Speaking at the ACER Research Conference 2017: Leadership for Improving Learning, Clarke drew on his experience with the Carpe Vitam Leadership for Learning project to highlight how learning and leadership outcomes can be improved through an interrelated, values-based model.
The project, which involved seven countries, eight higher education institutions and 24 schools over three years, produced five key principles to guide schools to make the connections between leadership and learning in their own practice: maintaining a focus on learning as an activity, creating conditions favourable to learning as an activity, creating a dialogue about leadership for learning, the sharing of leadership and a shared sense of accountability.
According to Clarke, these principles are only a starting point and more research needs to be done into the relationship between leading and learning, particularly when it comes to the role of the teacher:
“We need more empirical evidence in order to describe the complex connections that exist between those two activities in practice.”
Clarke says that students in the Masters of Educational Leadership program at UWA have seen some early success in implementing the key principles of learning and leadership in schools and the wider school community.
But in the spirit of a shared sense of accountability, he wants more teachers to take responsibility for the research in the future.
“Teachers are able to have a greater stake in the research ... It shouldn’t be seen as something that is done to them or for them...” he said.
Teacher education: a collaborative model?
Jo-Anne Reid has a radical idea: What if aspiring teachers actually studied real teaching as it happens in schools each day?
The professor from Charles Sturt University said we need to re-imagine pre-service teacher education so that there is a deeper link between what students are studying at university and the “actual embodied work of teaching.”
Reid, has developed and trialled a school-university teacher training partnership between her campus and nine regional primary schools in NSW.
The program, dubbed the Initial and Continuing Teacher Learning Partnership (ICTLP), was designed to provide pre-service, and in-service teachers with real, day-to-day teaching experience in collaboration with school staff and the wider school community.
The idea came out of the need to revisit the ways we think about teaching training with a focus on collaboration, experimentation, repetition.
“You only learn and develop expertise through iteration after iteration,” Reid explained.
The ICTPL allowed pre-service teachers to experiment with their practice in a real-world environment, and without the fear of being assessed.
In fact, Reid challenged the idea that competency assessment by university academics is that helpful to begin with, particularly in rural areas with diverse needs and very specific challenges.
“The experts we needed were in the schools and not necessarily in the universities,” she said.
Reid went on to suggest that the project could have great implications for teacher training into the future.
“It doesn’t seem terribly provocative or new or different but it actually requires quite a different mindset from how we think about the idea of pre-service teacher education… [From] the transition to teaching...and [onto] higher levels of professional development.”
Looking at the data: opening doors for more students
Professor Amanda Datnow wants to improve the ways teachers use data to achieve more equitable outcomes for students.
“In many schools and systems across the globe the burn for data-driven decision making has produced volumes of data, some of which are not actually used to inform, much less than improve, instruction,” said Datnow, Associate Dean of the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California, San Diego.
“Data [doesn’t] drive,” she said.
“Your Fitbit may help you track how many calories you burned or steps you took ... but ultimately, having this data might inspire you to change your habits but it’s not guaranteed – it’s very much a matter of how you make sense of it and take action.”
In the same way, Datnow believes teachers need to build their capacity to interpret the data and use it effectively to improve learning and teaching.
Part of using data effectively is using it “thoughtfully”, or in a way that promotes equal opportunities for all students.
“...Equity needs to be at the forefront of ... the study of data use in schools,” she said.
Using data to create more equitable student outcomes might include re-assessing the amount, form and style of assessment or ability grouping practices.
But any real change in the way schools use data to inform teaching requires a strong push from leadership.
“...Leaders [are] strapped for time [and] sometimes find it difficult to lead critical conversations around the data and follow up with professional development opportunities for teachers.”
Datnow says the extent to which schools invest in the thoughtful use of data for equitable outcomes comes down to one question: What kind of schools do we want?