Leading for Powerful Learning

The quotes below are from a book titled: Leading for Powerful Learning: A Guide for Instructional Leaders by Angela Breidenstein, Kevin Fahey, Carl Glickman and Frances Hensley (2012) from Teachers College Press.  This is a good book for any and all formal and informal school leaders who 1) want to be part of schools that makes big differences for learners and 2) are willing to embrace the learning that is ahead for them as an adult.

Learning about practice often gets pushed aside by parent phone calls, paperwork that needs to be filled out, tomorrow’s lesson plans, or field trip planning. For lots of very good reasons, sustaining adult learning is not a focus and many schools. Moreover, adults in schools often do not necessarily have the knowledge, or opportunity to build such learning-focused professional communities. Teacher learning just doesn’t happen on its own. It takes leadership. Page four

The leadership that it takes to encourage more learning about practice can be either formal or informal. Certainly principals and superintendents need to be instructional leaders who work tirelessly to create the conditions that support teachers examining, reflecting on, in improving their practice. Moreover, less formal leaders – department heads, curriculum coaches, mentors, and teachers themselves – play an essential role in this work  Successful schools understand that the direct improvement of teaching and the learning in every classroom comes in via a constellation who undertake a myriad of activities and initiatives that have one goal: improving teaching and learning.  Page four

Schools are full of hardworking, intelligent, thoughtful, well-educated individuals who are devoted to improving their professional practice for the benefit of their students.  Districts typically support educator learning by sending teachers and principals to conferences, offering in service professional development days, encouraging teachers to pursue graduate study, and a host of other mechanisms. So what’s the problem? (Many would argue) that it is not just individuals that need to learn, but the schools and districts also need to learn.

Unless a school can learn, the knowledge, insight, and good judgment of each teacher will remain in that teacher’s classroom. Even if groups of teachers can learn at high levels, their learning will be confined to their team or department. The school itself needs to learn.

If organizations – and schools and school districts in particular – do not learn, they cannot improve. Page eight

Supporting all this learning is a critical and complicated leadership task.  Schools –and individuals, departments, groups, and teams that are found in them – require different learning at different times. Moreover, considerable literature suggests that a school’s capacity for learning is very much connected to its capacity for improvement and for increasing student learning. Page nine

Supporting self-authoring learning in schools makes even more demands on leadership practice Self-authoring learners are willing to take the biggest risks, tackle the most difficult questions, and challenge themselves and others the most.  To  support this learning, to not only understand how collaborative, reflective groups are built, but also take the risks to be a self-authoring learner herself – in a public and transparent way. It seems unlikely that teachers will take the risk to be self-authoring learners and tackle the most difficult and troubling issues and lust leaders are also willing to do this. Leaders model self-authoring of learning by asking difficult questions, by presenting this confirming data,And by exposing and exploring their fundamental assumptions in public. Page eleven


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