School Leadership in the 21st Century

Another holiday reading adventure was School Leadership in the 21st Century by Brent Davies, Linda Ellison, and Christopher Bowring-Carr. While I didn’t take on the whole book – I read several chapters that I felt might be relevant and had some takeaways from each.

Chapter five on leading an managing change. “It is inevitable that any strategic process that takes a school from its present place to come future position will involve a considerable amount of change. How to lead and manage this change process is therefore the focus of [this chapter]”. Takeaways:

  • Change requires empowerment of individuals: “ensuring they have involvement in the processes of change, ensuring they are able to work together in collaboration with others, and ensuring they have the necessary skills to implement any change” (92).
  • In understanding change it is key to understanding the individual. The models proposed by Adams et al. (1976) explains a lot about the process that I went through with Form Teacher Appraisal.  The depression phase is where individuals might be trying to find out where they “fit into the new reality. They may feel powerless and not in control” (75). This describes what emotions I received and shows the importance of the above bullet point that individuals need to be empowered.

Chapter eight: leading learning. The chapter “seeks to avoid the problem of seeing leadership and management as an end in itself and focuses on leadership in relation to the core purpose of schools, learning” (2). Takeaways:

  • “One of the important activities for any leader is consistently to be inviting discussions about what learning is and how it can be demonstrated” (112). Bowring-Carr is referring to here a culture of self-awareness that promotes deep thinking about learning.
  • Model learning. Bowring-Carr suggests learners are encouraged when they see adults and peers move away from their comfort zones. “If students never see or hear that teachers actually enjoy learning, and feel charged by it, why should they believe that ‘learning is a good thing’?” (117).
  • Bowring-Carr quotes Kohn (1999:21) “A preoccupation with achievement is not only different from, but often detrimental to, a focus on learning” (121).

Chapter 10: Information for organisational learning – establishing a coherent, rigorous and workable system of self-evaluation. This chapter “focuses on information for organisational learning” (3). Takeaways:

  • I was interested in the school wide evaluation process that the chapter laid out with many of the documents in template form outlining the areas to be evaluated the source of evidence, criteria, method and outcomes. What struck me though was how tangible the approach is on the micro level. To monitor and analyse your own standard of teaching you need to:
    • collect data on attainment and progress
    • analyse these achievement regularly looking for trends, highlights, areas of concern
    • compare your data with similar data sets (other schools, colleagues)
  • Then the fourth step is the act on this data and make changes to your practice.

Chapter 12: The transformation of schools in the 21st century. “considers the future of the education system by examining the need for transformation and the components of a blueprint for the future of schools” (3). Takeaways:

  • The case for transformation was made compelling with four reasons (expanding and different from Whitby’s Gen Wi-Fi written six years later) being: performance of student not meeting expectations, change is inevitable for the instituion of ‘school’ to survive, the technologies of learning are changing irresistibly and irreversibly, and growing connections between school and communities.
  • A blueprint for transformation was outlined, visible here.
  • Nice quote from Henry Kissinger (199) to finish in the discussion on pedagogy:

the present generation has the power to tap into astonishing amounts of knowledge on any subject but no ability to integrate it into a knowledge of the past and not ability therefore to project it meaningfully into the future.


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