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  1. “Culture” – Findings from the International Project Rose M. Ylimaki, Ph.D. Associate Professor University of Arizona

  2. Successful School Leadership & Culture • Single Nation Studies Identify Culture Building as an essential part of Successful Leadership Seminal Studies • “Effective Schools Research in USA” – correlates feature safe school environments; norms of learning and continuous improvement; ethos of high expectations; role of principal as instructional leader (Purkey & Smith, 1983; Louis & Miles, 1990; Lezotte, 1997) • British Head Teachers in High-Poverty Schools in England – leaders take a directive approach to school safety and improvement of academics and gradually release leadership responsibility as safety improves (Harris, 2002) • AERA Task Force - Leithwood & Riehl (2005)

  3. Aera Task Force Report: Leadership requires… • Setting Directions; • Developing People; • Redesigning the Organization – professional learning structures and norms; • Managing the Instructional Program These concepts are necessary but not sufficient for successful leadership in any context

  4. School Culture • Ethos – feeling; how we do things around here • Safety • Norms • Beliefs • High Expectations for Learning • Rituals

  5. International Successful School Principalship Study (ISSP) • Eight Countries (USA, England, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Hong Kong & Australia) • 86 cases to date • Focus on Challenging School Contexts – US, England, and Australia

  6. Challenges - Changing Demographics • Immigration accounts for population increases (increased cultural diversity) • High-poverty schools serve a minority majority population • USA (64% of foreign born residents arrived since 1980, most coming from non-English speaking nations; 30% of schoolage children live in poverty) • Britain (Half of population growth between 1991 - 2001 due to immigration • Australia (41% of population growth in 1991 due to immigration

  7. Increased Accountability • England (1988 Education Reform Act) • National School Inspections and Standardized Tests of Academic Performance - Student Outcomes • Australia (1990s) • State and Territory Levels • Self-Evaluation and External Review Combination • Differentiated Reviews based on Past Performance • Multiple Data Sources and Foci on Participation as well as Authentic Pedagogy and Student Performance • USA • No Child Left Behind Act (2002) • State Testing Mandates

  8. Organizational Reforms • England (Local Management of Schools) • Decentralization - head teachers are accountable • National Mandate • Australia • Decentralization and Self-Management • Variation by Region (initiated in Victoria, spread throughout the Australia during the 1990s) • Accountability for Participatory Leadership • USA • State and District Mandates for Site-Based Management • No Accountability for Participatory Leadership

  9. Research Phases • Phases • Development of Common Interview Protocols, using single nation literature on successful school leadership • Development and Analysis of Case Studies (86 to date; 13 high-poverty) • Survey • Digital Videos and Modules for Leadership Preparation

  10. Case Study Phase • Sampling - Reputation and Outcomes (13 culturally diverse, high-poverty schools in NE) • Data Sources and Collection • Document Analysis • Participant Observations • Semi-Structured Interviews - common protocol • Principals (two interviews); random selection of 20% teachers; parent focus groups; student focus groups • Data Analysis • National Case Study Development; Identification of Themes and Categories - Leadership Practices • Cross-National Analysis

  11. US Case Descriptions • Seven Northeast US Elementary, Middle, High Schools • Four women (three African American and one Caucasian); three men (all Caucasian) • Range of Experience (3 years to 22 years) • Three Masters and Four Doctorates • Range of School Size and Location (urban, suburban, rural)

  12. Findings (Outer) Core Practices • Multi-focal Direction Setting – Beauty, Safety, Learning • Developing People - Unlearning and Learning • Organizational Redesign - Physical and Learning • Managing the Instructional Program (Direct and Indirect) (Inner) Qualities of Leadership - persistence, empathy, passion, respect for multi-culturalism, flexible thinking

  13. Multi-Focal Setting Directions • Two Simultaneous Intentions • Secure the building • Beautify the Physical Setting (with respect to school culture) • Refocus on teaching and learning • Principals / Headteachers “Close the Doors in Order to Open Them”

  14. Setting Direction - Security, Beauty, Learning USA Costello Principal - “I knew the first thing I had to do was clean the school up…literally. We locked all doors but one and got parents to help us secure that one…Parents and the teachers needed to see the school as a safe, beautiful place where children could and would learn.” Australian Billabong Principal - “I would have to stand outside and stop transients from coming in school. I had to also teach people that this building was for education and giving children a chance. That means we plant flowers and learning.”

  15. Setting Direction cont. • Respect for Multi-Culturalism “I started working with a community organization to beautify the surrounding neighborhood and to create a mural in the school entranceway that respected the school culture.” – US Fraser principal

  16. Setting Directions cont. • “Part of making a school beautiful is showing respect for the community culture. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (our kids) and part of that requires respecting and learning from the community culture.” – US Hamilton principal

  17. Setting Directions cont. • “I really had to develop relationships with the growing Muslim population and help create positive learning relationships, giving respect for their beliefs and educating all of us (including me) about what that meant.” Australian principal

  18. Developing People - Unlearning and Learning • Knowledge, Skills and Dispositions to Improve Teaching and Learning • Creativity with Resources • Direct Modeling and Support in Classrooms • Unlearning and Learning • Intellectual Stimulation and Emotional Support • Empathy for Poverty Barriers but “No Excuses”

  19. Developing People Quotes England (Shale) Head Teacher - “You have to make sure the kids get to do the real reading and writing, to be actively involved in learning, and I really had to help teachers unlearn old practices and learn new ones, even teaching in their classrooms.” Australian (Appler) Principal - “Our kids have a lower tolerance for didactic teaching…they have to have constructivist learning, which means some teachers need to unlearn more didactic practices. We spend time every day sharing strategies to do that.”

  20. Developing People cont. USA Teacher quote about Fraser Principal - “She knows so much about literacy. She sent us to Teachers College for training in authentic literacy and she came with their coaches into our classrooms.” Costello Principal - “I found America’s Choice and it included literacy coaches, which really helped teachers learn how to teach reading skills and raise their expectations about what kids can do when they get good instruction.”

  21. Organizational Redesign - Physical and Learning • Redesigns focused on Safety and Learning • Decision Making Teams included “beautification” or “physical” school development • Variation in Transition Toward Teacher and Parent Leadership and Participation (from early stages/intentions to sophisticated (horizontal and vertical) teams • Using Accountability for Leverage

  22. Redesigning Organization Quotes Influence of Accountability England (Birch) Head Teacher - “When local school management is working well, it provides a principal with opportunities for democratic curriculum development.” Birch Teacher “We have a clear view of where curriculum should be headed. Our meetings are open and we communicate about students daily. We make decisions together.”

  23. Redesigning Organization • Australia (Billabong Principal) - “We are accountable for values of participation, particularly following the riots…we are conscious of including diverse participants in decisions about the school.” • Billabong (Muslim) Parent - “I attend school meetings, and we look at what our kids are learning and make decisions with the teachers about how curriculum needs to be for our children.”

  24. Redesigning the Organization • USA (Fraser Principal) - “We have layers of decision-making teams at grade levels, cross-grade level and stakeholder groups, school governance, and specific projects. We started with a beautification group, which was improving the look and safety of the building, then we gradually added curriculum issues. Parents and students sit on the teams as well.”

  25. Managing the Instructional Program (direct and indirect) • Teaching and Modeling in Classrooms • Monitoring Classroom Activity • Buffering Staff from Distractions • Hiring (and Removing) Staff According to School Priorities • Variation in Philosophy, Pedagogy, and Use of Externally Developed Programs • Using Accountability to Leverage Improvement

  26. Managing Instruction Quotes England Head Teacher - “I teach and spend a lot of time in other classrooms. I help teachers do what needs to be done..It’s unlearning in some ways. ” Australian Teacher about Tasmanian principal - “His real credibility is in the fact that he practices what he preaches. He runs our staff meetings like a teacher who believes in immersion and engagement.” USA Hamilton teacher - “She rolled up her sleeves and taught eighth grade…She stands out in the rain with us to get kids on the buses safely. Then teachers started to take on a new belief.”

  27. Managing Instruction USA Fraser Teacher Quote about Principal - “She constantly reminds everyone that this school is a place for learning. There’s no time to waste.” Fraser Principal - “I literally had to get kids to sit so teachers could teach. In some ways, accountability helps create pressure to change.” USA Hamilton Teacher Quote about Principal - “We listen because she doesn’t ask people to do anything she doesn’t do herself. She actually taught eighth grade when there wasn’t a qualified teacher available. When we looked at data, it was her own teaching data, too.”

  28. Inner Leadership Qualities • Persistence (England Head Teacher) - “You just need to persevere. This job is not for the faint of heart.” • Empathy (Costello, USA) - “She seems to have more empathy for the neighborhood children than teachers who she thinks are not able to handle them.” • Passion - (Australian Principal) - “She’s passionate about making a difference.” • Flexible Thinking (Hamilton Principal, USA) - “We tapped Fraser teachers trained in literacy to be coaches and give workshops at our school.”

  29. Discussion – Connection to Culture • Principals exhibit common practices to improve school safety (direct as well as indirect) • Each principal initiated change in physical and learning environment • Professional development required creativity and flexible thinking, using whatever fiscal or material resources were available. • Whenever possible, they redesigned school structures, policies, and practices to facilitate collaboration and improve school performance.

  30. Discussion cont. • Self-management was at various levels of maturity, but there was tighter coupling. • Differences in policy shape leadership beliefs and practice (i.e. accountability for participation as well as student outcomes) • This job is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage and persistence as well as leadership knowledge and skills to be successful in high-poverty, challenging schools.

  31. Discussion - Differences • Schools differed both within and across countries in size, diversity, stage of development, leadership structure, school-wide pedagogy, and resources. • School leaders differed in their philosophies of learning and pedagogy, and these differences were shaped by national / regional context. • Schools were in different “stages” of development toward distributed leadership or participatory governance, which may be due, in part, previous principal experience and district/state/national expectations.

  32. Culture • Ethos – how we do things around here (school & culture are the same) • Safety and Beauty – Multi-Cultural Beauty • Norms of Cultural Respect and Rigorous Academics • Beliefs – “making our cultures into better places to live” • Rituals – respect multi-cultural, diverse population

  33. Conclusions and Implications • Findings Extend Single Nation Studies of Successful School Principals • Direct as well as Indirect Leadership Processes • Context is Critically Important, but there are Marked Similarities Across these Countries • Limitations of Case Study Research and Sample of 13 (cannot be generalized to All High Poverty Schools)

  34. Conclusions cont. • Evidence Suggests that Creating a Safe, Nurturing Child-Centered Environment may be a Necessary First Step in Schools Confronting Conditions at 13 Sites • Emphasis on Beauty and Safety • Respect for Multi-Cultural • Emphasis on Western Perspectives • Need for Longitudinal Component and more Ethnographic Methods