Two days, six national and international speakers and countless discussions and connections
Collaboration, coherence and feedback are three interweaving topics gaining momentum within national and international education arenas. Discussions are taking shape about how these pillars can help build upon our understanding of educational leadership and our Leadership Event provided one such platform. The two-day event offered delegates the opportunity to hear insight from national and international speakers about creating collaborative cultures and supporting school improvement, and build their collegial networks.
Dr Jim Watterston, Director-General, Departments of Education and Training, opened the event reflecting on learnings gained over the last five years as Director-General, all which have been continually reinforced and rehearsed making Queensland’s State education sector so successful. He also spoke about how the Department has strengthened collaboration across Queensland’s education sectors, to move forward together for the benefit of students in Queensland.
As a global authority on leadership development for self-improving, autonomous and complex school systems, Maggie Farrar aims to build the capacity of schools and communities and transform student outcomes. Naturally, Maggie Farrar was a perfect fit to set the scene for the two-day event. Delegates were asked to articulate the questions they wanted answering by the conclusion of the event. Maggie challenged them to consider the National College of School Leadership’s Three Fields of Knowledge when forming their questions –
- What do I know? What am I bringing?;
- What is known through research and evidence?; and
- What do I want to know and what can we co-create together?
She reinforced this model can, and should be, used often when debating and discussing issues. She further challenged delegates to form inquiry questions – ‘how might we’ – to enable them to become active participants in their own learning.
Collaboration and coherence between schools was the theme and focus of Maggie‘s keynote session. She shared experiences and practices – effective and ineffective – from partnerships in the United Kingdom and spoke about the need for schools to come together to form collegiates in an effort to encourage long-term sustainability, achieve equity and excellence and close gaps in student achievement. She noted, that to do so, requires a collective commitment within and between schools to improvement, demonstrated by the willingness to:
- share data and resources;
- be honest about weaknesses;
- share the best practitioners; and
- hold each other to account for outcomes.
- The purpose of collaboration is to build thriving connected learning communities.
- Define and agree on an intent for collaboration from the outset to prevent against superficial collaboration.
- Trust is a driver of high performing collective communities
- Ask and understand the ‘WHY’ – why does the collaborative exist? Why are we coming together?
Dr Cameron Brooks, School of Education, The University of Queensland, discussed the importance of feedback in learning and sharing strategies for delivering effective student feedback, and implementing feedback processes at the school and classroom level. A recent study by Hattie, Gan & Brooks (2017) concluded that although teachers give their students varying levels of feedback, students receive little which is effective and constructive to their learning. How can this be?
Cameron explained students reported the feedback they received often arrived too late, it was too difficult to understand or did not match the success criteria. Therefore, in order to provide effective feedback, the traditional roles of ‘teacher giving’ and ‘students receiving’ demands a rethink. Teachers need to activate learners in the process and use formative assessment as the driver for feedback opportunities.
- Ensure feedback is received by the learner – remembering that the provision of feedback does not guarantee the learner has received it and is able to act on the feedback
- Create a culture that embraces feedback and consider how your students perceive the learning process.
- Value improvement over achievement, balance high challenge with support and embrace error as an opportunity.
- Clarify for learners what success looks like and create a platform for student self-regulation.
- Consistently use formative assessment to generate evidence for students about their next steps of learning.
- Differentiate feedback to match the needs of your learners, including having conversations with students.
- Actively encourage student self-regulation to help ensure feedback is received and acted upon.
- Feedback from students to you (teacher) is (potentially) most powerful. Student work samples offer feedback to you about your students and feedback about your teaching.
Tracey Ezard, Professional Triber and author of Glue: the stuff that binds us together to do extraordinary work and Buzz: creating a thriving and collaborative staff learning culture, shared valuable insight into building thriving and collaborative staff learning cultures that create momentum.
Tracey asked delegates to ponder and reflect on three questions:
- Do your conversations create trust or distrust?
- How do we elevate above conventional to extraordinary?
- What would you do in your school if you were bolder?
Tracey continually reinforced the need for trust to foster deep authentic collaboration. When trust is present in a collaborative community, people feel safe to take a chance, to be bolder and to elevate themselves above the conventional to be extraordinary. Tracey implored leaders to be aware of, and have an understanding of why people may feel challenged to move outside of their comfort zones. She shared strategies for creating positive environments to support peers to move through their comfort zone and to confront challenges and new opportunities together, as a team.
- Leaders must recognise the need for establishing a safety net aligned to each individual member in their team. Are mistakes seen as failure to be avoided at all cost? Or an opportunity to learn and grow?
- Authentic collaboration requires a mindset that is smart and strategic, so when we get together as a group, we have a plan of how are we going to collaborate. What is it that we’re doing together? What is it we’re trying to achieve? What’s our purpose, and how do we stay on track?
- Collaborative learning draws on four roles for success – roles that form the spokes of the Collaborative Learning Wheel and set up an environment of deep learning with others – sense maker, challenge, experimenter and supporter.