Collaborative school reform hotseat june 2012


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Presentation by Dr James Lane

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  • Clear segue into knowledge gap.How do we as practitioners release the intuitive promise of networks through harnessing their capacity building potential?Especially in relation to forced and incentivised networks
  • Lack of clarity – “The outcomes were never really clear for NLCs so there was never really any momentum for the NLCs in the way they operated – without clear outcomes the processes become confused.” (Headteacher 1 – primary) Lack of trust – “These NLCs were just another tune to dance to” (Headteacher 6 – primary)Accountability produced pragmatism - “I do acknowledge the importance of high quality schools in the local area as being good for the community, but I am judged on this school”.(Headteacher 5 – primary)“The NLCs haven’t been really enthusiastically received by secondary colleagues. It’s not that they think badly of the initiative, it’s just that they see it as another job to do when they already have so much on. The feeling I get from secondary heads is that the NLC is a very, very low priority.” (Headteacher 2 - secondary)Lack of capacity to engage – “The main barrier to being involved in the NLCs was the fact that, especially in the early days of my headship, I could not get out of the building. There was a lack of capacity in the school and I had to personally manage a lot. There were lots of important meetings that I needed to attend and I had to prioritise – the NLC just wasn’t that high on my list of priorities” (Headteacher 5 – primary)Unequal levels of influence between NLC members – “There may be a feeling from some members of the NLC that it is being ‘run’ by a small group – chair of the meeting and the bank school for example”. (Headteacher7 ­– primary)
  • Collaborative school reform hotseat june 2012

    1. 1. Research Focus: A critical enquiry into the nature of collaborative structures for school development focusing on‘Networked Learning Communities’ in one London Local Authority “The new kinaesthetics of collaboration run against the grain of historical processes and we will have to learn how to do it well.” David Jackson
    2. 2. Key question and aims:• Question: – To what extent has the introduction of Networked Learning Communities influenced collaboration among schools in a London Local Authority?• Aims: – Identify the key features of this particular type of collaboration – Develop an understanding of the operation of the NLCs • Explore the intended aims of this collaborative and how these aims were developed • Review the actual outcomes of the NLCs (as have been achieved up until the point of completion of the research – the NLCs are still in place and ongoing) • Analyse the processes and practises of the NLCs – Analyse and evaluate gaps between intentions and outcomes
    3. 3. Motivations for Research• The ‘intuitive promise’ of collaboration; – networks, collaborations, clusters, federations, partne rships• Government policy / NCSL initiatives; – NLCs, PSLNs, teaching schools, LA clusters• Previous research; – Fullan, Hargreaves, Stoll, West-Burnham, Hopkins• But does the evidence support the ‘intuitive promise’ of collaboration for school improvement? – Pilot study found… “School leaders are positive about collaboration, but the collaborative structures studied did not produce joint work of any depth” (Lane 2008 p. 32)
    4. 4. Knowledge Gap• If collaborative structures are to be recommended as an approach to school improvement – there needs to be clarity about how to maximise their impact• Others agree… – “Collective capacity is the hidden resource we fail to understand and cultivate” (Fullan p.4 “All Systems Go” 2010) – “It will take time to generate an evidence base of partnership competence in clusters of schools” (Hargreaves p. 17 “Creating a Self Improving school System” 2010)• There is, to my knowledge, no research that explores the efficacy of forced or incentivised networks in education (such as the LA NLCs)
    5. 5. Definition:• A local authority NLC (LA NLC): – Groups of schools brought together by the local authority or some other agency and encouraged or incentivised to work together in intentional ways to enhance the quality of professional learning and to strengthen capacity for continuous school improvement in the service of enhanced student learning (Lane 2012 p. 11)
    6. 6. School Improvement – the past?• Existing top down, centrally prescribed school improvement is no longer effective (if it ever was)• This approach is limited because... – Schools are complex and dynamic – Lacks clarity and coherence – ‘School level focus rather than learning level’ – Issues of implementation. • If classroom practice is going to change then teacher behaviours and practices as well as their beliefs and understandings
    7. 7. Plus – the unintended outcomes:• Existing school improvement structures can be detrimental in terms of ... – Teacher morale – Narrowing of the curriculum – Treatment of ethnic minorities and lower socio- economic classes – Overall lack of impact• “The centre cannot devise enough innovation across the whole range of teacher practice to implement the required rate of change” Hargreaves (2003)
    8. 8. Definition:• School Improvement: – A systematic, sustained and morally structured approach to educational change that is data driven and relevant to the school’s context and identified need. Practice oriented staff development, within and beyond the school, builds teaching and learning capacity as a means by which pupil achievement and attainment can be enhanced (Lane 2012 p. 81).
    9. 9. The changing context:• Coalition government elected May 2010• New direction for educational policy – ‘The Case for Change’ (2010). – The UK has slipped down the international school performance table. Learn lessons from other, ‘more successful’ school systems.• The document makes a case for: – Higher levels of school autonomy – Development of good teaching – The importance of good leaders – Combining higher school autonomy with effective accountability
    10. 10. Government policy intention:• “The Importance of Teaching, The Schools White Paper” (2010) – Free teachers from constraint and improve their professional status and authority – Raise the standards set by our curriculum and qualifications to match the best in the world – Hold schools effectively to account for the results they achieve – Ensure that school funding is fair, with more money for the most disadvantaged – Support teachers to learn from one another and from proven best practice
    11. 11. Government Policy Intentions (Con’t)• "We will make sure that they (schools) have access to appropriate data and information so that they can identify other schools from which they might wish to learn, that there is a strong network of highly effective schools they can draw on for more intensive support, and that schools can identify other useful forms of external support as necessary". (Schools White Paper: Section 7.6)
    12. 12. The case for collaboration:• Incorporate the ‘moral purpose’ into T&L – Raising the bar, narrowing the gap and nurturing the child• Teachers working smarter together – Share ideas, enquire into practice, generate new knowledge – all within the context of the school – Build the capacity of the individual, the school and the system, raise standards and promote a broader range of outcomes, sustainable improvements• School improvement through ‘harnessing’ the intuitive power of networking and collaboration
    13. 13. ‘Collaborative inevitability?’• Many authors in the school improvement field present a collaborative future as a foregone conclusion... – “The ability to work collaboratively is becoming one of the core requisites of contemporary school reform. Therefore, expanding the understanding of collaboration is important for theory, policy and practice.” Slater 2005• Implications are that school leaders have a lot to learn... – “It will take time to generate an evidence base of partnership competence in clusters of schools” Hargreaves 2010 – “Collective capacity is the hidden resource we fail to understand and cultivate” Fullan 2010• But do schools really have a collaborative future?
    14. 14. Definition:• Collaboration: – Any situation in which school staff are supported to develop robust professional relationships across boundaries within and between schools. These relationships enable them to enquire into practice and build capacity that facilitates improved learning outcomes for all staff and higher attainment for pupils (Lane 2012 p. 51)
    15. 15. Learning communities• Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) – A single organisation• Networked Learning Communities (NLCs) – A group of organisations (similar features to a PLC, but works across a broader landscape)• Collaboration, underpinned by clearly defined purposes and formal supporting structures... – Building T&L capacity in context – System improvement – Teacher moral (ownership and engagement) – And ultimately student outcomes
    16. 16. Learning community – features:• Focus: – A LC will have a explicit purpose based around classroom practice, school improvement or pupil learning• Relationships: – A LC will engender trust, mutual accountability and agreed power sharing; this in turn fosters commitment to the shared goals• Collaboration: – This should open up opportunities for sharing within and between schools, spreading innovation and providing levels of motivation
    17. 17. Learning community – features:• Enquiry: – This is the fundamental tenant of the networking process. Developing knowledge, reflecting on learning and challenging teaching practice• Leadership: – Different to traditional concepts of school leadership. Distributed (Level 5 Leadership – Jim Collins)• Accountability: – LC needs to be transparent in its decisions and self monitoring• Building capacity and support: – The purpose of the LC is to build capacity both within schools and between schools. (DFES 2004 b p. 6)
    18. 18. Learning Focus• Level 1: The Classroom – A pupil learning focus• Level 2: Adults – Challenge and improve existing practice• Level 3: Leaders – Distribute leadership, lead with EI, build teams• Level 4: School – Flexible and adaptable, responds to context• Level 5: Network – Learning through sharing• Level 6: System – Learning about practice is a requirement of the system
    19. 19. Definition:• Networked learning: –An intentional effort to articulate professional experiences into sharable knowledge within and between schools with the intention of improving the teaching and learning of teachers – ultimately improving pupil outcomes (Lane 2012 p. 57)
    20. 20. NLCs – Idealised Model Learning... PLC •Pupil PLC PLC •Adult Moral Practice •LeadersPurpose PLC Inquiry PLC •Organisation •School to school PLC PLC
    21. 21. LA NLC – Intended outcomes:IntentionsRaise standards of pupil performanceEffective sharing of resources – financial,energy, intelligence, support servicesStaff capacity buildingImprove potential for work / life balance forheads through high leverage SI activitiesProduce new approach to leadership(‘entrepreneurial’ leadership)Improve motivation and morale of heads
    22. 22. Findings – identified gaps:Intentions OutcomesRaise standards of pupil LA NLCs did not maintain a focus onperformance raising standardsEffective sharing of resources – Evidence of sharing financialfinancial, energy, intelligence, support resources – but not any widerservices support/sharing/knowledge creationStaff capacity building No evidence of capacity buildingImprove potential for work / life No evidence improved work / lifebalance for heads through high balance. In fact most heads saw theleverage SI activities NLC as ‘bolt on’ to their own SI workProduce new approach to No evidence of impact onleadership (‘entrepreneurial’ leadership learning – in fact headsleadership) talk about the ‘game’ of leadershipImprove motivation and morale of No clear evidence that theheads motivation and morale of heads has been improved by NLCs
    23. 23. Analysis• Gap between the intentions and observed outcomes due to... – Implementation by LEA (later the LA)... • Lack of clarity over aims/outcomes/processes • Lack of trust and credible facilitation of LA - collaboration viewed as a tool for control • Selection of NLC members imposed – ‘Accountability produced pragmatism’ – Lack of capacity to engage (the ‘catch 22’ of capacity building’) – Unequal levels of influence between NLC members
    24. 24. NLCs – Actual Model School School Performance School School IndicatorsLEAExpectations Resources / Finance School School School
    25. 25. Definition:• Dysfunctional collaboration: – A limited and limiting approach to collaboration that is not based on robust relationships or capacity building outcomes. However, participants work together cooperatively to benefit from centrally held resources and joint commissioning initiatives (Lane 2012 p. 159)
    26. 26. Knowledge creation / Co-operation through...capacity building / sharing Outcomes Joint projects / practice commissioning Functional Behaviours, Transactions Dysfunctionalcollaboration and Processes collaboration High trust Low trust andand commitment Quality of relationships commitment Common Motivation and Incentives Purpose Engagement (local schools) (Voluntary) Implementation and Not Effective Facilitation Effective ‘Natural’ Network ‘Harnessed’ Network Network Theory Natural Vs Harnessed Networks – Lane 2011
    27. 27. Analysis• Headteacher identity – “I think one of the reasons that collaboration hasn’t worked particularly well is that there is too much judgement in education. This means that you can go to a meeting and heads would say that they had done a lot of things and you would find out later that they hadn’t done them at all. People want to ‘sell a picture of themselves’ that is idealised.” (Headteacher 1 – primary headteacher) – “In fact it is all a bit of a game really – this is not admitted openly by the other heads in the group, but I would say that it is something that is understood”. (Headteacher 5 -– primary headteacher)
    28. 28. Expedience• Consequently, headteachers need to be ‘expedient’ about their decisions and actions... – Similar in some ways to ‘situational’ and ‘action centred’ leadership – Expedient leadership is success and task focussed with an emphasis on management perception (appearing to ‘play the game’) • “We found a way of being that worked for us, it just wasn’t what we were supposed to be doing.” (Headteacher 6 – primary headteacher)
    29. 29. Expedient Leadership Expedient Leader Collaborative Leader (Driven by accountability / values of self) (Driven by moral purpose / professional values)Stability agent Change agentManages perceptions – shuns Collegiate approach – open toscrutiny and feedback (appears to collaboration and input‘play the game’)Short term focus on success Long term focus on successthrough results in tests through wider performance measuresPlugs gaps Builds capacityA get what you can mentality A share what you have mentalityRisk averse and sticks to Creative – works with newtraditional approaches approachesSchool focused System focused
    30. 30. Headteacher Identity – Idealised Model In line with personal identity Filtered through personal and professional identities In line withHeadteacher’s professional decisions and personal identity Contextual considerations •Accountability •Policy/practice In line with •Stakeholders professional •Staffing identity •Work/life balance
    31. 31. Headteacher Identity – Expedient Model School Slanted by expedient Focused (In line with Filtered through personal and leadership personal identity) professional identities School and SystemHeadteacher’s Focused decisions (In line with professional and personal identity) Contextual considerations •Accountability •Policy/practice •Stakeholders System •Staffing Focused (In line with •Work/life balance professional identity) Identity and expedient leadership – Lane 2011
    32. 32. Conclusions (1 of 2)...• Incentivised networks... – While networks do have an intuitive promise, this is virtually impossible to harness through incentivisation. There are significantly different in structure and process to ‘natural networks’ – they do not achieve ‘collaborative depth’ in terms of capacity building and knowledge generation.• Headteacher identity... – The pressures of context linked to accountability expectations fuel a leadership style which can be described as ‘expedient’ – a short term, success / task focussed approach that relies on managing external perceptions
    33. 33. Conclusions (2 of 2)…• Expedient leadership... – Even though heads can identify the high leverage potential of collaboration, in many cases they are anchored to the day to day requirements of their situation by an expedient leadership style.• A collaborative future... – This research has shown no ‘natural progression’ towards a more networked or collaborative approach by headteachers – No real commitment to system leadership. Heads will maintain an espoused commitment to the notion, but their actions in most cases will be at odds with a system approach.
    34. 34. Active questions:• How could the implementation of the harnessed network be more effective? – What could be done to overcome the issues brought about by forced participation? – How could social capital be developed so that relational trust was built and relationships were of a high quality? – What constitutes credible facilitation to the harnessed network’s participants?• In what ways could motivation and engagement in the harnessed networks be enhanced? – How could a common purpose be developed to focus the actions of the network? – What accountability structures could overcome the tendency towards an expedient approach in order to support participants to develop a ‘system wide’ view?
    35. 35. Active questions (con’t):• How could behaviours, transactions and processes of the harnessed network ensure the involvement of wider number of staff within schools rather than being limited to headteachers?• In what ways could high quality collaborative outcomes, which focus on practice development, knowledge creation and pupil learning, be assured and dysfunctional collaboration avoided?
    36. 36. Original Contribution Co-operation through...Knowledge creation / capacity building / sharing practice Outcomes Joint projects / commissioning Functional Behaviours, Transactions Dysfunctional collaboration and Processes collaboration High trust Low trust and and commitment Quality of relationships commitment Common Motivation and Incentives Purpose Engagement (local schools) (Voluntary) Implementation and Not Effective Facilitation Effective ‘Natural’ Network ‘Harnessed’ Network Network Theory Natural Vs Harnessed Networks – Lane 2011
    37. 37. Original Contribution Key factors that restrict collaboration Intelligent System Focused Perceived Head’sAccountability Identity Filter School High stakes Focused High Collaboration Low Expedient Leadership – Lane 2011