Part 7: LEADING THROUGH COMPLEXITY and ANXIETY CLARITY IS KEY

Updated: Jul 22





Supporting cultural and contextual stability in complex, chaotic times demands leaders who can stay the course and hold their nerve until they get the results they want. While being relentless, leaders must maintain a slow pace using deliberate reasoning, sober reflection and collaborative decision-making based on data that comes in many forms. These actions will identify and sustain a clear path to all students’ success – the ultimate mission, vision and values -in an unprecedented wholistic move towards equity and excellence. For all.


In this paper, we explore a detailed look at what it takes to use data, depicted in graphic organizer format, to ensure the right work at the right time is accomplished in the right way to increase all students’ growth and achievement. This work requires leaders to be deliberate in their own learning, as well as in their leadership. The data collected by every leader must provide an ongoing reflection on the impact of leadership to empower teachers and ensure the successful learning of every student.


Figure 1.1 demonstrates that leading and learning are synonymous: that is, leading to learn and learning to lead flow throughout an organization. In this description of a learning organization everyone sees themselves as a leader, surrounded by ‘Knowledgeable Others’ who have specific skills sets, at the ready, anytime and anywhere – with a line of sight to every FACE of every learner, images focused by the clarity of the data. It is the relationships between the layers of leadership and the focus that every leader gives to the critical relationship between teachers and students that develops the ‘Third Teacher’: a culture of learning within all contexts (Sharratt, 2019).


Figure 1.1: The FACES of Learning Leaders


In Figure 1.2, the 14 Parameters of System and School improvement are displayed (CLARITY, Sharratt, 2019). The 14 Parameter Matrix in Appendix A of the CLARITY text, developed by Petersen and Sharratt, is a leadership guide and includes the essential bookends: Parameter 1, Shared Beliefs and Understandings, and Parameter 14, Shared Responsibility and Accountability (See Figure 1.2).


Figure 1.2: The 14 Parameters of System and School Improvement

In Figure 1.3, we stress that these two parameters are the constants in every system and school leaders’ toolkit and this calls for a ‘direct line-of-sight’ to every learner. The critical relationship between teacher and student involves knowing every FACE, beyond the academics to embracing not only cognitive insights but also social/emotional connections to all students in their care.

Each layer of leadership make decisions that influences the work of the next layer of leaders and that ultimately impacts student learning. It is in understanding their influences and impacts that allows every leader to make informed decisions about their next actions.

Figure 1.3: Line of Sight from Systems to FACES


The following Five Questions for leaders and teachers provide a ‘Thinking Framework’ that can support all layers of leadership to make informed decisions about their leadership and to learn from the influence and impact of those decisions.

Our ‘Thinking Framework’ can be considered around a series of question stems.

  1. What? What work are we doing in our role to empower every teacher to successfully teach every student?

  2. Why? Why are we doing this work in our role to empower every teacher to successfully teach every student?

  3. How? How are we doing this work in our role to empower every teacher to successfully teach every student?

  4. Impact? How do I know the work in my role has empowered every teacher to successfully teach every student?

  5. What next? What is the next work needed to enable every teacher to teach every student?

In this leading/learning scenario, illustrated in Figure 1.4, “The What” is defined as an understanding of the relationship between teacher and student. This relationship is one of teaching and learning. (Parameters 1, 4, 14)


Figure 1.4: The What? Why? How? IMPACT?


Empowered teaching, as illustrated in Figure 1.5, is defined as teaching that is

  • Purposefully aligned to the expectations of learning defined within curriculum standards

  • Informed by strengths in student capabilities to engage in, think about, communicate and improve in their own learning

  • Responsive to daily demonstrations of learning to ensure ongoing progress.


Figure 1.5: Empowered Teaching



Successful learning, as illustrated in Figure 1.5, is defined as learning that

  • Demonstrates expectations of learning defined within curriculum standards

  • Develops and applies student capabilities to engage in, think about, communicate and improve their own learning

  • Results in ongoing progress due to the teaching that is provided.


Leading with and learning from CLARITY – the WHAT - requires that every leader see their role as empowering all teachers to become intervention teachers who know how to use quality assessments to inform their instruction for every student (Parameters 3 and 5). For leaders, this takes learning with their teams so that they teach others and in doing so, they develop shared beliefs and understandings (Parameter 1) which results in formation of collective understanding of shared responsibility and accountability for empowered teaching, which in turn results in successful learning. (Parameter 14).



Using data as evidence, to focus on the FACES is “The Why”. Leading with evidence of empowered teaching and successful learning to drive our leadership practices is explained in Parameter 6: Case Management Approach (CMA). A two-pronged process including Data Walls and Case Management Meetings, the CMA builds collective capacity and deepens collective commitment to continuously upskill and refine the knowledge needed in their practice to teach every student (Sharratt, 2019, Chapter 7).



“The How” of learning requires leaders to intentionally apply the Gradual Release of Responsibility model in every classroom and at every Professional Learning session. Learning requires leaders to look for and reflect on actions that demonstrate responsibility has been accepted. That is, leaders look for evidence in practice that demonstrates ongoing commitment to empowered teaching that results in successful learning. (Parameters 3, 7, 8, 10 and 13). Here, student work samples as data, bring the FACES of learners to discussion forums as central evidence to focus on improved teaching practices. Strategies such as Data-Driven Collaborative Inquiry, Collaborative Assessment of Student Work, the Co-Teaching Model, Lesson Study and Accountable Talk all discussed at Data Walls and Case Management Meetings (Sharratt & Harild, 2015; Sharratt & Planche, 2016; Sharratt, 2019) require strategic allocations of time and budgets to promote precision-in-practice in every classroom.



“The IMPACT” is measured when all leaders are in classrooms more than in their offices. They know, as Lead Learners, that they must model and monitor expected practices every day, by going intentionally and regularly into every classroom to gauge evidence of successful learning to better understand their impact on empowered and empowering teaching. (Parameters 4, 8, 11, 13) Impactful leaders sit alongside their teachers and use many tools, such as being “present” and engaged in all learning sessions, rolling up their sleeves to analyse evidence of student learning, learning alongside colleagues all of which enable them to understand the influence and impact of their leadership. These leaders understand and live the notion that no one has all the answers; together we do, and that by being together we can share them.



Learning Leaders check out perceptions of how learners are travelling by asking the 5 Questions of students during their Learning Walks and Talks (CLARITY, 2019) as shown in Figure 1.6:


Figure 1.6: The Way Forward – 5 Questions

  1. What are you Learning? Why?

  2. How are you going?

  3. How do you know how you are going?

  4. How do you improve?

  5. Where do you go for help?

Answers to these questions, alongside the self-reflection questions in Figure 1.7 below, provide leaders with data about the influence and impact of their leadership and their own next steps. For example, leaders ask, “what assistance teachers may need in understanding explicit teaching in classrooms?” and/or “What do I need to do, as leader, to ensure there are better informed decisions about the resources needed and the next steps in PL for staff (Parameters 1-14)?”


Figure 1.7: The 5 Questions


Providing support for doing this ‘right work’ in complex and anxiety-inducing situations, the reflective tools in CLARITY (2019) make up the ‘lead learners’ self-assessment toolkit that will help ‘learning leaders’ determine the focused, intentional way forward and to realize the potential of all learners. These self-ssessment tools include:

  1. 14 Parameter Matrix for System and School Improvement (Chapter 1);

  2. The 5 Questions (Chapter 2)

  3. The Collaborative Inquiry Cycle (Chapter 3);

  4. The Assessment Waterfall Chart (Chapter 4)

  5. The Instruction Waterfall Chart (Chapter 5)

  6. Data Walls and Case Management Meetings (Chapter 7)

  7. The Consciously Skilled Knowledgeable Other (Chapter 8);

  8. The Leadership Self-Assessment Tool;

  9. Learning Walks and Talks; and,

  10. The Learning Fair.


Figure 1.8: Leading and Learning with IMPACT Using 5 Questions (5Q)


As demonstrated in Figure 1.8, impact results when learning leaders witness the intended, aligned, taught curriculum expectations as are evidenced by students’ articulation and their demonstration of facility in responding to the Five Questions in every classroom, K-12. We are all responsible within our systems and schools for these outcomes regardless of how complex or anxiety-producing the circumstances. As leader, the question you need to ask yourself is “Which students won’t have the opportunity to learn under my watch?” We own all the FACES of growth and achievement (Parameter 14). As professional practitioners, as ‘learning leaders’, we need to become precise in our practice.


Leaders measure their impact by determining how well their teachers and students are growing and achieving – every day – and by celebrating small wins that demonstrate shared beliefs and understandings and shared responsibility and accountability (Parameters 1 and 14). Figure 1.9 graphically represents ‘the right work’ in a shared vision of knowing the forest and the trees, of being in the balcony and on the dance floor at the same time, and of knowing all the FACES and each FACE in your care. It is the FACES of CLARITY which learning leaders exemplify in highly complex and in calmer times. When leading is informed by learning that is based on careful articulation of WHAT is being led, WHY it is being led, HOW it is being led and constantly expects and reflects evidence of impact on the empowered teaching and successful learning, then leadership decisions will influence the work of every teacher and improve the learning of every student.

It is leadership comprised of deliberate reasoning, sober reflection and collaborative decision-making based on data - that comes in many forms that will identify and point the way to a sustained clear path to all students’ success. This pathway for leadership which includes bringing staff toward reaching their highest potential is the ultimate mission, vision and values. It is leadership which can result in unprecedented wholistic moves towards equity and excellence. For all.

Figure 1. 9: A Whole System and School Approach to Improvement



References

Sharratt, L. (2019) CLARITY: What Matters MOST in Learning, Teaching and Leading. Thousand Oaks, CA:

Corwin Press


©2020 Sharratt Educational Group Inc.

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