Sunday, November 30, 2008

Distributed Leadership

I´m reading Sergiovanni's Strengthening the heartbeat: Leading and learning together in schools where he mentions "distributed leadership" within the context of "leadership as entitlement". According to Sergiovanni (and I agree), those who have the ability to lead should be given the authority to do so, regardless of position.

I think this translates well to the classroom as well, that is, a classroom as a learning community. The notion of distributed (or networked) leadership provides all actors (i.e., teachers, students, parents, administrators, civic leaders, etc.) the chance to take on leadership roles at appropriate times based on the individual strengths of the collective. Thus, power is distributed as well throughout the community - both within and outside the classroom - in a way that provides a more equitable education. Learners, for example, who are given the opportunity (or authority) to lead in classroom activities and in their own learning, begin to feel empowered as their ability to lead improves as well. Through their interaction with others, they begin to see the strengths of others while at the same time realizing their own weaknesses. By developing personal wisdom, they gain insight on the benefits of creating various ties with classmates and others in order to improve their own personal learning network.

Although these concepts work at a variety of levels, the challenge is creating an environment that encourages learners, educators, etc. to take on leadership roles through interaction that includes actors that perhaps fall outside the common cliques that drive most social, educational, and professional dialog.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Teacher observations

I´ve been participating in threads pertaining to teacher observations, walk-throughs, etc., and recalling previous conversations with colleagues regarding the same, and still have reservations with the notion of using checklists when observing teachers.
How much can be observed when the observer is going down a checklist containing items that are or are not being addressed in class?  

How reliable and valid can an observation be when focused items from that checklist are discussed and predetermined in the pre-observation conference?  

How reliable and valid are observations that are either scheduled or conducted at random when teachers know ahead of time the areas of teaching/learning that administrators find important?
Working together with all teachers in establishing a set of agreed-upon teaching principals should be the bases of post-observation teacher conferences.  Instead of creating a checklist, having a common educational philosophy, mission, and a set of collective commitments paves the way for teachers to chart out their own path in initiating a change in practice.