Opening up thinking about education today for tomorrow - Imagining possibilities and solutions

Monday, May 05, 2008

Enabling factors for robust frameworks to develop teacher agency, creativity and innovation

Recently Greg Whitby had a reflection on his blog Bluyonder titled Bogged down by accountabilities. This caused me to revisit my thinking from my Churchill Fellowship. A strong motivation for the trip was a concern that I had that accountabilities were stiffling creativity, innovation and the profession.

I share Greg's view that too often accountability is about blame rather than responsibility. I believe that teaching needs to become the learning profession. This means that teachers need to be the key decision-makers, but that decisions need to be made from a position of informed professionalism. Elsewhere in this blog I have expressed a concern with an emphasis on measuring and reviewing schools, and less of a focus on improvement.

Greg indictates that schools need robust frameworks from which good decisions about learning and teaching are made. I believe that these frameworks require teacher agency, creativity and innovation.

These enabling factors are not always recognisable in large scale reforms of schools and public accountability agendas. Further information on each of these enabling factors can be found in the ACSA paper I presented in 2007 and in my Churchill Report (see links).

What might be some enabling factors that allow for the creation of these robust frameworks?
  1. Trust the professionals.
  2. Build flexibility and adaptive capacity within and between schools.
  3. Create a culture of professional authority.
  4. Develop teacher agency and leadership.
  5. Develop informed professionalism.
  6. Strengthen collaboration across the profession.
  7. Foster networks for learning.
  8. Evolve communities of learning.
  9. Promote disciplined innovation.
  10. Harvest intellect and capture new knowledge.
  11. Build professional knowledge.
  12. Build capacity across the profession.
  13. Develop next practice.

A number of factors were identified that appeared to limit the development of robust frameworks that promote teacher agency, creativity and innovation . These include:

  • A political cycle and motivation that is focused on short-term reforms and lacks authentic engagement of the profession as well as the community;
  • An absence of incentives, rewards and acknowledgements for teachers engaging in improving the profession;
  • Focusing on the tools and processes of school improvement rather than the profession and people;
  • Over-emphasising the importance of positional leadership to bring about school improvement and under-valuing teacher leadership;
  • Emerging managerialism at the expense of leadership;
  • Focusing on reforming schools rather than transforming systems of learning;
  • Bureaucratic inertia and linear policy thinking that prevents the evolution of systems of learning;
  • Assumptions that education systems do have a strong focus on learning and have a learning culture;
  • Innovation fatigue with a few involved in doing the work.


Rampantred said...

Hi Andrew

Great points - I totally agree. The notion of what constitutes leadership is an interesting one. Why is the value still placed on P/AP as the milestone of success in leadership in education? For me their remains tension in our system on the value of Advisers as leaders. Rhetoric is not enough!

Andrew said...

Thanks Helen for your comment.

At least you had been an AP. Me - I've never been an AP. Have always felt I have had to work hard for credibility and recognition within the system.

I've always struggled with the place of advisers as "teachers on special duties."

I think that advisers are in a position of significant leadership to make a difference where it matters the most - in classrooms.

It was Leithwood who identified that leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school. Wasn't that contentious when I stated that when I got back from my Chutchill trip!

Love to talk more with you!!!

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