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Showing posts from September, 2016

What are the steps in carrying out a practitioner enquiry?

My last two posts looked at what school leaders could expect in terms of benefits from the adoption of practitioner enquiry by teachers, and some of the issues they needed to consider when using this approach. One of the most common questions I get asked is, 'how do you go about carrying out an enquiry?' This is often asked by people who have no real understanding of the process or its complexity, but who are wanting to start somewhere. I always give lots of cautions and health warnings, and the strongest is that this approach is not a simple linear, step by step approach. Yes, there are key aspects to any successful enquiry, but none are guaranteed to lead to the next, or even to each other. Teachers and schools need to develop adaptive expertise and be able to change and adjust their actions according to changing circumstances and conditions.
Having said that, I do think it is possible, and desirable, to identify the key characteristics. What follows are those we have identif…

As a school leader what do you need to consider when using practitioner enquiry

In my last post 'As a school leader what can you expect to gain from practitioner enquiry' I spoke of the gains to be expected when adopting practitioner enquiry for individual and school development. In this follow-up, I now wish to look at some considerations you need to be aware when using this same approach. No meaningful school development process runs smooth and true in simple linear steps. Here are some of the things I have discovered that need to be understood, despite the many substantial benefits to be gained.
You have to start from where you are.
This seems an obvious thing to say, but how many times are actions and strategies imposed on schools that seem to assume all schools should be starting from the same position? This is a ridiculous assumption, given that each school has unique characteristics and context. You need to understand this and have confidence in your self-evaluation processes, so that you really do know accurately where your school, and individuals i…

As a school leader, what can you expect to gain from practitioner enquiry?

Having been using practitioner enquiry for over seven years now for individual professional development, as well as the main vehicle for school improvement, we have lots of insight on why it has worked so well for us. It is these that I share in this post. I qualify them by saying that these are what we found and if you have been using a similar approach you may have discovered other benefits, and you may question some of our identified benefits. Everyone starts from, and is in, a different place to ourselves and the importance of context has been identified by many as crucial in any school, system or individual development. What I would say is that many of the benefits we have accrued would match those identified in the research of Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Susan Lytle, Helen Timperley and others. This post does not deal with each of these benefits in too much detail, otherwise it would be too long. Look out for my book about all this coming out next year.
So here are some key benefits w…

What to do when the school improvement plan goes wrong

The easy answer to the title of this post is 'to accept and embrace it!' Mind you I might have not chosen the most accurate of titles, because I have been writing school improvement plans for some sixteen years now and I have yet to produce one that went according to the said plan. Perhaps a more interesting title would be 'what to do when school improvement plans work' but, as I have little experience of this I might struggle to write that much that you might find helpful, or realistic.
School improvement plans can go awry for lots of reasons. Some of these are entirely our own fault, and some are the result of pesky circumstances. Sometimes you can put so much into a plan, even the most productive and focused of organisations anywhere would struggle to achieve its lofty aims. I have been there. Some of my early improvements plans had so many actions they could have been written by a choreographer for Village People! There were a variety of elaborate actions detailed b…

Some more thoughts on a few issues

The following are some thoughts I put together regarding issues in education for a project with Chris Chivers and others earlier this year. I thought I would share them on my blog as possible stimulants for thoughts and discussion by others. Feel free to comment.
Vision A school without a vision must be a pretty soulless place. It will also be a place without a clear purpose and at the beck and call of any and all agendas. We need a vision to know where we are going and to help us identify how we might get there, as well as to protect us from the agendas of others. As a school leader, I think it is important that you have a personal vision for where you want to take the school you lead, and also a wider one for education in general. You need to share this vision with colleagues and members of the school community so they too can consider what their own vision might be. Out of this collaboration and sharing should emerge a vision for each school that reflects its uniqueness in terms of i…

Different perspectives and different contexts

This week I had the pleasure of hosting a party of trainee teachers from China when they visited Scotland as part of their final year studies at university in Nanjing. they were an absolute delight to have in school and brought a smiling, but different perspective to our pupils, colleagues and myself.

Nanjing has a population of over 8 million people and this is growing. The shift from the 'one child' law in China to the 'two child' one has brought massive challenges to the education system there, not to mention the impact of massive industrial and commercial growth which puts even more pressure on their cities and schools. Our happy smiling visitors would be returning to China this weekend to complete their final year of studies before commencing their careers as primary school teachers.

In their district children attend Kindergarten until they are about 6 or 7 years old. Most pre school education is unfunded, so parents are required to pay for this themselves. The cu…