Leadership – the courage to change practice

Meeting a target is one thing, but achieving it while also reaching the goal of equity and excellence requires school leaders to be courageous.

Dr Linda Bendikson says: ‘It takes courage to change long-embedded practices that may help a school reach both a target and the equity and excellence goal.' She adds it's not just down to the principal. ‘Middle leaders need to be part of that strategy if it is to be successful.'

The academic made the comments to Research Developments, ahead of her presentation at Research Conference 2017, where she'll be exploring the complex nature of school leadership and the skills required to be effective – including problem analysis and focused goal setting – and highlighting the importance of taking calculated risks.

Bendikson, who spent 17 years as a primary school principal and a decade as a regional manager in the New Zealand Ministry of Education, is Director at The University of Auckland Centre for Educational Leadership. She says her research shows school leaders can improve student outcomes by aligning strategies with clear goals.

‘Our research suggests that many senior and middle leaders have a long way to go in terms of setting goals and solving the problems that frequently occur in implementing any strategy,' Bendikson tells RD. ‘School improvement science suggests that when school leaders really take monitoring and evaluation seriously, they tend to pursue “small wins” in systematic ways, and this can help to build coherent action and teachers' trust in their leaders.'

The annual Research Conference is hosted by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). This year's theme is ‘Leadership for Improving Learning: Insights from research'. ACER Principal Research Fellow Dr Hilary Hollingsworth says effective school improvement requires collaborative approaches and knowing how to gain the ‘buy-in' of teachers is a critical skill for leaders.

‘It is by engaging teachers in identifying improvement priorities and plans, and working in partnership with teachers to monitor progress and fix the problems that occur during implementation, that school leaders are able to build a coherent approach to school improvement,' Hollingsworth tells RD.

Read the full article: Collaboration and courage key to coherent school improvement published in ACER's Research Developments.

As a school leader, how are you monitoring and evaluating progress towards improvement goals? How often does this process happen and what action does it lead to? How are you involving senior leaders and teachers in this process?

ACER’s Research Conference 2017 takes place from 27 to 29 August at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. To find out more and to register, click on the link or visit www.acer.edu.au/rc.