Teacher Staffroom Episode 43: Leading you into 2023

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Teacher Staffroom, where we catch you up on the latest evidence, insight, and action in education. I'm Dominique Russell.

As many of you prepare to settle into another school year, we’ve been looking at the topic of leadership for our first week back of brand-new content. So, in this first podcast episode for 2023, I’m going to get you up to speed on these leadership stories, and also some more of my highlights from content we’ve recently published in case you might have missed it.

Like all episodes of Teacher Staffroom, I’ll be posing some questions throughout the podcast, so feel free to pause the audio as you go, gather some colleagues, and discuss together how these stories might be relevant to your school context. Let's jump in.

The first story I’d like to share with you looks at a research report released late last year. The report details 5 leadership domains – as identified through the work of the Menzies School Leadership Incubator – that underpin collective efficacy. The Incubator is lead by ACER in partnership with the Menzies Foundation along with experts from other sectors, including education.

The Incubator have been investigating what it will take to strengthen the pipeline of educators to take on the complex role of school leadership and cultivate collective efficacy to improve outcomes for all students. This report, that we explored in our article, focuses on cultivating collective efficacy and found that the 5 domains are: Understanding Collective Efficacy; Systems Leadership; Change Leadership; Team Leadership; and Collaborative Capacity.

If you’d like to read more about these 5 domains, you’ll find a link to our full article in the transcript of this podcast under the podcast tab at our website, teachermagazine.com. While you’re there, you can sign up to our free weekly Teacher bulletin by following the prompts on our home page, so you never miss a story.

Now, though, I’d like to share a quote with you from the article on what is written in the report about collective efficacy. Here is what the report authors say is one way to think about it:

‘…Staff working together in schools believe in, enact and grow their collective capability to positively impact outcomes for all students.’

So, that quote there brings me to a question for you to think about. As a school leader, how are you growing collaboration in your own team? Do staff believe they can make more progress together than on their own? Would you say you’re able to make the most of the expertise you have available?

Some other research news from late last year that we covered on Teacher looks at a research project that investigated how secondary school teachers can be supported to prepare financially capable young people.

Dr Carly Sawatzki and Dr Jill Brown from Deakin University wrote an article for us to update our readers on their research findings. They share some findings from surveys they conducted with educators and what they hope will happen in financial education in the future.

I found it really interesting to read about the information gathered from 15- and 16-year-old students who were involved in a virtual student summit the authors held, so I’d like to highlight some of this information with you now. Here’s what they had to say:

‘Most students agreed that learning Economics and Maths can help them make informed financial choices. However, less than half could see clear connections between their learning across these disciplines. One in 5 could not see these connections at all. This is a key insight that tells us where we need to do a better job.

We asked students what they wanted to learn across Economics and Maths. They told us that they want programs and lessons that are connected to the real world and useful to their future. They want to be shown how to do everyday things, like keep track of money and keep good financial records, and read and check the calculations on payslips (including tax and super), invoices, and bills.’

So, considering that quote, here is a question for you to think about: The financial landscape is dynamically changing. As an educator, how do you stay abreast of changes in the finance sector? Are there any particular resources you use to access this information?

If you’re listening to this episode when it first comes out, you might just be returning to school for a new year. One story we published right at the end of last year is all about navigating the emotional work of teaching, so I think it’s a good one to share with you at this point in the school year.

The article is written by researcher Dr Jean Hopman within the context of the climate in which teachers are working in across the country at the moment – through things like COVID-19 and natural disasters. I’d like to share with you a paragraph where Jean shares what some of her research has found on this.

‘In researching the emotional work of teachers, it is clear that they are often expected to remain emotionally neutral or to fake “positive” emotions when not flowing naturally. If we add these together, we have a circumstance where teachers are increasingly emotionally provoked, either through the existing constraints of their work or the response to rolling crises, yet are mostly expected to remain emotionally neutral. In other words, it is like trying to crest a tsunami, which is highly unlikely.’

So, thinking about this, here are 3 questions to reflect on: What are some of the issues you currently face at your school? What kinds of emotions do they evoke in you? How do you manage these emotions?

Finally, we’ve recently published 2 new instalments of our Teacher’s bookshelf series – where we share excerpts from education texts – one on eco-system leadership and one on oral language. Let’s take a look at the oral language text first.

This excerpt is from the book, Leading improvement in literacy teaching and learning, written by Associate Professor Robyn Cox from RMIT University. It looks at the importance of oral language in the early years. If you read the full article, you can find out more about some of the classroom activities listed by Cox that provide children with opportunities to hear and use oral language to enhance their learning of literacy.

Here is one quote from the excerpt we shared on the importance of oral language learning:

‘For school leaders, it is important that early years teachers value the essential place of talk for social interactive reasons in the classroom and understand how the explicit teaching of early literacy skills and knowledge can support all learners in their classrooms.’

So, considering that quote, try discussing these questions with a colleague: How do you value talk in your classroom? What opportunities do students have to practice their talking and listening skills?

In the second recent instalment of Teacher’s bookshelf brings you an excerpt from Ecosystem Leadership: an approach for schools, written by Neil Barker, where he discusses the importance of understanding your school’s unique context and creating a leadership approach that’s aligned with the needs of that school community.

Here is one paragraph from the excerpt we shared that really stood out to me:

‘Context is a complex area of consideration; as leaders we ignore it at our peril. Leadership that does not account for the circumstances of an organisation’s internal and external conditions risks operating in ways that neglect opportunities to maximise its impact, or worse, operate in opposition to the prevailing conditions that exist. To use a natural ecosystem analogy, leadership that does not account for its context risks being “like a fish out of water”.’

Considering these points, think about the different ways that your school makes use of its context to improve the way it operates, as well as student outcomes. What benefits have you noticed for staff and for students? Does this also impact the community and society more broadly?

That's all for this episode, and you’re now all caught up on the latest evidence, insight and action. Links to all the content and the resources I’ve mentioned will be in the transcript of this podcast available over at our website, teachermagazine.com.

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