The Leading Learning Collaborative Case Study
In 2016, the Darling Downs South West region, partnered with Dr Lyn Sharratt to support school leaders in utilising the 14 parameters’ (Sharratt & Fullan, 2012) as a leadership tool targeted at improving all students’ growth and achievement in literacy, in the broadest sense of the definition (Sharratt, 2019). Over the duration of the next 3 years, 160 schools chose to participate in bi-annual Professional Learning sessions with explicit in-between tasks. Over time, the six leadership dimensions (Sharratt, 2019), Education Queensland’s inquiry mode,l and school improvement hierarchy provided additional leadership tools to support school leaders.
Within this context, schools began to evidence improvement which prompted the question: What types of school leadership practices enable the development of collective responsibility and accountability that evidenced growth in learning for all students?
Answering this question will allow us to deepen our understanding of how continuous school improvement is achieved.
1. Principals Ensured they systematically implemented structures and processes that focused on achieving their identified improvement outcomes. Within the context of school improvement, structural features include but are not limited to: system strategic clarity, leadership structures, support and engagement strategies. They achieved this by:
a. Being system thinkers: Principals were consciously focused on identifying why current situations are the way they are to inform how to best improve results They utilised historical and current evidence from multiple perspectives (including student data, school opinion surveys, past school audits and observations) to consider patterns of behaviour which in turn illuminated the impact of current school structures and strategies. This enabled each principal to contextualise their improvement journey.
b. They strategically aligned all facets of their improvement agenda using in the 14 parameters and system inquiry process.
c. Utilised shared instructional leadership: Within each school’s journey, the principal identified the need to ensure there was shared ownership of the improvement journey (Parameter #14) which resulted in the implementation of a distributive leadership model
2. Principals paid attention to their schools culture.
Within each context principals did not explicitly refer to cultural alignment, however they did implement processes and practices that reflected this critical aspect of school improvement. Practices and process included:
The development of a shared commitment to improving all students’ learning through reflective data-driven conversations (Parameter #1)
The co-construction of shared improvement accountabilities and timelines (Parameter #14).
3. Principals valued developing shared ownership through the use of collaborative practices.
Principals within each context consciously utilised co construction, data-driven conversations, feedback, mentoring and instructional side-by-side coaching as building collaborative cognitive structures. These structures ensure teachers’ professional conversations utilise higher-order thinking where they examined, compare and analysed the impact of their teaching (Sharratt, 2019). Through these intentional practices, a learning culture that reflected the school’s improvement agenda emerged.
The 14 parameters together with the Dimensions of Leadership and the systems inquiry model provided a reflective leadership lens that enabled principals to evidenced continued improvement within a collaborative learning culture. They achieved this by:
1. Understanding the importance of organisational culture
Develop deep knowledge of the evidence-based leadership frameworks that provided a clear pathway and continuation of their improvement journey as they “just made sense and connected to exsiting work” (Principal, School D)
2. Paying attention to developing shared ownership through collaborative practices and co constructed accountabilities
Co-lead and co-learn with their school leadership teams as several leaders articulated: “Learning together provided the development of trust and open conversations that challenged our current practices” (Teacher Leader, School B)
3. Staying the course. Through a focus on continuous improvement. The work is never done!