Change is the only constant thing in life…

Changing the context

I don’t know how you personally feel about change, but for me it is a double-edged sword. I have the fear of change…not knowing what the future may hold and then I have the excitement of change and what new ventures it may bring. Being a teacher in the rapidly evolving world of education the one thing that is certain is change. Change in staffing, pupils, specifications, assessments just to name a few.  This lead me to really reflect on change, what that actually means within the context of a school and how can change successfully be embedded through leadership.

Image result for change and education quotes

Starr (2011) conducted a study surrounding the principles which demonstrated the intertwined nature of the macro and micro contexts within educational settings. Global or the macro as well as socio-political context have real implications for teachers ‘on the ground’. The Guardian (2014) discussed the work of PISA and how their work has influenced and impacted upon current educational practices and policies and how international schools are making significant changes to improve their global status and ranking. These ideas can be reflected in the structuring of the educational system as well as the significant changes nationally to the qualifications at KS3, 4 and 5 (Morgan 2016). However, the national changes will be determined by teachers at the micro context. With the evolution of new GCSE’s and A levels comes new challenges for teachers across all subjects with regards to new subject knowledge, data tracking and monitoring and making progress in a linear fashion.

These latest reforms are yet another change in education which has seen numerous changes over the last 13 years of my own teaching career. This echoes the words of West-Burnham (2007) that the concept of managing change is an oxymoron and that change ‘is’. Johnson (2001) supports the idea of change as being emergent and states that responding to the specific needs of an evolving environment is paramount to its success.  Maguire, Ball, Brown, Hoskins and Pennyman (2012) explain that the specificity and context of the educational setting is central to change events. This may mean that the change may not be universally applicable to other contexts, but should have the greatest impact within the context of the school itself. This is echoed by Gladwell (2000) who believes that understanding the context of one’s own school will enable research to have the greatest impact upon change.

The article “Changing the context” by Fullan (2003) discusses ideas linked to leadership and change. The first theme I identified with was selecting and supporting ‘good leaders’. Fullan (2003) states that the job description of the individual is important, however Crawford (2012) clarifies in more depth that the person employed should have the desirable skills rather than suiting the job description to the person that is already employed. Not only getting the right people on the bus, maybe more importantly the right people on  the right bus in the right seats.  Harris (2008) supports this claim by stating that staff in a position of responsibility has the responsibility to get it right.

Another theme that is evident in the reading is the idea surrounding one pivotal leader. Fullan (2003) argues that the principal or headteacher has a vital role and will underpin the importance of the context of change. This connects with the idea of heroic leaders as discussed by Crawford (2102) , however Crawford discusses a shift away from heroic leaders and movement towards distributed leadership and enabling more people responsibility and accountability to manage change. Muller and Bentley (as cited in Dempster 2008) suggest that a time will come where there is no hierarchy, but team based work- which I think has its own advantages and disadvantages. Leithwood and Riehl (as cited in Dempster 2009) also believe collaborative work is the future. A shared vision is essential for this to work, but effective leadership can enable this to be a success.

Image result for leadership and education quotes

Changing the context is another theme that is evident throughout this article. Fullan (2003) bases a lot of his ideas on the work of Gladwell (2000) from a book called The Tipping Point. Gladwell implies the power of the context is the most important factor; and in order for this to be effective a community should be created which is practical, enables expression and is nurturing of its precious staff. Fullan (2003) also discusses this idea and implies that if we improve the context it can be effective, but that this does not always lead to change. Fullan (2003) suggests an importance of acquiring knowledge to inform the context. The work of Hargreaves (1999) also supports the idea that professional knowledge creation and keeping up to date with new professional knowledge is the key to improvement and change. We need to know as much as possible about our context so if we want to push for change we fully understand the potential barriers and how the impact could look.

Fullan (2003) advocates the ‘Two layered perspective’. He discusses how it’s the principals or headteachers role to sustain disciplined inquiry and action on part of the teachers. This suggests that the principal will have a significant role in molding the leaders of the future. This method of empowering staff is also supported by Harris (2008). Fullan (2003) explains the need to examine the number of principals that are actually doing this which suggests a form of monitoring. He implies a ‘business like’ element without explicitly linking it to education. Bottery (2004) also does this and suggests a need for standardisation and structure. The level five leadership scale Fullan (2003) refers to is based on work done by Collins. He seems to center his research around these two main ideas which have strong business links, and even though his ‘evidence’ is based on thirty years of research, it is still based on how these ideas work in business rather than in education so we can really question whether it is actually applicable to education.

Communication and collaboration are also important themes that are discussed in Fullan’s (2003) research.  He implies that collaborative work can waste teacher time and squander resources if not implemented correctly. This statement is disputed by Dempster (2008) who explores the need for an inclusive leadership. Harris (2008) also emphasises the need for planned collaboration within schools. What could be seen as a point of interest is Senge (2006) in an earlier article also supports the ideas of a more collaborative community suggesting whole team involvement being a contributing factor to successful leadership as more people are likely to accept and adopt the change if they feel they have been part of the foundations of it.

Image result for collaboration and education quotes

The ‘evidence’ used throughout Fullan (2003) article can also be questioned.  He bases a lot of his claims on secondary sources, most of which are not directly linked to education. Both the research by Gladwell (2000) and Collins (as cited in Fullan 2003) discuss leadership in fortune 500 companies. Fullan (2003) also looks at the work of PISA noting a study with 225,000 pupils over 32 countries. Once could argue that the large sample size is adequate to formulate the claims made, however one could dispute that within this study alone there are too many variables to consider to make the claims valid. Fullan (2003) continually fails to quantify data or statistics and offers no other supporting evidence. The language Fullan (2003) uses is emotionally loaded in order to engage the reader. However the article does lack clarity and thus the impetuous of the message is lost. At times the statements he makes can be contradictory such as ‘fairly accurate generalisations’, which again highlights the lack of specifics and evidence to support his claims. Most of the studies that Fullan (2003) uses occurred in Canada and the United States, one could argue due to the differences in the education systems of those countries and UK how transferable are the findings and claims he makes?

“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” William Pollard

Mrs S

CPD- Is there a point? Hell YES!!!!

Throughout my career I have held a number of positions of responsibility within my school. My most recent is as a subject leader for Science with a responsibility linked to teaching and learning. As a distributed leader, practitioner action researcher and teacher, many strands of educational reform affect my daily practice both within the context of my school as well as the ever changing landscape of education from a national perspective. We are currently looking at a future where there is a 22% deficit of teachers with nearly half planning to leave within the next 5 years (The Guardian 2016), so the responsibility now lies with the schools to ensure training, recruitment and retention are held with high importance as this could determine the success of the school and students.  This is one of the reasons I decided to look at how CPD can improve the quality of teaching and learning within Science, from a selfish perspective I want to retain the best staff and ensure their CPD is of the highest quality for our students.

Image result for collaboration quotes

According to the Sutton Trust (2016) teaching and learning has the greatest impact upon student attainment and progress, so to ensure that the Science department are developing and enhancing their own knowledge creation (Kinchelo 2011) was the most significant reason for perusing this as it coincides very closely with my moral purpose.

Another key motivator was the macro level context. McKinsey and Company (2010) explain that it is important to develop the emergence of effective leaders as this is a critical factor to ensure sustained success and to enable and empower staff to use their initiative and drive standards up within their classroom, across the department and eventually embedding ideas and initiatives across the whole school as part of a cultural shift (Christiensen, Marx and Stevenson 2006). This is supported by Ofsted (2015) who explain that inspections will assess the overall effectiveness of the school by looking at the quality of teaching and learning and leadership among other determining factors.

With the government’s insistence on fixed standards within teaching and learning there is a danger that the school could be constrained to receiving wisdom rather than promoting creativity, flexibility and innovation (Hargreaves 1999). This can lead to resistance to any proposed change due to fear of the unknown (Bottery 2004). In order to prepare people for the unknown we must adopt the idea of being transparent. ‘Tweak and transform’ is a model that is suggested by Hughes (2002) which denotes the ideas of building on existing good practise which is more likely to be accepted and new ideas and developments can be more successfully embedded into practise. Hughes (2002) adopts practises from the Kai Zen model (Trowler, Saunders and Knight 2002) which advocates small, incremental change at the worker level. This reverberates with my research as it is vital that teachers ‘tweak’ their existing practise, but keep what is working through critical reflection and evaluation. This is further supported by the work of West-Burnham (2009) who promotes the ‘tinkering’ approach which could evolve into total transformation. This has a key role within my proposal and the collaborative nature of the model has encouraged ‘change champions’ (Trowler etal 2002) to emerge who have started to successfully disseminate and enthuse others to implement the model across other departments.


I believe there was a justification for my research due to the links between the micro context within my school and the macro context of trying to raise standards of teaching and learning across the country. This is a small scale practitioner action research project using one (my!) department within my school.  My project is unique to my school and the needs within the Science department, so there are numerous variables that are original to the context. The result of this could mean that the replication of the CPD model may not be possible, however some of the findings may be transferable to other departments and other schools. The nature, delivery and implementation of this research has involved detailed exploration of multiple aspects in the pursuit of effective change for staff with beneficial consequences for our students.

In order to clarify my conceptual framework, I investigated the literature surrounding CPD and ideas that can improve teaching and learning. I discovered numerous viewpoints in support of my research and findings. Teachers teaching careers require upgrading, improvement and development as educational reform evolves. This means the needs of every teacher differs depending on where they are in their continuum of learning as supported by Senge (2006). Dwiverdi and Alam (2011) defines professional development as the development of a person within their personal role, whereas Horsely (1996) states that CPD sessions are opportunities that should be offered to educators to improve their effectiveness within the classroom.  CPD should be a key priority both on a national scale and should be at the forefront over every school development plan.  It should be underpinned by constructivism in which teachers are treated as active learners. This is also supported by Lichtman (2013) who depicts that knowledge should be constructed by researchers and it is reliant upon the context in which teachers are in. This was of particular relevance to my research as the findings directly link to the context of my school. The disadvantages of this is that the model may not be completely transferable to another context, but it did significantly impact on the professional development and teaching standards within my department. Lockwood (1998) explains that successes in teacher CPD can ultimately enhance the results in student attainment. This indicates that teachers play the most vital role in determining student outcomes.

Image result for successful students

Dwiverdi and Alam, (2011) explain that ‘professionals’ who develop and deliver CPD need to have profound knowledge of the teaching career, teacher advancement and the systems surrounding appraisal. They have to understand why the CPD is essential, who it is aimed at and how the CPD links to the needs of the teachers undertaking it as well as the priorities of the school. This is further supported by the Sutton Trust (2014) who suggest that teachers need to develop skills needed for improvement and to sustain good practise.  Sullivan and Glanz (2006) explicate the importance of staff reflection and evaluation of the CPD that has been delivered. If implementation or evaluation is not effective, teachers may view this as a fiasco or a waste of time, which would make them less likely to engage in future sessions and potentially portray the model in a negative manner. Thus this was a significant detail to get right in the implementation and delivery of  the CPD delivered within my department. Staff were given time to reflect and evaluate every session and had the opportunity to offer ideas on how each session could be more affective. I believed that effective CPD delivered by teachers to teachers would increase engagement, enhance their knowledge and skills with a view to improve the quality of teaching and learning in day to day practise. This has been evident from the observations and learning walks I conducted across the Science department. The literature offers many ideas about models of CPD, but the common theme running throughout is that CPD is a vital opportunity for teachers to upgrade their knowledge in a collaborative way. This goes beyond the ‘in house training’ or ‘whole school staff development sessions’, because it includes both the formal and informal means of helping teachers master new skills, widen their knowledge, develop innovative insight into pedagogy and understanding more deeply their own practise and development needs. This is essential to understand because this will build into the school’s context as well as the national picture (Teacher education in Scotland 2012).

Kettle and Sellars (1996) document that CPD has a noticeable and positive impact on teacher perception and practise inside and outside of the classroom.  Both teacher grounding and improvement has a large influence upon goal setting for the teacher and the students. Teaching and learning communities are a model of which many schools are moving towards. This shift is support by Hult, Olofsson and Ronnerman (2003 as cited in Dwiverdi and Alam 2011) who explain that affective CPD is a product of collaboration, discussion and exchanging information which can develop their personal knowledge creation (Hargreaves 1999). My research has contributed to the school development plan by providing a supportive model of CPD to improve the standards of teaching and learning. As a subject leader and lead practitioner, but more importantly as someone who has a love for learning and development of my own practise, a sustained model of CPD could allow future leaders to emerge, share their expertise and harness new skills. The success of such a change could lead to an increase in staff confidence, student attainment and development of staff for successful career progression.

Image result for life long learner

The second strand that is important is focused upon the importance of quality teaching and learning. The teaching and learning research program (2006) state that affective teaching and learning is underpinned by subject specific content, learning across the curriculum and improvement across the whole school. Miller (2006) describes successful CPD as a process that creates openness where relationships between colleagues can be built whilst having a systematic approach focused upon the goal that is to be achieved. CPD structured in this way will also take into account the multiple ontologies that may exist within the session. Speck and Knipe (2001) explain that successful CPD should always be focused on student attainment and that improving standards of teaching is the clearest gateway to this. They further clarify that “student success is the ultimate aim and outcome of well planned CPD” (Pg 18 line 15). Morrison McGill (2015) explicates that team work is vital as is the need to develop a collaborative mindset and being more open to improvement is imperative for successful CPD in teaching and learning. Collaboration was a key factor that I had made part of the success criteria within my own policy. Staff were given many opportunities within each session to discuss ideas and share their own thoughts and opinions. Leiberman and Miller (2008) state that a crucial aspect of improving teaching and learning is reflexivity and learning from one’s own practise. All the features that have been discussed within the literature have been incorporated into the model of CPD that is being delivered within Science and soon to be delivered within English and Mathematics.  Wallace and Kirkman (2014) advocate the sharing of good ideas as a vital method of improving teaching and learning and inspiring staff across all roles of responsibility and years of experience. However, when offering new ideas, it is imperative that we explore our own practise in a critical way (Soler, Craft and Burgess 2001). Another factor I had to consider when embarking on changing the current model of CPD was that staff may be reluctant to engage. Earley and Porritt (2009) stress the importance of engaging staff in understanding how CPD can improve their own practise in an achievable and manageable way, this should encourage less resistance to the change.

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”  If we all adopt this mindset when it comes to CPD then surely we will be developing ourselves in the best ways for our students.

Mrs S

Leading change- but what do we actually mean?

Leadership and change tend to go hand in hand within the world of education. Usually change is brought about by effective leadership and effective leadership can really sustain change…. but what does this all mean?

Having recently completed my Masters in Education on leading innovation and change I have had the opportunity to really explore the differences between leadership and management. I really enjoyed the readings surrounding the age old debate,  especially Alma Harris and John West-Burnham… they really captured how leadership can lead to transformation. But what is actually mean by leadership? And how does this differ to management? I have prided myself on being a leader… some one who is at the forefront and mucking in. A leader allows others to be part of the change process, they enable them to be involved and have their say- otherwise we will just be up against resistance. A leader does not necessarily mean a member of SLT or subject leaders. A leader is one who provides inspiration to others, that supports and guides, that is honest in their ventures and includes the team ever step of the way. A leader has confidence in their own ability and can communicate their vision clearly to their teams and any other stakeholders involved. I feel all the leaders that have inspired me have 3 characteristics in common which are that they are committed but flexible as they allow others in their team the ability to play to their strengths (which have been already identified by the leader), they have a creative eye and are willing to develop this in others and they always seemed to have a positive attitude or we could now call that a growth mindset.

When leading a team the leader must really rely on their own intuition- especially into unchartered waters. Everything is uncertain and this brings with it added pressure and it is at this point where your own intuition is crucial. Leaders have the confidence to make difficult decisions and reroute their work if needed. Being a reflective practitioner will also stand a leader in good stead. This will enable you to evaluate and see how things could be better next time. A leader is also not afraid to ask for help or support- let’s face it we all need it from time to time! But as you work through tough decisions you will learn to trust your instincts more and more and believing in yourself as a leader is as important as your team believing in you.

This leads me on perfectly to a point I made earlier about a leader inspiring others. This is probably the most enjoyable and important part of being a leader. Inspiring your team to see the vision of what success could occur is vital. You need to make your team feel invested in the vision and how their role is equally important. Make them part of the decision process as this will generate enthusiasm and often increase the effort they give you.  Acknowledge people for their hard work- but not in a patronising way- a thank you card sent to their house really does go a long way! As a leader it is your job to keep morale high as this will enable you to get the best from your team.

So in leadership the right skill set is key if you want change to occur- but is there a place for management? I have read many articles stating that leadership styles are the most important (mainly advocating distributed leadership) and that the days of management are over. We have seen a shift from heads of department being called “subject leaders”, head of year are now “year leaders” and no more senior management team- they are the senior leadership team. So if you change the title does it mean a change in the way we are ‘handled’? Of course not… leaders will naturally emerge within education, but that does not mean there is no place for management. Management is a skill within its self and I feel that a good leader will possess the management skills to deal with difficult situations and conversations they have to have with people and effectively lead change within a school.

So when I talk about change, what do I actually mean? Firstly we could say that change is doing something different from the norm and embedding it within our daily practice. Now the concept of change is an easy one…do something different and stick to it. I wish!! As a leader who wants to implement something new- I must take into account 3 main things:

• Personal anxiety of the people who the change will directly effect. People need to know honestly how the change will affect them in their role. They need to know what factors will change and more importantly what will stay the same. As a leader you need to be open with the people that change will affect. You need to share the vision and reasons for change but also be willing to change your ideas if there is overwhelming resistance. Don’t let your ego be detrimental to your team!

• Micropolitics is another area that you must consider when looking at implementing a change. Though we don’t like to admit it some people in our setting have their own personal agendas and the change that you suggest may not fit with their vision. This is where transparency is key. Speak to your SLT and ask them to highlight any potential barriers to the change you want to embed. Similarly SLT can discuss the ideas with the middle leaders or staff body to engage them. Again sharing your vision is key, but also understanding the potential gains of your change is as important- if your change can generate a measurable impact and provide evidence then you are more likely to ‘win over’ your senior team.

•Culture can be defined as “the way we do things round here” and this can be the most difficult barrier to break however it is the most important to enable change to be effectively embedded. This is where your distributed leadership skills really come to life. Involve as many staff as you can and force them to become “change champions” and spread the word of change through their actions. I have found this to be really successful within my department. An example for me was marking, I had worked with a group of 4 teachers to improve their marking. As a group we discussed how our marking and feedback should look and then we had a go. We trialled it for a few weeks and came back together as group to evaluate. Staff felt confident with the change and I asked them to deliver their findings in a departmental meeting. Their practice was shared and other staff wanted to adopt what we had done. This has now become the norm within our department for marking and feedback.

There is a lot of literature surrounding change and the models that you can use to successfully embed it…but I tend to lean towards my favourite 2 and mix the approaches. The first is Lewin’s change management model who discusses the ideas of unfreezing a concept that you want to change, them implementing the change and refreezing the new change as the norm. This is obviously an oversimplification but by recognising the 3 distinct phases of change you can implement the change required. The second model that really resonates with me as a subject leader is the Kaizen model of change. Kaizen translates from Japanese into “continual improvement” and is based on the premise that good processes bring about good results. This model expects you to speak with data and argue with facts, directly dealing with the roots of the problems whilst working as a team. Kaizen advocates small, incremental changes which can lead to total transformation over time. This  is manageable by any person working in an educational setting from the top to the bottom- however this model promotes a bottom up approach so that all levels of hierarchy have a vested interest in the change trying to be implemented and thus making the change more likely to be adopted and embedded by every practitioner.

So as I draw to an end I will leave you with a question and a quote. My question is are you just about improvement or are you truly trying to move towards transformation of learning and practice?

We cannot restructure a structure that is splintered at its roots. Adding wings to a caterpillar does not create butterflies- it creates awkward caterpillars. Butterflies are created through transformation”

Mrs S 🔬