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compass bearings

November 4, 2012

Today’s rain and thunder was decidedly indoors-weather yet our neighbours held a rush-for-it garage sale that chocked up our cul de sac with parked cars, and both daughters left early for Sunday working (one at a cafe, the other rehearsing for a performance). Perfect writing day!


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With 4300 words accounted for in my tool bar, I’ve finally printed the action research report which has been occupying me since August: How to lead change and build an innovative orientation? The Storify version is here, if you’d like a condensed account of process.

For diehards, here’s an excerpt from my conclusion:

Given our school’s unusual circumstances, and allure of state-of-the-art facilities opening in 2013, it is imperative that sustainable practices are promoted to extend into the wider community through forged alliances and positive relationships, so that any likelihood of achieving excellence in an enclave is avoided; thus, “sustainable leadership benefits all students and schools – not just a few at the expense of the rest” (Hargreaves and Fink, 2004, p. 11). Reculturing involves radically changing the paradigm of leadership to focus on “complexity and the relational nature of leadership influence” (Timperley & Robertson, 2011, p.3). To a large extent, it is necessary to demonstrate emotional intelligence in supporting others in our district to value the goals of sustainable improvement (Fullan, 1998).  These are outcomes I anticipate transferring across our network while adopting the ICT Peer Coach role during fourth term workshops with other teacher participants in the Swan Eastern Alliance, and simultaneously drawing on a supportive Community of Practice with ICT leaders in G&T communities across the metropolitan area.

I am pleasantly surprised at the extent of personal growth achieved through this action research process which revealed that

advocacy by initiators and adoption by implementers in a change situation is motivated by what is valued. Mutual understanding of these values and the practices that arise from them are fundamental to success (Timperley & Parr, 2005, p. 229).

Perceptions of my own change agency evolved as I persisted with leading others to adopt an innovative orientation in circumstances that were often emotionally charged, and this efficacy belief generated a ripple effect (Leithwood et al., 2009). I am also encouraged by the expressed support and words of hope elicited from students, colleagues and parents in emails, discussions and survey returns; despite the initial perception of difficulty and challenge, stakeholders are united by our common sense of moral purpose – determination to achieve improvements in students’ learning. By challenging the fallacies of market-driven reform movements, advocates of paradigm-shifting through democratisation and professionalism claim that “Where professionals identify their own improvement priorities and set shared and measurable targets for progress, then results significantly improve and can be sustained for many years” (Harris, 2011, p.164).

I expect aligning our school’s culture and structure within its mission and according to expressed goals in the Melbourne Declaration will, with focused effort over time, yield a successful learning community for all.  Complexity theory suggests that “any evolving system that maintains its coherence through time by responding and adapting in manners consistent with its own history can be properly construed as a learner” (Davis et al., 2012 p.374). At the start of my action research, though, this goal of renewing our learning community was perceived by stakeholders as immensely challenging; interviews exposed persistent low teacher morale “and feelings of impotence” (Stoll et al.,2006, p. 245).  My sphere of influence in the role of G&T Coordinator is defined by social networks (Daly & Finnigan, 2009); through maintenance of regular conversations with, and supportive, timely resourcing of the Executive Team, IT committee, teachers, student leaders, parents, and Department Leaders, my leadership has effectively built capacity for organisational change. Armed with the iterative inquiry learning process adopted to produce this report, I will continue to harness mediating influences such as hope, selflessness and emotional intelligence in order to work collaboratively to achieve sustainable improvement within that sphere of influence. These are my compass bearings.

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Selected references

Daly A.J. & Finnigan, K.S. (2010). A bridge between worlds: understanding network structure to understand change strategy. Journal of Educational Change, 11(2) 111–138. Retrieved October 2, 2012 from Springerlink.

Davis, B., Sumara, D., & D’Amour, L. (2012). Complex transformation. Journal of Educational Change, 13(3) 373–399. Retrieved November 3, 2012 from Springerlink.

Fullan, M. (1998). Breaking the bonds of dependency.  Educational Leadership, 55(7) 6–10.

Hargreaves, A. & Fink, D. (2004).The seven principles of sustainable leadership. Educational Leadership: Journal of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 61(7) 9–13.

Harris, A. (2011). Reforming systems: Realizing the fourth way. Journal of Educational Change, 12(2), 159-171. Retrieved October 3, 2012 from EBSCO host.

Leithwood, K., Seashore Louis, K., Wahlstrom, K., Anderson, S., Mascall, B., & Gordon, M. (2009). How Successful Leadership Influences Student Learning: The Second Installment of a Longer Story. In A. Hargreaves et al. (Eds.). Second international handbook of educational change (pp. 611 – 629). Dordrecht: Springer. Retrieved October 20, 2012 from EBL reader.

Stoll, L., & Bolam, R. (2005). Developing leadership for learning communities. In M. Coles, & G. Southworth (Eds). Developing leadership: Creating the schools of tomorrow, (pp. 50 – 64). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Timperley, H. & Parr, J.M., (2005). Theory competition and the process of change. Journal of Educational Change, 6(3), 227 – 251. Retrieved November 2, 2012 from Springerlink.

Timperley, H. & Robertson, J. (2011). Establishing platforms for leadership and learning. In J. Robertson & H. Timperley (Eds.). Leadership and Learning (pp. 3-12). London: Sage.

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