I really enjoyed reading the recent whitepaper from the National Center for Innovation in Education, Leadership for Learning: What is Leadership’s Role in Supporting Success for Every Student? The topic is of particular interest to me because I have a hunch that there is a different set of knowledge, skills and mindsets necessary for leading a learner-centered organization than there is for leading a school-centered organization. In the whitepaper, the authors propose a combination of conditions leaders engage “to establish a resilient learning culture focused on iteration and continuous improvement.” (pg. 13)
- Vision for learning is shared, challenging and compelling.
- Learning is the core mission and organizing force of the work — not teaching.
- A growth mindset means mistakes, missteps, and setbacks are mined as rich opportunities for learners and leaders to push to the edge of learning.
- Success is generated through transparency, shared responsibility, collaboration and interdependence.
- Learning is treated as an inside-out, student-centered process.
- Definition of success is anchored in agency and capacity for future learning.
- Competencies are guideposts that enable equity — not threats to success.
- Technology is a tool for unlocking learning potential.
- Learning supports social justice.
In these conditions there is a richness that can inform leadership — shift and enrich the mindsets we bring to our practice of leading schools and districts. In our roles, the most effective and powerful mindsets bring us to play both a short game and a long game. I’m afraid, though, there’s an imbalance in our leadership conversations – both online and offline – toward the short game. Absolutely, we must create culture and build relationships. These have always been at the core of effective leadership. However, we must go deeper, dancing with both the current reality of leading an educational organization and the future context that will impact our learners after they leave us. Here are two actions we must take to elevate the #EdLeadership conversation.
- Be future focused. I’m finding more and more information crossing my news feed about innovations such as artificial intelligence that are not only going to change the way we learn (and teach) but change our economy and the kinds of jobs that will and will not exist for our learners. I hear very little conversation online and offline of the future and how educators must lead differently for this future. Want to ignite some conversation? Watch this video of a Tesla predicting an accident and reacting before the accident even happens. How does this example create urgency around leading the conversation on the changing role of teaching (and learning and leading)?
- Be learner focused. We educators find the shift from school-centered to learner-centered challenging, largely because we’ve spent our entire lives in school-centered systems. It’s hard work full of dissonance and messiness to change that mindset. Many educators say they value competency-based, personalized learning; learner voice; and open-walled, socially embedded learning experiences. But look closer, and you will likely see institutional over-control. The school and district profiles on Education Reimagined are very powerful in capturing what makes learner-centered school tick. How do our beliefs about learning look different in a learner-centered culture as compared to a school-centered environment? There is a difference!
Our vision must take into consideration the radical changes that are on the horizon in our society, jobs, the economy and the world, and break free from the school-centered routine we’re use to. I’ll be sharing future posts exploring more deeply the signals of change and my hunch that learner-centered leadership looks different from school-centered leadership. Changing times require changing leadership!
In what other ways can we elevate the #EdLeadership conversation?
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