Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Readiness is all: How to build change capacity in organisations

NASDAP workshop #1 Mark Osborne

Key points from mark Osborne's workshop looking at change management.

In a fast moving world we need to distinguish management (things, processes & procedures focused on the now) with leadership (people, vision, and development for tomorrow). Then leadership can be of two types:

1. Leadership for a slow-moving world - where a lone ranger boss carries out sequential and orderly decision making where they may consult, consider and make decisions alone.

2. Leadership in a fast moving-world - where leaders are connected, and empowered teams are decision makers. People are networked and a complex non-linear organisation exists. The teams pool information then make decisions.

There are varying characteristics of first order and second order changes. According to (The National Academy)

First- and Second-Order Change 

  • First-order change is doing more – or less – of something we are already doing. First-order change is always reversible.
  • Second-order change is deciding – or being forced – to do something significantly or fundamentally different from what we have done before. The process is irreversible: once you begin, it is impossible to return to the way you were doing before.
The characteristics of first- and second-order change
  • First-order change
    • Adjustments within the existing structure
    • Doing more or less of something
    • Reversible
    • Restoration of balance (homeostasis)
    • Non-transformational
    • New learning is not required
    • Old story can still be told
  • Second-order change
    • New way of seeing things
    • Shifting gears
    • Irreversible
    • Often begins through the informal system
    • Transformation to something quite different
    • Requires new learning
    • New story is told
Changes in learning environments are often second order changes. To be ready for these changes we need to be considering the change narratives:
- impact on organisation (20%)
- impact on society (making a better society or community)
- impact on stakeholders (better outcomes, opportunities, well-being)
- impact on the team (sense of belonging, caring environment)
Impact on me personally (career development, job satisfaction, well-being)

As part of this, while we constantly assess the risk associated with change, we rarely assess the risk of remaining with the status quo.

Change readiness occurs when believe:
- that change is needed
- the proposed change is appropriate for the challenge at hand (high cultural fit, personal valence - connecting with why people do their job)
- the organisation has the capacity to implement change
(Armenakis et al, 1993)

Also a decision to change is easy when we know values guide us in that decision making.

Creative disobedience

Opening keynote for NASDAP15 was Dr Welby Ings, professor in design at AUT. He spoke about how to creatively disrupt what we currently do to carve new territories in our roles as educators, and to do this through disobedience.

Creativity is to do with your ordinary disobedience - we need to look at what is ordinary and prescribed and move beyond it. This may mean reducing the input and effect of our social editor - the voice that restrains us and constantly moderates our decisions based around what other think of us.

Often we use the excuse that we are not creative, yet Ings says we are all creative, we are naturally drawn to the creative. He took the example of story telling, when told, a story we all create a picture. We are naturally drawn to this - as an example take two images: an old decrepit house compared to a flash new building. We are more drawn to the house as it generates creative thinking, we immediately start creating stories or asking questions - who lived in the house, what has happened there, why is it in the state it is currently in? We are drawn to the interest of this building over the new building as our creative mind wants to explore the stories.

If you want to work with creative thinkers we need to shut up our social editor and trust the creative thinkers. How about the example of using a fairy tale to sell newspapers, an unlikely marriage yet
this unlikely marriage enabled the following award winning video

One of the hallmarks of a creative person is the ability to tolerate ambiguity, dissonance, inconsistency and things out of place. But one of the rules of a well run corporation is that surprise is to be minimalised. Yet if this rule were to be applied to the creative process, nothing worth reading would get written, nothing worth seeing would get painted, nothing worth living with and using would ever get designed. - Ralph Kaplin

Creativity gets distorted in schools by it being confused by developing something aesthetically pleasing. The other is confusing aspect of creativity we like to apply is 'small steps' designing - where we like to take pieces of others ideas and combine them to make them our own, rather than creating own own ideas. Ing says this is like designing a kitchen by picking bits of ideas from others (magazines, webpages etc) and adapt these ideas for our own. He argues this is not creative thinking.

Rather than looking for things we can adapt, we need to look for things we can create. Creativity is the knowing you have without knowing you have it. Organisations often lose creative thinkers after a couple of years in the organisation. To hold them we need to put aside consultation and bring to the fore co-creation and use teams to co-create. Leaders need to allow their team to challenge ideas in a protected, safe environment and be willing to attribute these ideas to those who have brought them forward - at the end of the day a fundamental driving desire of people is the desire to be valued. 

Teams should be asking the following questions:

What do you see as the main issue?
What do you see as the options for dealing with this problem?
What is your preferred option and why?
What are the benefits, costs and risks of your preferred option?
Who else needs to be involved?
What will it take to execute your plan?

Our challenge therefore is to be allowing ourselves the space and time to consider the issues facing education and allowing ourselves to boldly think of creative, disruptive solutions to these. 

Leading Teacher Teams (NASDAP workshop #2)

Workshop presented by Marion Buckland & Kylie Taffard

The transformative power of teacher teams: These presenters clearly belived in the power of teacher teams in transforming an educational environment and raising student achievement. In a sense teacher teams, engaging in a collective enquiry, learn through engaging in professional conversations with each other - improving practice along the way. The model can be represented as follows:

Improving teaching through instructional rounds article by Lee Teitel here

Educational leaders website article on Richard Elmore - leading the instructional core

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Inequality and the decile rating system

In the recent budget the government announced an increase of $25 a week for beneficiaries - the largest increase since 1972, though they have to wait a year to start seeing this come in. It's a positive move from the government but it is such a tiny drop in the bucket in terms of addressing the growing inequality in New Zealand society. Since the 1980s NZ has faced growing inequality as our society has focussed on competition and conspicuous consumption, rather than collaboration. This is well illustrated on the inequality website graphic here. Sadly, children become major casualties of growing inequality in New Zealand.

One of my current concerns as an educator is the challenges faced by lower decile schools battling the public perception that lower decile, means poorer quality education. Decile ratings are funding mechanisms set to help address the financial disadvantages faced by communities these schools and in no way measure the effectiveness of a school, or the quality of teachers employed there. However, there is no denying the clear trends being exhibited, that overall higher decile schools exhibit higher NCEA pass rates, on average than lower decile schools. The reasons why are so complex and the stories behind the statistics are rarely told but a large part is due to socio-economic factors and cultural capital of the families. There is a strong link between parental circumstances and children's outcomes, whatever school they go to. Lower decile school's will have students from a range of families, but the lower the decile, the lower the average family income. Many of these families face the day to day demands and stresses of constrained choices. Limited resources result in daily decisions on where best to put limited resources. They don't always have the luxury of prioritising education as the stresses of daily survival. In contrast, higher income families can afford to have the choices other families don't enjoy. Their kids can enjoy a range of opportunities that others can't - here's money for camp, the field trip, for the sports fees, for the misplaced uniform item, for the new pair of shoes, for the workbook and the stationery. Then if schooling hits a stumbling block there's the private tuition that can be readily accessed. High income provides choices and opportunities lower income families don't have the luxury of experiencing. Advantage heaps further advantage - through expectation and access to opportunity.

So the trend of decile rating and achievement is as expected - it would be surprising if it wasn't. That said, I still find the publishing of NCEA data and statistics, without the stories behind them, so wrong I despair each time I see them. How can schools of such different sorts be compared. As an example, how can a school with no special education students, no refugee or migrant students be compared to a school who welcomes students with special education needs, welcomes refugees and migrants who are adjusting to a culture and society so radically different from where they've come from and are faced with learning in a high stakes assessment in a second language in which they have limited knowledge of. How can a school which retains students and helps them through levels of schooling and successful transition into work be compared to a school which retains far fewer students and does little to aide their transition into meaningful employment or further training? Statistics and league tables never tell anything about these stories, and as a NZ society, which of these schools do we want in our community?

At the end of the day we have a massive issue to address though. Education offers a significant pathway out of poverty and inequality, yet the public interpretation of our current decile rating, and the resulting complex array of flow-on effects this has, simply reinforces the inequality it set out to address. Undoing this is no simple task but it is something we need to face together as a society, where we see all of society benefiting from the success of each and every individual within it. We all need to be part of the solution by bold decisions to support our schools and not get sucked into seeing decile ratings and league tables as a quality of education score.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A masters, yes - but in what?

I've recently read Bali Haque's book Changing our secondary schools. I have the greatest respect for Bali Haque as an educator and remember meeting him when I returned to my old high school, Tamatea High, when he had taken up the role of principal there. I was looking to confirm my decision to go into teaching by having a couple of days back at my old school as my BSc degree came to a close. With the wild long hair I had at the time I'd hardly looked the part, but Bali didn't blink as he welcomed me back. He help provide me with an opportunity to confirm my decision to go into teaching.

Much of the Bali Haque's recently published book deals provides a critique of educational reform over the last 3 decades. It closes by offering some possible solutions to ways to improve our secondary schools: addressing economic and social disparities; finding new tools to measure teacher effectiveness; teacher support and professional development; improving selection and training of school leaders and ensuring any change is well planned, implemented, evaluated and supported. I agree with many of his ideas, disagree with others.

One of the interesting arguments he makes is around attracting top tier graduates to teaching - a re-professionalising of the profession as such, by attracting the best graduates. This has proven one of the many effective measures taken in Finland and if teacher salaries reflected a desire by the government to seriously invest in education then I have no doubt it would be a step in the right direction. Where we differ in opinion however, is in the type of qualification a teacher should have. Bali Haque argues all secondary teachers should have, or should be working towards, at least a master's degree in their specialist subject(s). He posits putting a higher level of entry threshold will improve the prestige and attractiveness of the profession and improve the quality of applicants into teaching. I'm not completely convinced. An issue I feel still presents itself in teaching is that teachers can see themselves as teachers of subjects rather than students, and this would go no way towards addressing this issue. At times, teachers can take the corner of the ring and fight for their subject, strongly adhering to particular prerequisites for course entry or hold on to the purity of subject matter and content delivery and miss noticing what students in front of them may, or may not need, right at that moment of time.

If secondary teachers are expected to have a masters then what I'd rather see is teachers all being supported to attain a Masters of Education degree, rather than a specialist subject knowledge of a very specific and channelled subject masters. Within the masters degree knowledge of what motivates students to learn, how assessment can aide student learning and not just be a measure of learning, how specific pedagogical content knowledge can be used to help teachers plan and differentiate classroom learning, how digital technologies can be effective blended into the classroom environment to enhance classroom learning. This to me is what we need, subject experts with a deep knowledge of the art and craft of teaching; teachers who see they are first teachers of students, not subjects; teachers that are constantly honing their craft knowing that every day, until the day the teach their last lesson, they be looking for ways to constantly improve what they do. This is the sort of mindset that can be developed by teachers through a master level study of education, rather than further study of a specialist field, such as chemistry. We currently have students completing the new Massey University Masters of teaching and learning degree students placed with us as a partner school for the year. This new model has the real potential to provide the sort of learning I have mentioned and in my mind should turn out better teachers as a result.

I'd be interested in your thoughts?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Leavers' Statistics - Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu's gain, our loss

Our school, a state secondary school, recently received the leavers' data for 2014. I had decided that I would go through the individual data this year and cross-check all individual leaver's data held by the MOE with our own data. I was wanting confirmation that there was accurate alignment, pleasingly this appeared to be the case. That was until I decided to check out one individual student. This student, whom I shall call Charlotte (not real name), had successfully completed 5 years at our school and had completed NCEA Level 3. Unfortunately, she had missed out on University Entrance by 4 credits and was missing one of the three lots of 14 credits necessary to gain UE. She was one of many students around the country who had not quite met the new requirements for university entrance in 2014.

To the rescue came Te Aho o Te Kura Punamu (Te Kura - formally the Correspondence School). Te Kura offered students around New Zealand the chance to catch up on missed credits and get cross over the often small barrier preventing them from getting into university. For Charlotte this meant completing one standard through Te Kura. She successfully did this, gained UE and enrolled to study at the university she'd always hoped and dreamed. I was curious to see how Charlotte was recorded on our leavers' statistics. Was she recorded as having gained NCEA Level 3 or did the one standard she did through Te Kura mean she got recorded as having gained UE? To my surprise, Charlotte was no where to be seen on our stats, anywhere. She had simply disappeared from being one of our leavers.

We immediately emailed the ministry and they revealed to us that becuase Charlotte had enrolled and completed her final school qualification through Te Kura, she was counted as one of their leavers! This is despite the fact she'd spent five years with us and completed only ONE achievement standard through Te Kura.

Interestingly, there is a 70 day period of enrolment before a student counts as a student of your school statistics. We found out that Charlotte had been enrolled at Te Kura for precisely 82 days, and therefore counted as one of theirs. Of course, this makes Te Kura statistics look better and ours correspondingly look worse. One of my questions though, is why would Te Kura need a student enrolled 82 days, nearly 3 months, for the completion of one standard. Charlotte will have been halfway through her first semester at university before officially coming off the Te Kura roll.

I have written awaiting responses from the ministry but I suspect there will be hundreds, if not thousands of Charlotte's around the country who have been dropped from school leavers' statistics and been included onto Te Kura's. If you work in a secondary school I'd be requesting the student data from the ministry and checking if you've been affected too. I look forward to the Ministry response and will update things when I find out.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Parent-teacher interviews, from a parent perspective

I've been teaching in secondary education for 25 years. Last week, for the very first time, I got to sit across the other side of the desk and hear about my own daughter's progress after her first term, as a Year 9, at school. It was the rapid, 5 minutes with each teacher, speed-dating style of interview that I have participated in as a teacher since I started teaching. It was also at the school where I teach.

The interviews went well and were largely very positive. However, I have reflected on these for some time since and asked myself what was I looking for as a parent from these interviews and was this different to what I did as a teacher? I've decided to put down a few ideas, maybe as much to remind myself next time I do my next round of interviews but hopefully someone else might find something useful in here too.

What I looked for:

The first and most immediate thing I looked for was a connection with my daughter. Does the teacher know, acknowledge and have a positive bond with her. We are relational creatures and a positive student-teacher relationship is critical for student success. A teacher that is able to communicate that they care about a student, that they believe in them as an individual and connects with them as a learner has already unlocked one of the key doors for the student to experience success. This came through clearly at some interviews and I know this translates in the classroom. On the night this was demonstrated by teachers who greeted her, joked with her and engaged her in the conversations about her learning. Bizarrely, in secondary schools, we still persist with a teacher directed approach to interviews where parents come along to be told how their son or daughter is doing. The student, if they attend, rarely actively participates in these meetings. As a parent I have now experienced the stark contrast of these style of meetings (the type I've done for 25 years) to the 3-way conferences I have had through the primary system to this point with my own kids. These 3-way conferences are so rich and my kids have done amazing work at sharing their learning journeys and articulating the next steps in their learning. To now see one of my children excluded somewhat from this process highlighted to me how the traditional secondary interview is an inferior model. However, if we work in schools where this current model exists as teachers we should at least acknowledge and include the student in the conversations about their own learning. This shows as teachers we care about them and their progress - after all, it's them we are there for.

This leads to the second key thing I looked for, an acknowledgement that the learning was a 3-way partnership between teacher-student-parent. These days we surely recognise that learning is occurring all the time in a range of different ways. Learning is not the exclusive domain of schools and is not a transmission model from expert teacher to student.  I also believe that in secondary schools we've been traditionally terrible at acknowledging that parents could have any useful role in helping their child learn, instead seeing it often as meddling or interfering. How wrong is that? It was great to hear, as parents, how we could be helpful in supporting the learning that was occurring at school (beyond simply checking homework was completed). I applaud the teachers that are readily making this more explicit and available to parents. I know this takes time but the more we start to acknowledge the connectedness between the school, student and home the better off the learning will be for students.

The third key thing I looked for was an understanding and ability to communicate three cornerstone questions for learning - what are the goals my daughter is aiming for? Where is she currently at? What are the next steps she needs to take towards helping her achieve her goals? In five minutes, this is a tough ask. Yet I was impressed again that teachers were often able to condense this down and provide some insight into her learning journey within the subject. Acknowledgement of strengths, acknowledgement of efforts made and careful crafted advice for next steps made for useful and productive interviews.

At the end of the day though, after finally experiencing the style of interview I been conducting myself for 25 years I think this method of rapid 5 minute interviews in secondary schools has simply got to change. The learner needs to be brought more to the fore, their voice heard and they need to be able to answer their own questions about goals, progress and next steps. The partnership between school and home needs to be better acknowledged in the secondary system and better communication between school and home developed. While there is value in the face-to-face meeting, a greater level of fluidity is needed when discussing student progress as restricting this to two or three reporting events over the year is starting to look more and more archaic.