What Drives “Student Achievement”? Connected Leaders

Often, when discussing digital literacies with leaders, someone will say, “but I have a student achievement lens, and I am focussed on how we improve student achievement“.  It is at this point that I know this educator sees “technology” and “digital literacies”   as “add-ons” to the student achievement agenda, rather than critical components of it.

So then, what drives student achievement*? (Or, if you prefer, student learning.)

Research suggests that “teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling” (RAND 2012)

Similarly, Hattie’s meta-study demonstrates the importance of teachers on learning outcomes.

From John Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers
From John Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers

The role of the teacher is to ensure that every child in their care moves forward in their learning.

From Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers
From Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers

Teachers can’t do this alone.  In collaboration with their colleagues, they learn the strategies and practices that work best with each and every individual student in the room.

When a student is stuck in his or her learning (think, for example, in a grade 9 applied math class), the teacher must find a way to help that student learn.  This involves looking at what works in other contexts, and adapting it to the needs of a particular learner.

visible hattie
From Hattie, Visible Learning for Teachers, p. 18

Thinking about what is working now (best practice), and using it as a lens to evaluate and adapt what is working elsewhere to a specific context (next practice), relies on a collaborative professional environment, and the opportunity to learn about a wide array of promising practices.

At one time, teachers closed their doors and taught in isolation.

Now, a much more collaborative approach to professional practice is encouraged.  However, no longer should collaboration among educators be confined to a school or even to a single district.

Isolation is now a choice, not a condition.

“The real game-changer for collaborative learning is technology.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 7.15.20 PM

 The most capable teacher in the school is the school, unless the teachers are connected learners, and then its the world.

Teachers who know how to self-direct their learning online with their peers from around the world, have access to all the best thinking, the best strategies, and the best conversations about how to help each and every child learn.

How, then, can Principals enable self-directed learning by teachers in their schools?  We know now that the most effective leadership practice is to be a visible lead learner.

Ken Leithwood: Principal As Co-Learner and Enabler from LearnTeachLead on Vimeo.

From Fullan: The Principal. http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/14_The-Principal-Handout_Spring-Summer.pdf
From Fullan: The Principal. http://www.michaelfullan.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/14_The-Principal-Handout_Spring-Summer.pdf

As colearners, Principals need to make their learning visible to the school community.

Connecting, learning, and sharing are at the core of learning leadership.

Connected leadership is the foundation of student learning.

Thank you to Mark Carbone, Julie Balen and Cindy Carr for rich conversations on this topic over the past week.

Featured Image created and shared by Sylvia Duckworth and Jennifer Casa-Todd

(*I won’t take the time here to define “student achievement”, but it is always worth asking the question, “What IS student achievement?” whenever engaging in conversations about it.  Also, ask how it is being measured in research studies that claim to show an improvement in student achievement. We have vastly different ideas of what “student achievement” really means.)

How can Ontario Leaders become Connected? How do they improve their understanding of digital literacies?  OSSEMOOC – free, no password, 24/7 support and learning to become a Lead Learner.

Michael Fullan: The Principal (pdf)

6 thoughts on “What Drives “Student Achievement”? Connected Leaders

  1. One thing that is hard for many to understand is what ‘visible learning’ looks like. What does it mean to make my learning visible to my colleagues? Happily, Leithwood presents a clear example of how a principal can continue to learn about, say, math instruction: visit an exemplary math teacher with some other teachers, unpack what they all learned together in a PLC meeting, and finally, visit other math classrooms to determine if those best practices are in play there.

    One response I hear to this type of work is that principals are so tied up with central office meetings and other commitments during the teaching day that investing in the kind of embedded learning illustrated by Leithwood is very difficult to find time for. A member of our PLN, David Theriault, has written that “if you want to try something new, you are going to have to figure out what and how to get rid of something you found previously valuable.” He said this in response to his own question of how to add in new practices as a teacher, but it holds true for principals too.

    How do we ensure that the teaching-learning time in schools is reserved and protected not just for students, but for teachers and principals too?

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