Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions


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Essential Approaches for Excellence & Sustainable School System Transformation

Whether you are a new principal seeking guidance or a seasoned veteran looking to make a change, Principals Who Learn will reinvigorate your work and help you develop and adapt your skills to meet the ever-changing needs of your school. Barbara Kohm worked for 14 years as an elementary school principal and for 10 years as an early childhood program director.

She now works as a consultant to principals in a variety of school districts. Beverly Nance worked as a high school assistant principal and a middle school principal. She is now the co-director of the St.

Amazon's 14 Leadership Principles via Jeff Bezos

Louis Principals Academy and a leadership consultant and mentor for principals in a variety of school districts. All Genres. Selected senior students attended a four day training camp at the start of the year where they were trained by external facilitators in providing information to their peers on issues related to sexuality. Information was provided to students through one-to-one contact, assembly presentations and an anonymous question and answer text service.

One assembly presentation dealt with the issue of the need for informed consent in sexual relationships. Another very active group in this school was the feminists.

How to Ask Your Principal for Anything | Scholastic

This group, which had a male co-leader, conducted an energetic campaign for a unified school dress code. Students in this group believed that the existing code discriminated against girls and was more strictly enforced than the boys' code. They talked to students at assembly and got their feedback. They negotiated with senior leaders and the board of trustees about the school's dress code, and presented at school assemblies. The outcome was that the code became non-gender specific, and teachers looked at and altered their own dress code.

Other student groups supporting student wellbeing include the Peace Ambassadors a peer mediation initiative. A peer support team operated in Term 1 to assist the transition of Year 9 students into the school. Some Year 13 students gave up study time to provide academic support for juniors in their subject classes. Change leaders have deep knowledge about the curriculum.

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They centre the curriculum in relation to every child so that there is a meaningful connection between the learner's interests, needs and experiences. These leaders pay particular attention to ensuring that cultural diversity is respected and the needs of vulnerable learners are addressed.

ERO has found that leadership heeding student voice is a significant factor in many instances of improving learner success, especially in secondary schools. For example, one departmental head designed a survey seeking student ideas for improving learning opportunities in his subject. Using information from the survey, the teachers designed a multi-layered supplementary response for their subject not English. This gave the students many more opportunities to learn the critical literacy skills that would help their subject learning.

Figure 2 shows the students' ideas and the resulting learning opportunities. As a result the students increasingly felt that the teachers were on their side and they appreciated the teachers' extra support. They knew the supplementary support was an opportunity to learn, so they put in extra work. Both students and teachers were motivated to accelerate their progress in the subject through improved capability.


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Effective leaders cultivate teaching communities that are focused on improving student success. Leaders support teachers to share "collective responsibility and accountability for students' achievement and wellbeing" p. Students are at the heart of school business. While some leaders created opportunities for teachers to look closely at students' results, many had not focused teachers on deep and critical analysis of the relationship between achievement, progress and teaching practice.

To accelerate learning, there must be a focus on the interrelationship between how teachers teach and what students learn. This practice works best when teachers and leaders are willing to try new or different approaches to teaching and learning that might benefit students. In particular, they should consider wholesale changes to the way their resources, options and timetables are organised to ensure that those students who may not previously have achieved well are fully engaged and learning.

A focus on mentoring students to achieve the subject qualifications they are participating in is not enough on its own. Much more could be achieved if curriculum changes were introduced that ensure every student participates in courses that both engage them and lead to qualifications that enable them to reach their potential in the future.

Being prepared

Leadership ensures effective planning, coordination and evaluation of the school's curriculum and teaching. The New Zealand Curriculum offers a broad framework allowing schools to design learning programmes based on their students' interests and needs. In planning and coordinating the curriculum, effective school leaders play an important role in helping teachers to interpret and implement wider curriculum principles. Leaders need to be knowledgeable about the principles of good curriculum design, and to be able to interpret the broad direction of The New Zealand Curriculum in a way that is responsive to their particular community context.

In many secondary schools, because of their departmentalised structures, and the culture of specialist teaching, middle leaders have often had a far stronger profile in curriculum design and coordination. In one secondary school with previous concerns about student safety and levels of academic achievement, the principal led concerted action to turn things around.

Leaders in these schools identified a tipping point at which they realised that taking pathways seriously meant that they had to consider how their curriculum implemented relevant learning and supported a pathways approach. This remains an imperative for school leaders who with middle managers and teachers must improve their analysis and interpretation of assessment and other information they collect about students.

Such skills are needed to gain greater insights into what is working well and what should change to most influence student achievement. The New Zealand Curriculum [22] states that its eight key principles [ 23] put students at the centre of teaching and learning and should be the foundations of school curriculum decision making. The principles relate to how the curriculum is formalised in a school. They are particularly relevant to the processes of curriculum planning and review.

When they are used well by schools they result in a curriculum that is cohesive, inclusive and responsive. When the principles are not fully enacted, students do not have opportunities to experience a broad and deep curriculum that caters for their interests or strengths. The quality of principle-based curriculum design and review in New Zealand schools is mixed. High expectations was an important principle where the curriculum's coherence and responsiveness was high in schools. We found that, in curriculum review, leaders and teachers in these schools made clear links between the curriculum principles of high expectations, learning to learn and inclusion.

Typically, teachers, leaders and trustees were aware that promoting the notion of high expectations began with their own actions. Effective leaders set high expectations for both staff and students. First and foremost were the high expectations evident for all students. High expectations coupled with a learner-centric curriculum is a powerful combination.

These effective leaders also demonstrated a commitment to raising achievement through a planned approach to improving teaching and learning including:.

Data is the window into understanding student progress and modifying and developing a curriculum that engages them in learning. Robust data is essential in order to form a view of what each child knows and can do, and what is needed next. Leaders focused on change make sure that their teams know what the data is for and refer to it frequently to make real time decisions.

Raising Achievement in Primary Schools discusses how this partnership works in practice. More learning then happens in ways that students prefer, such as through collaborative group tasks, oral work, and self and peer assessment. Leaders support these processes for increasing student voice.

The college's mission is to provide a holistic education that seeks to develop the whole person, in line with its special character.

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Leadership in practice

The senior management team is a strong driver of the school's overall direction. It has emphasised self-review, introduced key student support programmes, developed systems to monitor student achievement and implemented suitable teacher appraisal and development mechanisms. The He Kakano programme has been significant in supporting the development of teacher practice and cultural understanding. The school has built strong links with local hapu and iwi.

ERO's report on Improving Education Outcomes for Pacific Learners noted that: "As schools develop their curriculum they should take into account the cultures, interests and potential of all their students, including those from Pacific cultures. The reality is that most primary and secondary schools in this evaluation had not drawn on contexts and themes that were relevant to Pacific learners.

Indeed, while references to Pacific students appeared in the overarching statements of a school's curriculum, classroom planning and practice frequently missed opportunities to reflect the culture, knowledge and understanding of these learners. This report, as well as Directions for Learning: The New Zealand Curriculum Principles, and Teaching as Inquiry , and The New Zealand Curriculum Principles: Foundations for Curriculum Decision-Making noted that many teachers were not making use of valuable information about students' cultural backgrounds to plan programmes that celebrated and further extended students' understanding of their own and others' rich and diverse cultural backgrounds.

School leaders have an important role to play in requiring teachers to position learners at the centre of classroom programmes, including ensuring the curriculum has relevance and meaning for students. This might mean their leadership role is less about monitoring the school's mandated curriculum is followed to the letter, and more about reminding and checking teachers are creatively and appropriately responding to their students.

As a result, the school curriculum is enriched by community and cultural resources while reciprocal learning opportunities lead to increased participation, engagement and achievement. One leader used recorded interviews with parent to review and develop their whole junior school curriculum.

In another school a group comprising parents and teachers help develop a strong sense of common purpose throughout the school as they evaluated how successfully the programmes provide for children.

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Before a new topic for learning was introduced to students, the partnership group discussed what the children already knew and related it to any similar experiences they may have had. This practice helped teachers gain valuable cultural insights that help to close the cultural gap between school and home, and provided important information for staff when designing the curriculum. Schools consulted their communities about the content of sexuality education programmes but not about other aspects of the health curriculum or wider curriculum.

This affected its overall quality of their response to students' wellbeing. Opportunities for students to make decisions about their learning and school processes also varied, sometimes even within a school. In some schools, students reported that their suggestions had been acted on, but in other schools survey responses had not been analysed or used. Student opinions were gathered only through surveys in some schools.

Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions
Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions
Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions
Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions
Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions
Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions Principals Who Learn: Asking the Right Questions, Seeking the Best Solutions

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