The IPDA is holding its international conference this year in Aston University, Birmingham on 28th/29th November, and it looks extremely interesting. If any friends of SELMAS attend this event please could you get in touch about a guest blogpost for our blog to share the wisdom? Email Catriona for more information, and click on the photo above for further details of the event.
In 2006 and 2007, two groups of Scottish educators were sponsored to attend the Harvard Summer School as part of the Scottish Government’s International Thought-Leaders’ Programme. Their mission was to engage with leading American educationalists and to soak up ideas, perceptions, strategies and innovative practice.
As a direct result of this initiative, Professor Richard Elmore was invited to Scotland in 2007 to share his work in the area of System-Wide Improvement, and specifically to demonstrate and illustrate the Instructional Rounds Programme which he was then trialling in the Boston and Philadelphia areas. Throughout his visit Professor Elmore led a number of presentations and workshops across Scotland, in which he focused on his central message of the need to develop the teaching profession through a core practice, with a clear and shared core language. He described Instructional Rounds as a way to ensure and develop accountability as teachers select courses of action by adopting common norms, and by making claims and taking action based on evidence. He concluded his visit by leading an Instructional Rounds in a high school in Fife.
The response to this visit was extraordinarily positive, and the Scottish Government commissioned the National CPD Team and SCSSA to take forward the development of a Scottish model, based on Elmore’s key theories, and which became known locally as Learning Rounds. This development was intended to support schools and authorities in developing internal accountability, and to create a powerful form of professional learning aimed at helping schools and systems develop the capacity to educate all children to high levels.
In developing the Scottish model, the team was careful to maintain a focus on the key characteristics that had led to the success of the Instructional Rounds model in the States. These included a commitment to observation in groups, clear and established protocols for observation, analysis of the observations on site, and a focus on the key question, “What is the next level of work?”
Several years later, and it is clear that the Instructional Rounds model continues to deliver in the States. A veritable flurry of publications by the Harvard Education Press have explored the protocols, practice and impact of the model. It is perhaps a good time to reflect on the experience across Scotland in the last few years.
There is little doubt that Learning Rounds is popular with educators, who like the personal ownership of their learning offered by the programme. Many talk positively about the opportunity it offers to talk to colleagues about pupil learning in a structured and non-judgmental group, and of the powerful insights and new understanding which can emerge as a consequence.
There is however some evidence that we have yet to see the full potential of the programme realized. A group of three Edinburgh schools worked together over the Spring term, in partnership with a team of local authority officers and consultants, to try to identify how the positive outcomes of the Learning Rounds programme could become more firmly embedded in practice, in order to achieve a more significant improvement in the impact of the experience. This was Learning Rounds+. Although the programme has not yet been fully evaluated, key issues emerged which are of some significance for those establishments planning Learning Rounds in the year ahead.
Where the impact of involvement in Learning Rounds had been less clear, it seemed to be related to a pick ‘n’ mix approach to the protocols. The programme is best when it is followed as a whole. While each individual element can offer a valuable learning experience (lesson observation, table mat discussion, non-judgmental discussion, etc.) it is the totality of the programme that delivers success. For this reason, the Learning Rounds + team agreed that it was helpful to have an experienced facilitator for the first go at Learning Rounds in any school.
The Harvard publications mentioned to above also refer to the need to see Learning Rounds (or Instructional Rounds) as a process, part of the way the school develops and improves rather than an event. In the most recent publication the author Thomas Fowler-Finn says:
“It will be two to three years before what participants learn from rounds shows up in the classroom.”
This time scale seems equally appropriate for the Scottish version. In the Learning Rounds + programme, the establishment of a Learning Circle by the school leadership teams was a very positive way to co-coach and build inter-school collaboration.
The third significant theme to emerge from the Learning Rounds + programme was the need to link the discussion on next steps with other school improvement processes such as Professional Review and Development, school improvement planning, in-school in-service, etc. This helped to build the Learning Rounds culture within the school, and ensured that there was a sustained commitment to next steps of learning.
Finally, and importantly, Learning Rounds + taught us that the programme has the greatest chance of making a real difference in those which have created a culture of shared learning and trust. As with all the very best CPD, the best outcomes emerge when teachers are positive and engaged.
We’ve been a bit quiet on the SELMAS blog over the summer, but there are exciting events coming up – not least our annual conference in November where Matthew Syed and Ollie Bray will both be sharing their wisdom – but to get us started again here is an honest account from John Tomsett’s wonderful blog of tried and tested leadership behaviours and responsibilities in the face of results pressure, and pressure not in a good way! Hope you enjoy it and see the relevance, even though the context is clearly different. More coming soon.
Catriona September 13th, 2010
On September 3rd this year, educators from schools, centres, local authorities, national organisations and colleges came together for this year’s SELMAS Leadership Conference. The theme was: “Curriculum for Excellence: thinking differently to achieve success”, and as ever the delegates came to be challenged, stimulated and entertained by a range of speakers and lots of discussion and shared activities.
We were delighted that the Keith Brown MSP, Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning started off our conference. The keynote address was given by Richard Jennings, newly appointed Head of education in East Lothian who lead a lively, interactive session on Community Vehicles, offering one strategy to get people thinking about core values and the moral purpose of their work.
Keen as ever to hear practitioner voices, we then heard from four colleagues who are leading innovation within their own workplace. Jim Scott the headteacher of Perth High School, Irene Whitford, a teacher from Kirkliston Primary School. Here is Irene giving us a great insight into the Learning Rounds Experience
Elaine McGuire the head of the Pre-5 Centre in Shortlees Primary School and Lena Gray, the head of Policy and New Products at SQA, each described an aspect of their current practice, and delegates were invited to offer questions and comments. You can link to and download the brochure which Lena mentioned here. You can see the impact of these brief presentations in the feedback given by delegates.
The afternoon began with a session led by Alison Drever of Learning and Teaching Scotland. The “Skunkworks” process, in essence, is about innovative answers to important questions. At the conference delegates were asked to step outside the realms of education to consider CfE from a different perspective. This culminated in a CfE think differently challenge which asked them to become the Google search engine and consider what the top hits might be if we typed ‘CfE, think differently’ into the search box.
The conference ended with a moving, challenging and thought-provoking presentation by Linda Borland, a Detective Inspector in the Violence Reduction unit, who told us David’s story. The conference were left with a clear understanding of the need to work differently, individually and collaboratively to offer better life chances to young people like David, and his son
Selmas Conference 2009
The Impact of Change
11th September 2009
Once again education leaders from all over Scotland gathered in Stirling for the annual Selmas conference.
As in previous years conference was addressed by the Cabinet Secretary. Fiona Hyslop MSP who spoke of the increase in spending on education by the current administration, and the somewhat disappointing decline in the rate of improvement within the system. She invited school leaders to develop a culture that is genuinely aspirational, and that is built on a commitment to innovation and change. Curriculum for Excellence offers us all the opportunity to engage pupils in learning that has breadth and depth and that raises standards for everyone. She spoke of her optimism for the changes and of her view that schools were now engaged in working on the CfE agenda for change.
Margaret Alcorn followed with a brief input on the need for an aligned system, with confident and cheerful leaders all focused on the “main thing”. She spoke of the need to continue to consider the values and principles of CfE.
We then heard from a panel of 5 educational leaders. David Cameron spoke of the challenge for local authorities to provide consistency and cohesion; Christine Forde spoke of developing leadership to make an impact in the classroom; Neal McGowan asked whether we had the right climate for leadership within Scotland, and suggested too many headteachers were compliant and lacked freedom to act creatively; Alex Wood summarised some of his learning from the International Summer School and Jenny Campbell suggested that some heads were overly involved in the detail, perhaps because this was a comfort zone, and that it was important to develop a high performance mindset. The delegates then engaged in a lively discussion on the points raised by the panel.
After lunch, we watched the “My big idea for Scottish education” DVD, then listened to a description of Learning Rounds from Graham Thomson. The headteacherof Irvive Royal, Stirling Mackie, and a teacher of technical, Alan Hume, from the school then described their experience of Learning Rounds in a school setting.
We finished the day with Karen Prophet of Edinburgh who spoke about models for change in the context of Curriculum for Excellence. She said that in order to interpret the complexity of curricular reform, we require leaders not managers, and returned to one of the recurring themes that had characterised the day, that is the role of headteachers to be “Leaders of Learning”.
The feedback from delegates suggests that once again, SELMAS managed to offer a challenging and stimulating day, packed with opinions, information and opportunities to network.