Friday, 13 April 2012

Andy Hargreaves setting the scene at ECIS Vienna Leadership Conference

With the overall theme of "Forming the Future" the ECIS Leadership conference gets underway in Vienna. Andy Hargreaves had the job of getting us thinking on this theme and, in my opinion, did an excellent job.
Professor of Education at the Lynch School of Education, Boston College, he has just written a book with Michael Fullan on "Professional Capital".
Here are my notes from the talk.
He spoke on three themes:

  1. What is the next practice (as opposed to just "best" practice).
  2. The importance of teachers - tied in to the work of his book.
  3. Leadership push-me-pull you.

1. Next practice. He showed some interesting ways of looking at innovation and improvement, using a horse example to get us thinking about our schools (if your school was a horse, what type of horse would it be?).
Using an innovation vs improvement four-square he spoke about examples in the world, from Ontario (+improvement, -innovation) to Finland (+ on both axes), rating the US (and the UK) in the dead horse quadrant (minus, minus).
He placed technology in the +innovation -improvement category and I agree with his statement that it appears that technology seems to be the driving force with the pedagogy as a distant second.
His point was that we should get the horse-power but using a different horse.
Going through three country examples helped make sense of the ideas.

  • FINLAND: good innovation in getting high results from the people that they lift up from the bottom (Special Needs) more than from those they push up to the top, and with their work practices, giving teachers time for planning and collaboration (and high status in the country for good measure).
  • SINGAPORE: examples from two schools (Nee Ann Secondary School being one) on using mobiles and Twitter for diagnostic assessment of how students report their learing and FAQs being used by another for typical learner questions (although he mentioned MSN Messenger it brought Fakebook approaches to mind).
  • ALBERTA: money placed with teacher designed innovations.

2. Hargreaves introduced the second point regarding the importance of teachers using John Hattie's findings - the biggest influence on learning being teachers.
He asked us to state how long does it take for teachers to "hit their stride" and after some discussion, the answers ranged from 1 year (!) through many other answers (my rule of thumb has always been 7 years, for what this is worth).
His answer? 8 to 20 years.
This answer comes as a result of three studies: in the UK, California and Canada. He went on to explain the idea of capital (relating to assets that add value to long term net worth), and divided this up into two types (there are more):

  • Business Capital Assumptions - how we use the whole educational enterprise for short term profitability
  • Professional Capital Assumptions - long term professional aspirations.

He further divided up Professional Capital into:

  • Human Capital (qualifications, knowledge, expertise)
  • Social Capital (collaboration, community building, advocacy, networks, growth, support)
  • Decisional Capital (wisdom, developed over time, used the lawyer idea of getting to know case law over time therefore much more able to make good decisions; that teachers are more akin to doctors than lawyers, however, interpreting the patient - a complex, multifaceted individual).

He warned us not to mistake commitment for capacity. Decisional capital developed over time. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours can be used here - with 8 years of focussed, concentrated and well coached practice needed to hit one's professional stride.

PC = f(HC, SC, DC)

being the shortand for Professional Capital being formed by getting the right people, get the environment right for a collaborative climate and develop the capacity to judge and deliver expertise over time.
Developing a Professional Learning Community being Hargreaves' ideal culture to develop.

3. Finally, do we PUSH change or PULL it?
His answer, pull where you can, push where you have to, but be aware of shoving (which might be perceoived as inappropriate pushing - you need to create and maintain high levels of trust to develp social capital).
Excellent thought provoking presentation.

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