Wednesday, 3 May 2017

SE Principals Seek to Scale Success with Glen Pearsall

Two terms into my new job in Melbourne and I had the fortuitous task of recording a synergetic session with Glen Pearsall.

As a newly formed executive of the South Eastern Zone Catholic Principals Network, we thought it timely to revisit our current mantra : Engaged, committed, inclusive, professional - Collegial support to maximise the effectiveness of our schools. The mantra was developed about ten years ago when only 15% of the existing network members were present.

Principals who had worked with Pearsall in the past, respected his practical, research based expertise. It was agreed that a personalised workshop with Pearsall would support us to action our effectiveness as a network going forward. We chose wisely. The outcomes of this engaging leadership workshop with Pearsall, will certainly guide a strengthened and puropseful approach to future network meetings as we seek to scale success.
I recommed this approach as a self-review tool for other networks and for leadership work within and across schools. 
Glen Pearsall sharing data
Here is synopsis of the session with some key reflective questions and references to other sources from Pearsall. I have taken the liberty to research and include some extra links and images.
  • Often vision and mission statements are generic. Are they are compass point or a mere goal or intention ?
  • Six key questions we had to rank and discuss -  1. How do we remain focussed on learning ? 2. How do we provide concrete support for our colleagues? 3. How do we share our expertise with each other ? 4. How do we address potential conflicts of interest ? 5. How do we turn our vision into action ? 6. How do we address when team members are not meeting our stated expectations ? 
  • Key questions aligned with the network reflections
Pearsall took our network reflections from an earlier meeting and aligned them with the key questions
  • Lencioni (2015) pyramid for a cohesive team is based on trust
Based on Lyncini's behaviours of a cohesive team. Image source bizz buzz
  • Two types of capital in any group (from Pearsall's leadership book) - human and social capital. Principals build human capital and help to grow pedagogoical espertise across the school. Principals need to aim to keep non instructional issues off the agenda to allow staff to focus on teaching and learning. What does excellence look like in our schools ? We need to have a clear understanding of what this looks like in practice. One school Pearsall has worked with agreed to video their practice.
  • Goddard's work (2000) around collective efficacy is powerful and relates to social capital - Collective efficacy is more important than self-efficacy.
  • What are we doing to spread good practice in this group in this room ? How can we spread the social capital ? How can we draw on the strengths of each other and move the knowledge around ? How do we get the most out of groups ? Sharing social capital, scaling success is a passion of Pearsall.
  • What are our concrete strategies for sharing the capital of what we already have in the room. Lilydale High School is very big and has a large turnover of staff. As a result they have a strong induction programme. What have we got in place to induct new principals into our network ?
  • The Nathalia Learning Community is made up of four schools with huge challenges. Their social capital is huge, human capital is challenging. They achieve success through a high level of social capital.
    “... Social capital provides the glue which facilitates co-operation, exchange and innovation.” The New Economy: Beyond the Hype ( OECD Insights - Human Capital).
    "Social capital are the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively." (Google)

  •  What are our strategies for purposeful sharing versus potentially being anecdotal and piecemeal ? What are our concrete actions at building social capital amongst our group ? This should be number one on the agenda. From a practical perpsective we could employ an expert to carry out some of the administrative work amd divide the cost across twenty-four schools. A retired principal who works for the group to action some of the things eg. an executive officer is being employed by the VACPSP.
  • Can we saving time through maximising our expertise and dividing labour to offset our costs ? Could we draw on external support as a group ? 
  • A red team in the military challenges the effectiveness of a group. Have we got a red team  - someone who pokes holes in what we are doing ? Do we do it as a group ?
  • Have we identified good practice amongst us or in our schools ? Sometimes we need to ask other people in the group to identify expertise.
  • Goodwin (2015) In The road less travelled - Changing schools from the inside out  focuses on the idea that the best practise for change is starting with curiosity. Wayne Bennet - their innovation is curiosity. Could small groups be working on focus projects ? These could be expert focus groups based around a curiosity or a passion.
  • Have we got a space to share our pooled resources ? We have Google community. Do we need another platform. Pearsall recommended SLACK.

  • An example of effective collaboration Pearsall has experienced is the sharing of staff goals. These are made anonymous and shared as a resource. This improves the quality of the goal setting.
  • We have a high degree of informal sharing at our network meetings but haven’t gone to the next stage of recording and sharing our work beyond the minutes of our meetings. This is about digging deeper and going to the next level. Pearsall believes in the power of social capital. As a network we need to optimise our time by pooling resources in a central depository.
  • Our Carrot ? What draws us to come together ? The success of going off to other countries to look at education systems every two years has been immensely valuable. Could we visit locally and go more often ? How can we capitalise on the here and now ? These meetings should be the carrot.
  • Challenge: Just knowing what is going on in our own network is very powerful. Do we get out to other schools and into classrooms to observe best practice ?
  • Do we have conversations around curiosity ? Eg. Embedding sustainability across all of our schools
  • Can we develop a register of what we are interested in so we can work on it ? We can build and connect through our motivations and passions. Allocate time to work in the curiosity groups during our day. Be creative about the way we use our time together. Trial something and see what works and doesn’t work. What would we form groups around ? SIP, personal goals, curiosity
  • Sergiovanni (1984) classified leadership into 5 'forces': technical, human, educational, symbolic and cultural. How can we ensure we focus more on educational leadership ? How do we share expertise ? Do we outsource or use our skills from within our network ? Do we know projects that are successful in our schools ? What is the feature lesson equivalent for us as a network ?
  •      Every principal actively engaged during Glen's workshop
  • Data chart - One of the big areas of improvement for all schools is to build social practice and scale success. A highly effective school can utilise the skills of their teachers to share best practice. This will make the greatest difference to improving performance for other teachers and learners. It’s not what school you send your child to but the quality of the teachers within and across the school.

Highly effective school with average teachers can make the greatest difference to learning outcomes

  • How well do leaders scale success ? Leadership groups must have an agenda to build social capital in the room. This is vital.

What is our strategy moving forward ?
Based on Pearsall's prompts and our discussions, the following proposed agenda items rose to the top. We voted on these items to prioritise them. Here are our results with the number of votes in brackets from the 22 of the 24 principals present:

  1. Move to full day meetings and use the time for focus groups to meet on our network day (20)
  2. Catholic Education Melbourne level or retired person to take on an executive role (19) 
  3. Induction for new staff and support (18)
  4. Forming curiosity based focus groups (16) What are we curious about ? Discuss as focus groups. Could be - I need to know about it, personal passion...3 or 4 key things..contribute and leave..sharing time/ stand up meeting - one thing we have noticed/check in. With flexible groups, seek our existing resources and get up to speed in our time. Record on a shared space within a shared structure.
  5. Register of expertise/ passion/ curiosity/ experience - peer or self nominated (16)  Develop the register for collective sharing. Social capital means utilising skills of our teachers and leaders. Source concrete ways for best practice to become everyone’s practice. 
  6. Opportunities to get into each others schools at classroom level  (14)
  7. Better use of google for sharing resources (12) Pearsall referred to this one as the slow hand vote. Some schools set up and function around the 5 spheres and use this as a structure to guide and plan.
  8. Sharing experts and funding (3)
  9. Motivators beyond curiosity (1)

Further thoughts...
  • Identify a couple of the above as the most pressing for us as a network. What should we do first ?
  • Pearsall's own goal is to always aim to leave any meeting with a strategy. What is our strategy going forward ?
  • Always take advantage of a hypothesis approach. Get public agreement about what we will trial rather than what will work when you are trying and testing new ideas.
  • Review our existing agenda to cater for our needs.
  • Do not lockdown when our curiosity wanes within action or inquiry groups. Be flexible and move between and across groups.
  • Meeting protocols. Resurface some of the protocols from this group in the past. 
  • There are obvious benefits that come out of this process - resources and expertise for all to use.
  • How do we preserve the best of what we do ? Are we sharing the extent of our challenges and abilities within the room ?
  • Do we revisit our mantra and new approach ?  Part of the process is setting the review date. When are we going to look and see if it is working or not ? The default is one year’s time. 
Quotes from Pearsall that resonate with me:
"Take time to pause in the busyness of our every day lives and reflect on what’s important not just what’s urgent "( Pearsall, 2017)
"We need to scale success in the room not just address any problems" (Pearsall, 2017).

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