals. For others, the chance of advancement or acknowledgement of abilities is an attractive proposition. Either way, acknowledging and harnessing self-interest is an aspect of engagement (Azevedo & Akdere, 2011). The use of a CMF regime, as outlined in the capability building model for Blended Learning, further builds engagement as it captures peer pressure and self-interest and uses both to focus the development of capability and build and strengthen alignment.
In summary, engagement is about the individual teacher and how they view themselves in relation to the Blended Learning improvement agenda. While it is a state that needs to be developed and sustained in the individual, it is also an indication of how well the change agenda is being adopted and delivered, and as such measures of engagement can also be used as a proxy for determining at what level alignment and capability arc operating in relation to this agenda.
A new leadership mindset for Talent Management
To this point in the chapter, leadership has been highlighted as a key and central ingredient in a whole-of-school Blended Learning initiative. Further, the attributes of the Transformational Leader have been delineated and a set of strategies outlined for building states of alignment, capability and engagement in the collective Talent of a school. Taken together, a blueprint has emerged from which a plan for change can be successfully initiated. Missing to this point, however, has been an identification of the mindset required of the school leader, in order to embrace the logic and potentials of Blended
Learning, Also important for this chapter is the need for this mindset to be able to understand what the inherent considerations that inform Knowledge Economy aligned change agendas such as Blended Learning come to represent.
Kaser and Halbert (2009) identify six distinct mindsets 'that eharacterise the way successful leaders operate and make sense of the world’. These leaders are
- • Motivated by intense moral purpose
- • Knowledgeable about current models of learning’
- • Consistently inquiry orientated
- • Able to build trusting relationships
- • Evidence informed
- • Able to move to wise action (2009, p. iii)
In effect, Kaser and Halbert argue that because the world has changed, and continues to change fundamentally, the school leader of today needs to be someone who is strategically preparing his/her school and its students for the future. Thinking about the logic of moving schools from being traditional to one that embraces Blended Learning, they make the point that the leadership mindset required is, therefore, one that is focused on leading away from managing a system of ‘sorting’ and toward 'leading for learning’ (Kaser & Halbert, p. 13).
Table 5.3 outlines the difference between the two concepts.
The underpinning logic in all this, as Dwcck (2006, p. 238, cited in Kaser & Halbert, p. 14) explains, is that ‘mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way’. The inherent change agenda, which has been outlined in this chapter, and the Blended Learning logic the book is presenting require of the leader a mindset that is conditioned and focused to sec that a changed world requires a changed approach. Such solutions arc not available to buy, nor arc they neatly packaged in the next education fad. The Knowledge Economy is about ongoing exponential change, and with it, new knowledge to create and unpack and new opportunities to explore and harness.
Our central message in this chapter has been about the key role that the leader plays in schools and with it the need for a leadership mindset that is focused on change and identifying, supporting and enabling required Talent. In effect, this operates to build enduring states of alignment, capability and engagement through a Transformational Leadership approach and a learning-focused mindset. We will next explore these ideas in relation to the research concerning effective Blended Learning in Chapter 6.
Table 5.3 A leadership mindset that is focused away from sorting to learning
A focus on instruction and teaching
A focus on deeper forms of learning
Summative assessment for grading and reporting
Formative assessment to provide feedback and learner self-regulation
Teaching in isolation
Teaching teams working as learning communities
External centralised pressure
Local internal commitment, capacity building and responsibility
(Adapted from Kaser & Halbert, 2009, p. 13)
Alignment The extent to which staff agree to and have a knowledge of (a) the goals and the associated strategies of the school as well as (b) the espoused values and expectations of stakeholders.
Capability The general physical or mental power, ability or condition of being capable, being able or fit to make happen, with mind or senses, a state of being ready to do something. Capability is thus about preparedness for work into the future. Capability is a contrast to competence in that competence is personal traits, characteristics or skills in the present and thus relies on capability when it is called upon to be changed, redeveloped or upgraded.
Capabilities An all-round human quality, an integration of knowledge, skills, personal qualities and understanding used appropriately and effectively - not just in familiar and highly focused specialist contexts but in response to new and changing circumstances.
Engagement The extent to which staff are working towards the goals and aspirations of the school.
Transformational School Leadership An approach to changing or reforming a school whereby the leader focuses on providing deeper levels of connection and higher levels of commitment, performance and morality for both themselves and their teachers.
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