Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Principal - 3 Keys to Maximizing Impact - Book Review Fullan

The Principal - 3 Keys to Maximizing Impact

In one of Fullan's latest books (released January 2014), he challenges the current focus on Instructional Leadership, by stating that the principal's role needs to change.

Chapter One - Outmoded

He begins chapter one with this shocker "the principal as direct instructional leader is not the solution!" (pg. 6)

The Principal as direct instructional leader is not the solution

Now before you think that classroom walkthroughs are over... let me clarify his point of view.   He advocates for a balance of the role of the principal, one that consists of the principal as the Leading Learner, a System Player, and an Agent of Change.

In chapter one he indicates that the current model and focus of a principal in many districts is too focused on micromanaging specific teachers and as a result is ineffective for creating scalable change.

Chapter Two - Vices and Virtues

In Chapter two he looks at an American perspective of four wrong choices driving current policy.  From an International perspective, he outlines the need to move from the "wrong" drivers to the "right" drivers.

Rather than principals focusing on individual changes, he recommends that the principal "use the power of the group to change the group". (pg. 29)  He reminds us that in education we need to establish a school and District culture where learning is the work, " that people are getting better at what they do because learning to be more effective is built into the values and routines of the organization" (pg. 32).

As we've seen from the new Ontario Leadership Framework, we need to also pay attention to the personal leadership resources.  Fullan captures this in chapter two by stating "A narrow focus on instructional leadership and student achievement can shut out other dimensions of leading learning" (pg. 41).

Fullan's call is to look for a balance, a balance of the Principal as instructional leader, but also a balance as manager, and as facilitator of leaders within the school.  

Chapter Three - Leading Learning

As we have been doing in #ocsb professional learning networks, Fullan calls on Principals to "lead the school's teachers in a process of learning to improve their teaching, while learning alongside them about what works and what doesn't" (pg. 56).

In chapter three Fullan indirectly speaks to the school improvement process (SIPSA) that we focus on in Ontario.  He states that "...principals...ensure that the group focuses on a small number of key elements: specific goals for students; data that enable clear diagnosis of individual learning needs; instructional practices that address those learning needs; and teachers learning from each other, monitoring overall progress, and making adjustments accordingly" (pg. 63).

Fullan's research leads to the conclusion that principals should not be spending all of their time in classrooms but that they spend enough time in classrooms to have some instructional expertise. A balance of their time should be spent with other leaders in the school to impact groups more than individuals.  All of this is also balanced with a focus on operational tasks to ensure that routines are established to minimize distractions from learning.

If a principal is able to achieve the environment that Fullan proposes, they will see that teachers no longer focus just on the students they teach, but rather a collective focus on the success of all students in the school.

Chapter Four - Being a District and System Player

In chapter four, Fullan challenges today's principals to look beyond the school to increase the learning within the school. In #OCSB this is reflected in our triads or Principal clusters of schools where classroom visits, and school visits result in increased social capital for each of the schools involved.  In #OCSB the use of networks (French, Differentiated Instruction, Math, Language, Learning Connections - technology, etc. ) all serve this purpose of learning from each other.  

Chapter Five - Becoming a Change Agent

In chapter five, Fullan makes reference to the work of Lyle Kirtman (2013) and the seven leadership competencies.  These include: (1)  Challenge the Status Quo, (2) Build Trust Through Clear Communications and Expectations (3) Create a Commonly Owned Plan for Success (4) Focus on Team over Self (5) Have a Sense of Urgency for Sustainable Results (6) Commit to Continuous Improvement for Self  and (7) Build External Networks and Partnerships.  Each of these competencies is expanded and explained from the perspective of the Principal.

Chapter Six - The Future is Now

In chapter six, Fullan makes reference to his book Stratosphere (all of our Principals received a copy - our Board's in-service presentation) where he looks at the impact of technology in today's schools.  In the #OCSB we have focused on the necessary changes in pedagogy and provided principals and teachers with the tools (BYOD policy, social networking policy, wireless environment, mobile devices, Google Apps for Education, learning networks, etc.) along with multiple entry points, to use technology as a driver for student and staff success.

Overall, I would say this is a must read for Principals who are looking at the demands of the job and wondering how to prioritize the practices that have the greatest impact on their school and on their district.

Offer to #OCSB Principals

The first 5 principals to tweet "#OCSB I want a copy of Fullan's new book - The Principal @TDOttawa #OCSBCLL", will receive one, hand delivered!