A STRATEGY FOR INCREASING STRATEGIC LEARNING CAPACITY
Once a school has agreed on what it wants the learning to be, how it wants to get there. This will involve asking and answering a range of questions about the best possible choices to make about the direction in which it might go, the rate at which it will go, and the resources it will use to help it to get there.
Do we understand how to make learning the core of our school’s strategic intent and then its daily practice?
Building strategic learning capacity involves establishing and enhancing a culture of aspiration and performance within the community. The community and everyone in it need to set high expectations and high standards; the assumption that this is being done is too frequently revealed to be inconsistent within schools of all types. The expectation for student achievement should be based on the belief that all children are capable of success – children should be supported to set goals and achieve them regardless of their background and socioeconomic situation. Schools must have clear and ambitious standards for students and teachers, ideally involving students and teachers in setting these standards, and systems of clear communication, review and feedback on achievement. At the same time, they need to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t work in making these standards realisable. In defining and pursuing a vision, schools should attend to leading in practice (drawing on evidence and exemplars of successful education both locally and internationally), pay close attention to measuring success and feedback loops, and understand the state and needs of the systems that support learning and innovation. Above all the standard is the aspiration, not necessarily the experience of every learner. Standards should be personalised to the learner, aligned to community expectations and integrated within every aspect of a school’s daily life.
Are we confident about our capacity to meet the challenge of necessary change?
Building strategic learning capacity consists of our shared focus on the international shifts in learning and a commitment to building teacher capacity to provide it. Schools need to move away from rigid systems of learning to personalised systems focused on student needs and graduate outcomes that are enhanced by flexible curriculum and innovative pedagogical practice. We need to attract high quality candidates into our schools, provide them with high quality initial training, turn them into effective instructors and researchers, and build a flexible career structure for them that rewards both good teaching and the attainment of good learning outcomes by those with whom the teachers work. Teachers must be encouraged, supported and developed to take responsibility for their professional learning within the context of the changing nature of our world, and the changes to the educational, human, technological and other systems that support it. We need to promote effective teachers and give them more responsibility for leading teaching and learning. To this end, we need to identify effective leaders early in their careers and prepare them through specific training and development to lead for change and support teachers through the process.
Do we have the mandate of our community to go about this process of change?
Building a mandate for change in strategic learning begins with helping a community commit itself to the value of its educational future and its educators. Our community and the society which it serves must place a high value on education – this is reflected through levels of funding, attitude, support, community involvement, and support. At the same time, quality teachers are key to the success of students and the teacher/student relationship is vital to making sure that well-intentioned statements about the value of education are borne out in the concrete actions of connected and supportive school stakeholders who value teachers, recognise the importance of their work and understand that their profession is complex. These stakeholders need to be drawn together to help develop teachers through mentoring, classroom observation, and constructive feedback to become more professional and more collaborative in all areas of practice, especially in tracking and diagnosing the nature and progress of an individual child’s learning.
School strategic development teams – no matter what the specific combination of Board, executive, staff, parents, students, other community members works best for the particular school – need to wrestle with these issues and questions in order to set a learning vision for their school that defines its future, establishes its essential directions, and influences all of the activity that flows from these in accordance with its essential character.
In other words, leadership is more than just doing the right thing and leading by example. It’s about our choices and how we achieve them while we are showing the way forward on The Pathway to Excellence.