Teacher Leadership and Collaboration

For the last 10 weeks, I have been teaching to the 10 CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) inTASC Standards. I have been assessed on how well I have demonstrated each standard for a 10-week clinical practice.

These standards outline what all teachers across all content and grade levels should know and be able to do to be effective in today’s learning contexts, they are designed to meet the needs of the next of generation learners.

This week`s assignment was on Teacher Leadership and Collaboration. This week I have the opportunity to compare and contrast two articles on school and teacher leadership and describe how they relate to me. This leads me to think about Standard 10 and this topic`s connection to me, my school and my role within the school.

The first article, Teacher Leadership: Leading the Way to Effective Teaching and Learning. link here (Barry, B., Daughtrey, A., Wieder, A. January 2010).

In relation to standard 10, there are multiple connections to my school and my role within it. inTASC Standard 10 is divided into 4 strands;
a. Involvement in School-Wide Efforts.
b. Schools as Organisations.
c. Respect of Families.
d. Advocates for Students

This first article`s aim is to “consider the ways in which teacher leadership is key to present-day teaching effectiveness and a healthy future for the teaching profession” (Berry, Daughtrey & Wieder, 2010)

The authors make their initial statements on how self-efficacy and their sense of response are connected and positively associated with teaching effectiveness and improved student achievement. Self-efficacy and a teacher`s sense of collective responsibility is also strongly associated with soliciting parent involvement, communicating positive expectations for student learning, improving instructional practice, and being willing (and able) to innovate successfully in the classroom

I feel this stance has some similarities with the belief that when teachers hold high students expectations those students academic achievements improve. Essentially, when a teacher is invested in a school, in the students and in the school’s community, he or she improves and, accordingly, their students improve too.

Both sources detail how a teacher who feels responsible for creating the culture of a school and is empowered to be involved with school-wide efforts is a more effective teacher and their student’s achievement improves.

In the first source – Teacher Leadership: Leading the Way to Effective Teaching and Learning, the authors attempt to prove their 5 beliefs.  With the support of the Ford Foundation, the Teachers Network undertook a national survey of 1,210 teacher leaders, to better understand the role that participation in teacher leadership networks plays in supporting and retaining effective teachers in high-needs urban schools.

The Teacher Network Teacher, a national nonprofit organization of 1.5 million classroom teachers consisting of over 20 network affiliate communities for professional development, generated and tested 5 statements on Teacher leadership. I will address each and write about how they relate to my teaching situation.

1. Teachers’ leadership and collective expertise are tightly linked to student achievement.

If good teachers are given the opportunity to lead and change the way services are delivered to students and the wider community, and then go to develop policies that sustain these changes then they will be improvements, particularly in high-needs schools. The survey found that “Teacher leadership is a critical component of effective teaching and school success. A sophisticated new study has found that schools staffed by credentialed and experienced teachers who work together over an extended time generate the largest student achievement gains.” (Berry et al, 2010)

In my situation, I can also see this in action. Through my meetings with my mentor, who is credentialed and experienced, I have developed my practice. Myself, my mentor and other colleagues, seek each other out for conversations and allow us to develop as teachers. These meetings are evidence of me, the candidate demonstrating strand d. – The candidate advocates for Students.

It is worth noting that, when compared to my less qualified or experienced colleagues, my credentialed colleagues are much more interested in collaborating and discussing how to improve as teachers.

2. Teachers search for innovative strategies as instructional and school leaders but are often stifled by prescriptive policies that drive them from the profession.

The survey found that from the respondents that there were opportunities to lead and that when the teacher-leaders took them they took great satisfaction from doing so.
“many teachers reported receiving a great deal of satisfaction and professional motivation from working as leaders and innovators in their schools– contributing both to their effectiveness and retention
.” (Berry et al, 2010)

However, as can be seen in figure 2, when the teachers felt they were not included in decision-making the teacher turnover rate climbs steeply.

“Despite the importance of teacher empowerment,fewer than half (45 percent) of the respondents in our CTQ survey reported that they played central roles in decision-making in their schools.” (Berry et al, 2010)

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Another aspect to teachers leaving the profession is an overly prescriptive peer review and review procedure, which includes critical and high-stakes review. I live and work in Japan, and my Japanese colleagues have a system of peer review that seems to work for them.  “in other nations (e.g.,Japan), lesson studies—where teachers jointly craft specific classroom techniques and critically assess each other’s practices—have been found to be drivers of higher student achievement gains.”(Berry et al 2010)

The need to have a similar system of review to improve a teacher`s practice was also addressed in the second article, “By using a system to look at lessons and student work, the teacher and I were both comfortable in knowing that our conversation wasn’t personal. We were problem-solving together to help students” (Rizvi, 2016)

In my situation I have consistently, and in good faith, tried to demonstrate strand – a. Candidate shows involvement in School-Wide Efforts. As evidence, I would submit my IBO Professional development certificates, my serving on school committees and my attendance at staff development or in-service meetings before, during and after the school year.

3. Teachers identify missing supports for leadership in their schools as barriers to their empowerment and effectiveness.

In my experience, there are barriers to empowerment and effectiveness. There are issues which dis-empower a number of teachers, such as nationality, lack of tenure and administrative impotence. The net result of being ignored leads many teachers to simply adopt the mindset of simply working in the school and to stop trying to effect change. The Center for Teaching  quality discovered something similar, “policies and practices adopted by some policymakers or administrators may communicate distrust of teachers’ professional leadership, and prevent teachers from searching for and developing and using the approaches their students need” (Berry et al 2010)

4. Teachers who are empowered to lead within their schools are more likely to remain in the profession.

There are a number of reasons why a teacher may change schools, or indeed leave the profession. The survey indicates that the criteria teachers use to gauge their professional satisfaction include, how their professional leadership is perceived and the respect they are accorded by the school community. The teachers then become either “stayers” or “leaders”, based on the school environment rather than different sets of satisfaction criteria.

“these two groups of teachers do not have different motivations but rather are prompted to make different career decisions based upon the types of school environments they experience” (Berry et al. 2010)

It would seem logical that a teacher with a heavy teaching load may not welcome the extra responsibilities of roles like; Coach or specialist, instructional leader or department head, Union responsibilities or Other leadership responsibilities. However, the responsibility and empowerment that I gain by being my schools Union Representative is worth the extra time and other commitments required.

The survey returned similar results, “no differences in career intentions based upon the type of leadership role held. This finding suggests that teacher leadership matters more than the shape of that leadership.” (Berry et al 2010)

5. Teacher leadership beyond the classroom walls facilitates the spread of effective teaching practices and breaks down barriers to effective teaching policies.

Due to my teaching schedule, I attend the activities (talent show, speech contest etc.) planned for outside the classroom, as often as I can.

Until recently it was difficult to schedule the “foreign” non-Japanese teachers into the parent-teacher conferences. Thankfully, in part due to the PYP accreditation process this has changed so I can now use conferences to promote conversation and dialog. Whilst the changes to conferencing are welcome, some non-Japanese speaking teachers would welcome translators. Obviously, this makes it very difficult to include all parents/guardians as partners in student learning. Whilst working to improve this situation I have been taking the time to discuss the monthly classroom newsletter with my teaching partner, to create a way to communicate with the non-English speaking parents.

The second article, Teacher Leadership as Professional Development. (Rizvi, M. July 26, 2016). ( Link here ) arose through a reflection of a teacher who was tasked with assuming a leadership role in her school. Although she had some reservations about this, “When my principal asked me to lead a team of social studies teachers at my school, I hesitated. It’s not my natural instinct to be in charge. ” (Rizvi, 2016). She was able to detail the benefits of accepting the extra responsibility and leadership in three lessons.

Ms Rizvi details the three lessons she learned on school leadership as;

Lesson 1: Continually Improve My Own Skills.

In my situation my regular planning meetings and collaborations with other staff, my desire to continually learn and shares my knowledge or best practices allow me to demonstrate strand b. Schools as Organizations. We regularly attend IB PYP workshops, we have whole school planning meetings every unit of work (every 6 weeks) and grade level meetings are scheduled every week.

Lesson 2: Connect New Ideas, Tools, and Materials.

Our school is the first school in Japan to achieve dual Article one status whilst becoming a PYP World school. As such there are a number of challenges, one is integrating curricula and the PYP framework. To make this process go more smoothly we work together to understand the cyclical nature of the Japanese Math curriculum and it`s scope and sequence. This allows us to better communicate the learning outcomes to the students and to teach the Math outcomes in the unit of inquiry, thus ensuring the trans-disciplinary nature of learning required in the PYP. Through reading the article I became aware of the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) link here. Given our progress in planning and teaching Maths, a logical next step would be more focus on literacy in different subject areas and the LDC is something I will study to help me do this.

Lesson 3: Find Ways to Discuss Each Other’s Work.

Through the unit planning meetings, our teachers are able to reflect on the unit as a whole and are encouraged to discuss the positives and areas for improvement. We use examples of student work to observe how well a student has demonstrated their understanding, detailed their action and described their reflections. Using the tool of the students work to discuss the teacher’s performance reminds teachers that the overall goal is student learning and allows us to reflect on our performance.

These regular meetings make it easy for me to demonstrate strand d. – Advocates for Students. We consider individual students during lesson and curriculum planning and share good news about students with other staff and we deal with facts about the students and take responsibility for students learning.

References

Berry, B., Daughtrey, A., & Wieder, A. (2010). Teacher Leadership: Leading the Way to Effective Teaching and Learning (1st ed.). Center for Teaching Quality. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED509719.pdf

Goddard, R., Hoy, W., & Hoy, A. (2000). Collective Teacher Efficacy: Its Meaning, Measure, and Impact on Student Achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 479. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1163531

Rizvi, M. (2016). Teacher Leadership as Professional Development. Edutopia. Retrieved 22 January 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-leadership-as-professional-development-marium-rizvi

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