Sunday 28 June 2015

Are you willing to create disturbance and be disturbed? Reflections via @MelAinscow

Are you willing to create disturbance and be disturbed yourself ? This challenge to educators by Professor Mel Ainscow, turns those gentle ripples alluded to in my sabbatical video into waves. Ainscow calls it the "trickle effect".
Message from sabbatical video. You can access the 4 minute video here.
What captured my attention and drew me to register for a seminar at the University of Otago, entitled Moving Knowledge Around: A strategy for fostering equity in education by Professor Mel Ainscow CBE, University of Manchester, UK ?

On reflection it was the promotional material about Ainscow's latest book that ignited my curiosity. Renowned educators Hargraves and Fullan were both quoted as recommending this "..extraordinarily powerful book'' (Hargraves) "..that captures with great clarity how to lead change.." (Fullan).
Towards self-improving school systems presents a strategic framework that can help to foster new, more fruitful working relationships: between national and local government; within and between schools; and between schools and their local communities. What is distinctive in the approach is that this is mainly led from within schools, with senior staff having a central role as system leaders.

Two points that truly resonated with me were:
1. Self - improving school systems - this is a particular passion of mine. How can we keep our finger on the pulse and continually improve and offer a high quality of education ?
2. Led from within schools, with senior staff having a central role as system leaders - what can we learn from the success of the Greater Manchester Challenge ( an initiative to improve educational outcomes 2007-2011) ?

In addition to this, having been a principal for almost eight years and now studying leadership at master's level, I find that I am continually exploring a wider, strategic view around ways to initiate positive educational change not only within but beyond our school system.

Here is my interpretation of some of the key points from Ainscow's succinct and thought provoking seminar :
  • We need to be willing to disturb and be disturbed - to make people stop and think aloud, talk and innovate at all levels. Use difference to challenge and stimulate reflection that can grow practice for teachers and leaders.
  • "Moving the knowledge around" within, between and beyond schools leads to equity of success for all involved. The "knowledge" refers to expertise of existing human resources. It's about making better use of "untapped potential".
  • The key to the Manchester success story was the effective matching up of schools. When these partnerships worked, they were mutually beneficial. Sharing stimulated experimentation and new ways of working.
  • Slide attributed to Ainscow
  • Humankind has much to gain from drawing on the immense cultural, religious and linguistic diversity within schools.
  • Effective collaboration uses a range of data as a stimulus. Such evidence brings a critical dimension to the table that can be used to challenge expectations. "Numbers are dead and only come to life when you talk about them and ask questions. So what next?"
  • We need to make space and allow time for family and community groups "beyond the school" to be involved. They are all invested in educational success.
  • Sustainability. How do we stop things fading once the initiative and the funding finishes? An entity "by schools for schools" was set up and is internally driven by school leaders.
  • A bottom up movement gained momentum and traction with local authorities enabling and facilitating rather than commanding and controlling.
  • Children's zones based on the Harlem's Children's Zone  help improve the lives and education of children in disadvantaged areas.
  • Allow time for teachers to observe one another and reflect and stimulate talk on their practice. The Lesson Study method from Japan is very powerful and pays off for the children. Build on the latent expertise in the staffroom.
  • Involve the voice of learners. What is it like to be a learner in this class, in this school ?
So much is "technically simple but socially complex" - find the best people and get on with it. Ainscow concluded by stating, "The most important factor is the collaborative will to make it happen".

What have we achieved in North Otago in relation to some of the features of Ainscow's model ?

We have made elements of this happen through the Whitestone LCN (Learning and Change Network). You can learn more about the power of collaborative practice from this video about the nature and value of learning and change networks for engagement in deep learning for success.

We firmly believe that the LCN is the catalyst for the energising learning communities that abound in our Whitestone schools. We are living proof that school environments and communities, steeped in tradition can evolve into authentic student led entities that are open to embracing motivational forward thinking learning and change.This passion must exist to drive the network forward and sustain future growth and innovation. You can learn more by watching this prezi below.

Yet..there is still so much more that we can do.

I have ordered Ainscow's book and look forward to learning about how to contribute to fostering equity in education locally, nationally and globally.
I am willing to create disturbance and to be disturbed. Are you ?

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