Monday, March 2, 2009

Latest Learning Matters

As a school leader it can become too easy to end up focusing on the administrative side of running a school. The job is complex and does involve filling in a myriad of forms, applying for contracts to support learning in the school, writing milestone reports for various agencies, complying with the dozens of laws around health and safety and employment and replying to the hundreds of letters and emails that come in weekly.

Very few of these activities have a direct impact on improving teaching and learning and the realisation of this can be very frustrating for school leaders.

The desire to have a more direct impact on student learning has led myself and my three Deputy Principals to dedicate a big chunk of our time to observing the teaching and learning that is happening in all of our teachers’ classes at least once per fortnight and then feeding back to the teachers on what we have observed.

The latest research both here and overseas has identified that the most significant action a school leader can take to improve student learning, when you consider that most school leaders no longer teach students, is to actively monitor and feedback on the teaching that they see occurring on a regular basis.

After the first four weeks of this year this has been a rewarding experience for us as the school leaders. We have a much clearer picture of the actual teaching and learning that is occurring in our schools. We have been able to identify some top class practice which we have begun sharing with the whole staff. As well, we have observed some aspects where improvement is necessary and we share this with the teachers concerned.

Another neat thing is that it gives us a new way to link with some of the students. It is now not uncommon for me to pass students in the corridor or come across them in the playground and talk with them about the learning I have just seen them taking part in. I am also able to thank them for adding to my learning as they explain concepts that they understand but which have been difficult for me to grasp.

Some of the great things I have seen include a teacher providing art materials to a student who has difficulty explaining science concepts in writing but who has an artistic flair and can explain in graphic form. I have seen teachers explaining carefully to students what they will learn that period and how they will know that they have learnt it. I have seen teachers linking the learning that will occur today with previous learning.

As well, I have questioned many students and asked them what they are learning and why they are learning that. Invariably, they have been able to explain all of this to me.

Two things have impressed me the most. The first is the very high levels of engagement from the students that I have seen. The vast majority of students in all classes are focused on their work and attempting to do the best.

The second is the atmosphere of respect that exists in the classrooms. Teachers are showing, by their encouraging words and supportive actions, that they really care for the learning of their students. Students are repaying this feeling of care with an attitude of mutual respect.

Sure, we still have students who misbehave and sometimes not all teachers are on top of their game, but by the senior leaders in our school focusing on observing and feeding back on what is occurring in the classroom we are all learning and learning matters.

1 comment:

M said...

Nicely put and well done. Yes, I'm still keeping an eye on your blog!