Leadership in education

April 2015


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Faculty from Massey University’s Institute of Education discuss the importance of teachers developing leadership skills and practices.

DrAlisonSewell.jpgIn its simplest form leadership is about influence – showing the way and bringing others along with you, says Dr Karen Anderson, from Massey University’s Institute of Education.

Anderson is a senior lecturer and programme coordinator for the postgraduate level Educational Administration and Leadership programme, where students focus on the “larger questions” of educational purpose, she says.

A planned approach to building the skills, knowledge and understandings required for the practice of ethical, inclusive educational leadership is emphasised in the course. This includes critical reflection and analysis of personal leadership practices and of educational policy, research and theory, she says.

“There is an expectation that students will ground their reading, research and reflection in their own educational contexts while seeking a broader appreciation of the diversity of world views on the purposes and practice of educational leadership.

“Our programme is built upon the ethos of equity, social justice and inclusion, with the expectation that students will apply these underpinning values to their own leadership practices.”

Developing leadership skills is vital, too, for student teachers graduating from Massey University’s Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes to encourage them to be innovative in developing new pedagogies that will reach the diverse student population, especially priority learners.

That’s the view of associate professor Sally Hansen, director of teacher education, and senior lecturer Dr Alison Sewell, from the Institute of Education at the Manawatū campus.

They coordinate Massey’s ITE programmes for early childhood, primary and secondary.

Another pathway into teaching for primary and secondary student teachers – the Master of Teaching and Learning – recognises the importance of nurturing leadership qualities among its graduates.

DrSallyHansen.jpg“Encouraging new learning initiatives using digital tools and developing new partnerships are key aspects of 21st century pedagogies and this requires the vision of an inspiring leader,” says Dr Hansen.

And in an educational climate of unrelenting and rapid change, “leadership in teaching is primarily concerned with developing highquality learning and teaching in schools to raise standards of achievement, especially among our
priority learners who are less likely to experience success,” adds Dr Sewell.

“Teaching leadership is less about a top-down approach and more about developing professional collaboration and learning communities to develop pedagogical expertise that can be adapted to reach diverse learners,” she says.

They approach the idea of ‘teacher leadership’ through synonymous words and phrases such as inspiring others, sharing a vision to teach differently, integrity, forging new learning partnerships, and exploring state-of-the-art research to champion and sustain change in the classroom based on evidence.

How do you teach leadership?

“Massey University has designed and run the Lead Associate Teacher Project that built mentoring capacity inPlacing student teachers with mentors who are in leadership roles and are well equipped to demonstrate how they exercise leadership in their teaching is the most effective way to convey what leadership means in an educational context, they say.

the teachers working with our student teachers,” says Dr Hansen. “These mentors – many of whom are in leadership positions that model their leadership skills – provide opportunities to develop leadership capacity and model teaching as inquiry.

“We also build subject expertise in secondary students through sustained commitment to developing content and
pedagogical knowledge.”

The master’s programme also helps student teachers to develop a sense that they can be leaders through continued inquiry into their practice. They identify ‘puzzles’ of practice and examine evidence from the classroom and the research to make changes in their practices pitched to improve student learning outcomes.

Leadership roles are also taken by communicating the results of their professional inquiry using cutting-edge technologies with their school-based colleagues.

“Through an innovative partnerships scheme with schools, students teachers are supported to build resilience and
agency in classrooms as well as the adaptive expertise to make a difference for New Zealand’s priority learners,” Dr Sewell says

Leadership and power sharing in the classroom

Exercising teacher leadership in the primary classroom is about being a role model for students – and sharing some of the power held by the teacher, Dr Hansen says. “It’s about supporting students to be learning leaders and to take on new teaching and learning roles alongside a 16 Teacher education teacher. Teacher leaders inspire their colleagues by sharing their innovative practices.

“Because there is no formula that will work for every student in every situation, teachers have to develop a repertoire of best practices by inquiring into the impact of their teaching on their students’ learning.”

Leadership education is also part and parcel of professional training provided by Massey’s Centre for Educational Development (CED). Director Diane Leggett explains how CED facilitators work with early childhood education leaders, principals and staff to work on enabling change in practice to improve outcomes for students.

DrKarenAnderson.jpg“We work alongside practitioners to build trusting relationships, together identifying needs then co-constructing action plans to improve teacher practice,” she says. “We build professional learning communities over a long period of time – a year minimum normally – to encourage change, embed that change and ensure sustainability before completing our work in a school or a centre.”

She says effective leadership of a school or early childhood centre is critical to ensuring a cuttingedge operation. “Our facilitators work with leaders to improve understandings around curriculum development, processes of inquiry, planning and assessment, appraisal, culture, cultural competencies and effective leadership.

“Staff in centres and schools also take on leadership roles in their classrooms, curriculum, extracurriculum activities and within their teams. But they often request assistance and support from us in their respective roles,” she says.

Dr Anderson says graduates demonstrate their educational leadership by asking questions, raising awareness, hallenging practices and offering alternative views and practices about teaching and learning.

“This means taking a critical stance on educational policy and practice,” she says, “to ensure that the interests of all students, their achievement and wellbeing are at the front of discussions and debate.”

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