Key Learning and Insights for Implementation from Education Leadership and Management

Royal Roads Castle

I really enjoyed reading Covey’s  book, The 8th Habit, which I read as an additional reading for EDLM 501 – Leadership for Learning. My perspective is much in line with his. Leadership is not just for the privileged few.  Leaders enable others. Leaders serve others. My reflection in EDLM 525 – Developing Leadership Capacity through Reflective Practice helped drive the point home. In today’s world, accomplishments are a matter of team efforts and collective capacity. This also requires more communication and of a higher quality than ever before. These thoughts are not just my own, and not just Coveys or other authors such as Kouzes and Posner. They are a sign of the times, birthed of divine inspiration.

In EDLM 510 – Research for School Improvement, I undertook a longitudinal investigation of data, as well as an in-depth investigation. I sought to improve my ability to ask questions – a skill that several faculty modeled so well – and studied research about appreciative inquiry and synergenesis. This need was echoed by my LPI and TPI results. This taught me that we should place more focus in on what contributed to successes and ideal learning experiences and not get into the lull a reactive problem-based focus. Instead, we should ask inspiring questions.

I found all of the 5 indicators as important English 11 Analysis of Contributing Factorsin my teaching successes, because, when present, they correspond to higher class averages (above left), when absent, the class averages are lower.

I found support for the importance of project-based learning in my curriculum by comparing class performance in various activities throughout a school year, as indicated by the boxes above.
I suggest that this process should be extended to all staff. Teachers should be encouraged to look at their data longitudinally and in more depth for a given school semester or year. As a leader I would enjoy providing assistance with this as a mentor, and would organize small teams within which the stories of successes could be shared. Others can provide guidance and encouragement. The result should not only exciting, but also improved teaching practice.

I must add a word of caution in all this. Students are unique, as are classes, as are contexts. This means that conclusions about the effectiveness of an intervention cannot always be reliably gained from a given assessment. There are many variables such as school culture, family context, social-economic background, and so on.

If these other variables that could explain differences cannot be controlled, they should at least be accounted for. This will help us consider more possibilities and should also leave us open to the possibility that our conclusions may be wrong.

3 - Courage Presentation I found this activity in EDLM 501 of exploring dualisms very insightful.
The motivation, knowing that great leaders combine various approaches,
or use different approaches at different times, was of great encouragement.
It taught me to think in other ways, and embrace another part of myself.
I say “it”, but to be more specific, rich and helpful feedback from classmates was particularly responsible for important growth  and learning involved in the balance of my dialectic. I have come to understand the statement that half of your learning in this program comes from other members of your cohort. I remain thankful.

EDLM 501 Final Project: I plan on looking at more effective ways to give and receive team feedback as part of my personal growth plan using the materials available through our program’s Team Coordinator, as well as research. In this, I suspect there is more to it than simply a balance between a courageous and gentle approach, though that will be a start. Though 95% of my feedback  to members of cohort was well-received, and I am pleased to have given out a lot of positive feedback and created positive energy, I also remember that there was a constructive criticism that did not go over as well. I found this surprising, because it was meant to be constructive, and it was offered for the benefit of the other, which is generally the best intent to have behind any effective action. I am sure I will learn as I pursue reflection and investigation.
I also want to wrestle with the balance required between shining out, the sharing of one’s talents and good qualities with others, with the essential quality of humility.

The subject of school improvement planning (SIP) is vast. In EDLM 530 – Planning for School Improvement I came to see how effective and fun the teamwork can be. I saw how a team of people literally located at opposite ends of our world, comprised of diverse talents, backgrounds and perspectives, could come together to build a school improvement plan. I felt that everyone bought into the school improvement planning process as a direct result of the magic in the teamwork involved. I think that this understanding will help me illuminate ways in which we can involve others in the process, and gain more contributions and commitment. Teamwork is essential for the SIP process because there is a leadership team putting the plan together as well as a staff team carrying it out. “Strong human connections” produce “spectacular results” say Kouzes and Posner (2012, p. 312). I highly recommend their book, The Leadership Challenge.

Thornton, Peltier and Perreault (2004) explain that most problems are due to systems, and that “solutions lie within the systems” (p. 6). System correction is termed a high-leverage improvement because of the great and lasting change that results. Our new principal has been thinking outside the box, and putting into place changes to our system such as new initiatives to support English language learners. He has helped me understand that within an offshore school, every teacher is a language teacher. On top of the vocabulary to understand mathematics, for example, I can teach language and note-taking skills. I now attend to their physical and emotional well-being, as well.

Challenge vs Skill

I implemented take-away ideas from my reading, such as Csikszentmihalyi (1997) diagram above regarding Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement assisting students in their reflection and goal-setting. Goals set should be SMART, to use Ed Muzio’s (2010) TED-talk: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.

In EDLM 540 – Building School Communities, I will move from considering the involvement of staff to how to include parents as well as the wider community. Parental support is vital, considering that students spend half of their time outside of our school classrooms.

I have experienced great success in communication with parents at parent-teacher meetings thanks to my ability to speak Chinese. I’d like to consider whether I might have the same success if I were to use the phone, or how I might organize my own meetings. I should create opportunities for these discussions in upcoming weeks because I have stated a plan to communicate with the parents of all of my “I” students who need to do extra work in order to pass. I’d also like to explore to what extent I can get community to become involved in our program, or with our students, or vice versa, how students might get more involved with community.

I like the International Baccalaureate (IB) motto which places emphasis on quality relationships and partnerships with parents, families and community. Community service is a source of pride, and this focus on service is one to which I wish to aspire. I hope to assist students to practice this virtue, but will have to consider how it can be practically carried out. “Is there any deed in the world,” asked the Persian Teacher ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “that would be nobler than service to the common good?” (The Secret of Divine Civilization, 1957, p. 43).

Here’s my team’s mind-map regarding an article titled, Five Aboriginal Mothers’ Views on the Role of Parents in Secondary School Improvement, by Bonnie Stelmach (2008).

Mapping Community Resources at CKSS. It includes an IB accreditation proposal. I also created a .doc listing a variety of resources and assessed their feasibility adapted from Saunders, M. (2006). Building School-Community Partnerships: Collaboration for Student Success. Thousand Oaks: CA: Corwin Press.

In EDLM 550 – Communication for Learning, I created a Rap song about Communication.

My team considered communication in times of crisis and I looked at factors that are conducive to change.

I also created Unity in Diversity art work related to the communication process.

EDLM 560 – Leading in the Technology-Mediated Environment

EDLM 560 Learning Byte: Twitter

I dragged my feet before getting started with Twitter. This is because I am somewhat in line with Nicholas Carr’s thesis in The Shallows that spreading ourselves thin across social media devices might take away from our ability to be present with the people around us and effective. I ignored dozens of invitations to Twitter in recent years as a result. After recently joining twitter, however, I have found it an interesting and effective way to share news, information and media. On twitter words are not minced, and being to the point is encouraged. This is unique to twitter.

My twitter handle is @sirblois. I was able to browse postings within my #EDLM560 group, as well as “tweets”, meaning posts, across a range of topics. I tweeted, and also “retweeted”, meaning reposted, a few of the interesting and important things I found. These are now associated with me and anyone who looks me up can see them. Twitter is thus useful way to learn more about others and quickly share information. You do not even need to login to twitter to stay abreast once you’ve started. I get email updates regarding the activities on twitter of those I follow. I follow more than a dozen people on twitter and am being followed as well. I think twitter can be an effective medium for professional discussions of a public nature and a means to identify human resources and collaborate.

EDLM 560 Learning Byte: Blogs

Here are a handful of links to decent educational blogs along with recommendations.

My website, the one you are reading right now, is a form of blogging, but I have not yet begun posting articles with specific topics with the intention of attracting readers. I enjoyed reading this reflection on 10 years of blogging. I like the idea implied by the author that through a blog you can share thoughts without the need to formally publish them. I agree with the author that it is not easy to gain a readership these days when starting a blog because there are so many blogs out there. It makes sense that people should read the best blogs, and thus might not have time to read what my postings. I still feel that there is merit in posting my key learnings, however, not only because the content will become increasingly rich with time, but also because as the number of people whose lives I touch grow, so will the demand to read what I have written. These efforts serve as a tribute to the legacy of good books and professors, leaving a gift to posterity.

EDLM 560 Learning Byte:  Technology Outside

Here are a few ideas regarding how technology can be used outside of the traditional classroom setting.

  1. Math 10: investigate trigonometry by having students at different points all take pictures of selected objects from different positions.
    a) Data can be plotted.
    b) The size of the object as a function of distance could then be calculated after class data is aggregated.
    c) The heights of the given objects could be calculated using trigonometry.
  2. Science 10 & Chemistry 11/12:
    a) students can conduct research on their varied project topics and present findings in a paper and/or in a presentation to fellow students.
    b) Students can contact and connect with experts, and benefit form their guidance.
    c) Students can discuss and share findings with each other.
  3. In Drama students can work on a film project in various locations around the school or outside of the school and share their work and discuss their progress remotely, or even get feedback from parents, peers and supervisors while engaged and in location.

EDLM 560 Learning Byte: Technology Policies and Procedures

We have been reassessing our school’s cell-phone policy this year as a staff. Each teacher is able to create their own rules for classroom use which enables teachers to allow students to use cell-phones as part of learning activities on the one hand, while making it clear how student misuse will be handled on the other.

As outlined in our staff handbook, “staff are encouraged to make use of the computer room” to “facilitate student learning” because we recognize that it is a powerful research tool. Like the cell-phone policy, if students are not using “the computers to enhance their studies” it is at the teacher’s discretion whether to  “remove students from a computer station if they feel it is being used inappropriately”. Appropriate use is described as wise, responsible, ethical and polite.

EDLM 560 Learning Byte: MOOCs

Read more about the MSc in Science in Medicinal Chemistry that I would love to have the chance to study with the Open University.

EDLM 560 Learning Byte: Apps

I plan on getting a new phone in the upcoming year in order to use WeChat, which is a popular communication device. Parents, colleagues and students are all using this to communicate these days. One parent was showing me how a message sent to a parent group can help them stay in the loop regarding student homework expectations and my principal mentioned that student behaviour can also be addressed through the medium because it is possible to leave comments or even have a quick chat from diverse, even physically remote, locations. There is also a chat dialogue history so it is pretty easy to review the data before coming to conclusions.

Another application that I learned about recently and would like to get is What’sApp. I learned about this one from my EDLM 560 team. This smartphone application enables users to send messages with text, pictures, video or audio for free.

For Chemistry, I would love to have a class set of Model Chemistry Lab for computer. This would allow all of the students in my class to be able to use the Chemistry software to engage in computer simulated labs. This would be a safe and interactive way to engage in Chemistry and would cost $635. Another option would be for me to purchase a professional version for myself which could be used in class demonstrations costing $135 according to Model Chemistry Lab Pricing. The professional version would be ideal because labs can be customized and thus would allow specific concepts to be more fully explored.

Here is a freeware version of a simpler version of the above: Virtual Chemistry Lab 2.0.

And here is a list of more than 20 handy Chemistry Freeware Links on ScienceGeek.net.
There are several free applications for windows computers that will be of assistance and enhance my Chemistry 11/12 and Science 10 lessons and in line with my MOOC interest.

EDLM 560 Learning Byte: Digital Story

Creating this Digital Story was a wonderful culminating project and will also serve as a valuable memento to this period in our family life and development. I started out with a realistic goal for my Digital Story to develop an excellent powerpoint using pictures and a great story idea. I first typed up and edited the story. I then strove to match the pictures with the parts of the story. This helped me flesh out more of the story and I found myself rewriting and rearranging the text to fit nicely in visible spaces in the pictures. Then I started adding animations. Lastly, upon my wife’s encouragement, I added timed transitions to my powerpoint slides. I have never made a powerpoint with animations or timed transitions. I was pleased with my ability to customize everything to perfection after learning how to use all of the tools available. This learning activity has been a wonderfully rewarding investment of time.

EDLM 560 Final Project: TME Implementation.

EDLM 570 – Curriculum Instruction & Assessment
Team Project creating a  Teacher Assessment Matrix and Powerpoint Presentation.

EDLM 580 – Supervision for Learning
Here is my Final Paper in .DOC and .PDF.

EDLM 610 – Leading and Sustaining Collaborative Inquiry
Below is a poster outlining my major research paper (MRP) about IB.
Click here to see the wider version which looks better on a computer screen.

Here I share a few struggles and insights gained while writing my MRP.
This brought tears to one teammate, so hopefully you enjoy the read.

The title is “Grin and Bear It”. Below is a picture of my son bringing joy to my heart.

Étienne Jalál Makeup

Étienne Jalál Makeup

I must grin-and-bear-it because I did not achieve the A I wanted on my MRP drafts.

Re: APA style, for example, I was writing “a b c” x y z “d e f” when quoting. I thought that this combination of paraphrasing and quotations was good writing. I have seen great writers write in this style, and I like it. According to APA, however, I should add my own words like this: “abc [xyz] def”.

Re: my presentation, to emphasize the importance of an International Baccalaureate (IB) education, I began by stating that the promotion of peace is especially important in this day and age due to mass-destruction technology. I was told that this statement was unsupported, so in my next submission I put together two well-researched pages about mass-destruction technology but it seemed a bit ominous and was perhaps a digression. These supporting details are now included in an appendix.

I will have to grin and bear it as I strive to improve what I have, while continuing with the writing. I have also had to wrestle with my definition of success.

A country singer shared about a time her child spilled coffee on her masters thesis. This was before computers when such a problem was easily corrected. She got angry at her child, but felt bad about that, and realized how important her children are to her. When she handed in her 100 page thesis marred by the coffee, her instructor made a comment about the unfortunate coffee spill. She smiled and replied, “I learned more from that coffee stain than from the thesis.”

I, too, have decided that I will keep my priorities straight. While striving to improve and respond to suggestions for improvement, I will remember that I am writing something for the benefit of myself and others. What is important is that I am learning and that students and the people of the world will ultimately benefit from improved education.

Royal Roads University’s high standards has helped me create something worthwhile 🙂

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