Saturday, July 26, 2014

Leadership challenge - consistency.

Within my organisation, and my school, there is a obvious push towards consistency across job roles. This is not consistency defined as everyone must perform their duties in the same manner, but consistency defined as students and parents should expect that processes are followed across schools, enabling the students to receive an equitable education regardless of location. Whilst in essence I agree with this sentiment (equity has always been a focus in my life - a true north principle referred to in my last post), both establishing and managing consistency is a significant leadership challenge. The challenge is not a consideration of comparison between schools (or even between faculties within schools). For me as a Head of Department, the challenge is ensuring each of my teachers receives the information required for them to address the areas of targeted consistency, while allowing them to maintain their personal influence (flair) on their own work.

In a large faculty, this challenge of consistency is a constant challenge. In my faculty I currently have 26 teachers teaching across our 12 courses. The course with most teachers is year 9 HPE, with 12 teachers covering the 16 classes. In comparison to English and Maths faculties at large schools this is not unusual, but in my experience this is large for a HPE faculty. Timetabling priorities at my school will always have the result of a large group of teachers within year 9 HPE. In our timetabling process, the HPE middle school and year 10 courses are allocated after English, Maths, Science and SOSE which results in a high changeover of staff in the HPE faculty each year. This year I have 8 staff who did not teach in the HPE faculty in 2013, plus 4 teachers who did teach HPE in 2013 not teaching it in 2014.

My personal leadership challenges for consistency this year include;

  • delivery of curriculum priorities
  • student access to quality feedback on performance
  • reporting
  • compliance with local school policies

This challenge is exacerbated by never having all of my staff at our Faculty meetings. Between part-time staff not working on meeting days, and staff having greater teaching loads in other faculties, I generally have 50% of my staff at our faculty meeting. This requires me to be adaptive in how I lead  to maximise consistency.

Some of the processes I am using in 2014 to achieve this leadership of consistency, but empower teachers to have personal influence on their work are;

  1. Publishing the "known curriculum"

    This is an adaptation of a school strategy. At our school all units are planned using the organisation software, which stores unit plans and materials online. I need to allow each of my teachers to have access to the plan, and as I found out earlier this year ensure I have up to date backups as any teacher added can delete the plan and there is no central backup / restore solution.

    Building this plan as the "known curriculum" requires clear communication and alignment with our pedagogical framework (which is The Art of Science and Teaching). If the teaching team is not aware of, and held accountable to, the published unit plan then inconsistencies result in the delivery of curriculum priorities and student access to quality feedback on performance.

    It is important to note that in the HPE implementation of this school strategy, lesson plans are not prescribed to the teaching team. However teachers are required to ensure their lessons deliver on the identified curriculum priorities.
  2. Flowcharts

    I have trialled a number of strategies to ensure teachers deliver on school policies. In the last 18 months I have found clear flowcharts for specific issues to be reasonably successful. Currently these flowcharts are stored in an online faculty management space for teachers to access, however an insightful suggestion by one of my staff noted that the publication of those same flowcharts in teaching spaces would increase student knowledge of the procedures and could result in reduced conflict when teachers apply consequences based on the school policies.
  3. Comprehensively programmed markbooks

    One issue I have faced consistently over my 11 years as a Head of Department, is the completion of markbooks before reports are compiled. Our markbooks determine an average of achievement across the course, and for most teachers are the only source of student record. This year I managed to program the markbooks to produce the specific text string required for report comments based on the average achievement calculated. This means reports are completed through a simple copy and paste procedure, significantly reducing the time teachers spend on compiling reports. As the other half of the win/win, it means that markbooks are completed in a timely manner - allowing me to complete detailed data analysis of results.

    Some readers may think this reduces the personalisation of reports. In our school, this has been reduced for many years. Report comments are created specifically linked to performance levels on achievement standards. The HPE markbooks just create the text string instead of the entry of 6 codes in the reporting program to create the same text string.
  4. Physical performance resource

    Allocation of grades and moderation of these grades for physical performance has always been a challenge in HPE. This year I have used the expertise within my own school to conduct mini professional development sessions on the sports we use in our program. These sessions are filmed, then edited into a series of drills with performance specific feedback identified. This resource is available for staff to access online, and therefore use in their planning. The future of this project will involve team leaders using these resources in the planning of feedback provision, enabling equity in the access to feedback.

In no way do I promote this as best practice, it is simply my practice and I am finding some success with it in 2014.

1 comment:

Linda Pilkington said...

You're obviously committed, organised and passionate. Exactly what is needed in a Head of Department role. Want to come and work shadow!