Leadership and Professionalism
The direction that a school takes and it’s success often comes down to the leadership styles of the leaders and their foresight to prepare children for a world and job opportunities that do not exist today but will play a major part in our lives in the future. Walker (2007) states that leadership is fundamentally concerned with change and leading an organization from where it is now to where it needs to be in the future. I believe that this is only possible if the leader is a reflective leader. The leader should be able to critically reflect in order to be able to identify what changes need to be made and how to go about making the said changes to ensure that the school is relevant and meeting the needs of the children which will have them in good stead in the future.
Clear communication should be utilized to gain support for the change. Through collaboration, plans can be put into place which will hopefully result in the desired change. Within the IB Standards and Practices document, and in the Leadership and governance section (0201) it implies there is a shared pedagogical leadership or distributed leadership. Hargreaves and Fink (2009) draw a parallel between communities and webs stating that the webs are not without structure but “hierarchal control gives way to shared collaboration”. (Hargreaves and Fink, 2009, p. 184) Henry Mintzberg (2004) explains
“Management has to be everywhere. It has to flow with the activity, which itself cannot be predicted or formalized….. Management also has to be potentially everyone. In a network, responsibility for making decisions and developing strategic initiatives has to be distributed, so that responsibility can flow to whoever is best able to deal with the issue at hand” (p. 141).
Organisations need leaders to contribute and ensure that all contributors are working toward the same common goal. Mintzberg (2004) expresses the importance of leaders energizing people to make better decision and to do better in their practices. “Effective leadership inspires more than empowers; it connects more than it controls; it demonstrates more than decides. (Mintzberg, p. 143). Transformational Leadership, as defined by Northouse, “is a process that changes and transforms people.” (Northouse, 2016, p. 161). This leadership style resonates with me. The key is to be able to get people to want to change and improve in order to reach the goals set to achieve the IB standard. Walton and Huey (1996) describes four factors to transformational leadership as idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individual consideration. In both distributed and transformational leadership styles, there is a need for reflection in order to be able to move in the desired direction. Within the IB, it is implied that through shared pedagogical leadership everyone has a responsibility to carry out their practices in accordance with the IB Standards.
Harris defines distributive leadership as a “mobilising leadership expertise at all levels in the school in order to generate more opportunities for change and to build the capacity for improvement.” Thorpe (2011) points out that distributed leadership has attracted attention in academic literature. However, the term has faced some resistance as it is seen as part of a scheme which is imposed by organizations to avoid consulting their staff (Gosling et al. 2009). Harris and Muijs (2003) suggest that although an autocratic leadership style with a single head was prevalent while a school faced special measures, leadership needed to be shared in order to continue progress. Through collaborative working all teachers can take the lead in something they are passionate about, therefore, advancing the schools ability to change and develop.
According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, ‘Professionalism’ (2020) is defined as the combination of all the qualities that are connected with trained and skilled people. The IB World school includes on its pedagogical leadership team an IB-trained programme coordinator who is empowered to facilitate successful programme implementation (IB Practice 0201-02). The IB school supports and facilitates curriculum and programme development (IB Practice 0201-02-0100). In comparison to the school that I work at, whereby there are barriers that make curriculum development and professional development difficult to achieve. Time is the major constraint as curriculum development falls on one person who is expected to continue with their everyday responsibilities and find the time, which is often personal time, to develop the curriculum. In the IB, “it is a requirement of the programme that time is allocated for teachers to plan collaboratively. Although the IB does not recommend the ratio of teaching time versus coordination time that a school should put in place for the PYP coordinator. However, the pivotal role of the PYP coordinator, as pedagogical leader,
requires that the school recognizes the scope of this responsibility. A workable arrangement should be made to support, as fully as possible, the effectiveness of the coordination of the programme.” (Making the PYP Happen) This can be a cause of stress in the family and affect mental health as you are never able to “check out” of work. In the IB, the professional demonstrates pedagogical knowledge and understanding and a commitment to continued professional development as a way of ensuring sustained best practice. The professional educator possesses skills and abilities essential to the profession. The IB World School is committed to ensuring that the programme coordinator completes required professional development that is up to date with the most current version of the progamme(s) under their responsibility (IB Practice 0201-02-0200). In the school that I teach in, there is no professional development on offer, however, if I find my own professional development course and motivate why I believe it is beneficial to attend the course then provisions are made. I believe that part of the reasoning behind this is that if you are not invested in a course and want to learn something specific, you may not get much out of it. However, if it is something I really want to do, it will be worth it. Finances and accessibility are also barriers to this Practice being achieved. The school I work at is quite isolated and will require travelling to receive professional development. This makes professional development costly and so out of reach for the staff members. It is possible to overcome these barriers through collaboration. A few responsibilities could be taken away from the person developing the curriculum which will give them additional time without eating into their personal time. One member of staff could attend a professional development course, and then train and collaborate with other staff members so that everyone receives the benefit of the training. To be a professional is to strive to sharpen your skills so that you can raise the standard of the product you are delivering (i.e education). It is up to each individual to look for ways to improve their skills, whether this is seeking out professional development, collaborating with other staff members or critically reflecting on your own personal practice and making the necessary changes to better yourself.
Reflection in Leadership
In order for me to become the kind of leader that will inspire others, it will take critical self-reflection on how I can be transformed as a leader and so, in turn, transform those I lead. Danielson (2009) discussed the importance of daily reflection by teachers drawing attention to the fact that teachers make a multitude of decisions every day. Many of these decisions are routine and the teacher can make these decisions automatically. There are other decisions teachers make that are in the midst of evolving situations. And then there are more complex decisions. Expert teachers need to be able to understand the level of reflection required for the different situations. This reflection will help them to replicate best practice, refine coincidental practice and avoid inferior practice.
In order to truly understand how reflection can be achieved, it is important to understand what reflection is. ‘Reflective practice’ derives from the work of Dewey and Schon. Dewey (1910, p.6) wrote that reflective practice refers to ‘the active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that supports it’. This lends itself to a questioning approach whereby one questions why things are the way they are, and how they might be if influences were to change or shift. Dewey went on to say that being reflective enables us to act with foresight. My actions in the classroom should be carefully planned, informed by theory and purposeful.
Schon (1983) presents a slightly different view. Schon’s reflective practice, as Meierdirk (2017) explains, is based on three points:
- Knowing in action which is automatic behavior learnt through experience.
- Reflection in action which is reflecting very quickly in a particular scenario. This is also possible from learnt experience, it does require some thought and is not an automatic reaction.
- Reflection on action which is when you reflect after an event and identify what went well and what could be done better. This is when you think more deeply about why things did not go according to your plan, or why they exceeded your expectations.
There are various models of reflection. One model is a cyclic process which needs to be repeated. Reflective practice is ‘learning through and from experience towards gaining new insights of self and practice’ (Finlay, 2008, p.1). The aim is to be more aware of my own professional knowledge, actions and decisions as I strive to make sure all students make maximum progress and learning can be tailored to them.
Kolb’s model and Gibbs model are cyclical models of reflection.
Kolb’s Learning cycle (1984) highlights reflective practice as a tool whereby one learns from and through experiences. Gibbs’ model (1998) is also a cyclic reflection model. It is based on Kolb’s model but further extended and broken down. Gibbs model also encourages reflection during the experience and not just after the experience. Both models require the teacher to analyse the experience. Kolb’s theory requires analyzing the experience after the fact and looking the outcome of that experience. Gibb’s model requires taking a factual account of exactly what happened before, during and after the experience. All models require teachers to draw on ideas from research to support development, understanding and modifying their teaching approaches to improve their own teaching practice. If I reflect, but do not use the reflective practice to embrace change and professional growth; there is no point in reflecting.
Johns’ model is on structured reflection. Johns (2000) suggests that when I reflect I must look inwards, considering my own thoughts and feelings, as well as looking outwards, considering the actual situation as well as my own actions. I should ask myself if I acted ethically and if there were any other influencing factors. Johns’ model has structured cue questions which help me to reflect on the experience. It is different to the cyclical reflection in that I am required to look inwards and outwards.
Systematic reflection is a learning procedure whereby one analyses their behavior and evaluate the contribution to performance outcomes. Ellis and Davidi (2005) emphasize that systematic reflection serves three functions: self-explanation, data verification and feedback. When systematically reflecting, the individual is responsible for analyzing their own performance and coming up with reasons why things worked out as expected or why things went wrong.
In the ‘Interview mit Prof. Dr. Jennifer A. Moon’, (DUWBerlin, 2012, 00:52) Moon described reflection as ‘cognitive housekeeping’ which is basically reordering what we already know and thinking about learning we have already done. Through reflection, we need to be assessing our knowledge and the quality of our knowledge.
All of the models serve the same purpose in the educational field; to improve on yourself and your teaching methods to allow for best practice in the classroom. However, if it is to be successful, it requires honesty and making yourself vulnerable. It requires you to be open to criticism and a willingness to learn and change. If you are not prepared to do any of those things, reflection will simply be a formality that will have no bearing on your own professional and personal growth.
Finlay (2008) points out that busy and overstretched professionals are likely to find reflective practice taxing and time consuming. The result being bland, mechanical, routinised and unthinking ways of reflecting. Ixer (1999) emphasizes the fact that there is increasing evidence that teachers need to develop their metacognitive awareness to increase their own professional learning and to enable them to support pupils develop their metacognitive skills effectively (Veenman et al., 2006, Kuhn, 2000, Kistner, 2010). Being metacognitively aware as a teacher involves understanding how your thinking, and learning, is developing.
- Danielson, L. (2009) ‘Fostering Reflection’, Educational Leadership: How Teachers Learn, 66(5). Available at: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb09/vol66/num05/Fostering-Reflection.aspx (Accessed 17 February 2019).
- Dewey, J. (1910) How we think, Boston, D.C.Heath.
- DUWBerlin (2012) Interview mit Prof. Dr. Jennifer A. Moon. 28 June. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pilxn3-Pts&feature=youtu.be (Accessed: 06 March 2020).
- Ellis, S., & Davidi, I. (2005). After-event reviews: Drawing lessons from successful and failed experience. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 857–871.
- Finlay, Linda (2008). Reflecting on ‘Reflective practice’. Practice-based Professional Learning Paper 52, The Open University.
- Gosling, J., Bolden, R. and Petrov, G. (2009). Distributed leadership in higher education: what does it accomplish? Leadership, 5, pp. 299– 310.
- Gill, R. (2002) Change management–or change leadership?, Journal of Change Management, 3:4, 307-318, DOI: 10.1080/714023845
- Hargreaves, A., Fink, D. (2009) Distributed Leadership: Democracy or Delivery?. In: Harris, A. (eds) Distributed Leadership. Studies in Educational Leadership, vol 7. Springer, Dordrecht
- Harris, A. (2014) ‘Distributive Leadership’. Teacher, Evidence + Insight + Action, Available at: https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/distributed-leadership (Accessed: 08 February 2020)
- Harris, A. and Muijs, D. (2003). Teacher leadership and school improvement. Education Review, 16, pp. 39– 47.
- Ixer, G. (1999) ‘There’s no such thing as reflection’, British Journal of Social Work, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 513–27.
- Johns C. Becoming a reflective practitioner: a reflective and holistic approach to clinical nursing practice, development and clinical supervision. Oxford: Blackwell Science, 2000.
- Meierdirk, C. (2017) Schon’s Reflective Practice. 13 July. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzjz-l8L1lc (Accessed: 06 March 2020).
- Mintzberg, H (2004). Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development. San Francisco CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
- ‘Professionalism’ (2020) Available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/professionalism (Accessed: 20 January 2020)
- Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Schon, D. (1983) The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action, London, TempleSmith.
- Thorpe, R., Gold, J., & Lawler, J. (2011). Locating Distributed Leadership. International Journal of Management Reviews, 13(3), 239-250.
- Veenman, M. et al., (2006) ‘Metacognition and learning: conceptual and methodological considerations’, Metacognition Learning, vol. 1, pp. 3–14.
- Walker, G. (2007) An A-Z of School Leadership, International Baccalaureate Publishing
- Walton, S and Huey, J. (1996). Sam Walton: Made in America: My Story. Canada: Bantam Books.