The Path to Enlightenment?

The Path to Enlightenment?

Teachers are the powerhouses of education, the front-line communicators, the facilitators and leaders in learning. Supporting this, there is a whole infrastructure of educational theory that stems back to the Principle of Psychology (1890) where psychologist William James theorized how organizing the child helped fit into the social and physical environment by process to awakening and broadening interests.

 

Educational theories develop and evolve. Current, Progressive Methods lean to child-centered, scientific-realist and social reconstruction. Traditional Methods favour mental disciplines where student effort is rewarded ahead of interest and activities; collective, class teaching rather than bespoke where a teacher’s initiatives lead the learner. 18th Century education brought secularism and progress where methods of teaching became the pedagogic question. The 17th Century was religious with rationalistic methodology.

 

Contemporary education in England and Wales hail to the Industrial Revolution after which Parliament decreed the ‘Health and Morals of Apprentices Act’ of 1802, requiring basic education in mathematics, reading and writing. Little more than lip service was paid until societies stepped in and the Lancastrian system developed – a systematic, top-down hierarchical plan where ‘teachers’ taught monitors who in turn taught pupils.

Teachers are the powerhouses of education, the front-line communicators, the facilitators and leaders in learning. Supporting this, there is a whole infrastructure of educational theory that stems back to the Principle of Psychology (1890) where psychologist William James theorized how organizing the child helped fit into the social and physical environment by awakening and broadening interests.

 

The Technological era of the 20th Century has witnessed massive societal change and at lightning pace; globalization with social, racial and ideological stresses. Affluence, political power and the explosion of knowledge not least the new industrial requirements of modern scientific technology.

 

Yet whether we count from the 17th, 18th Century or later, similar challenges and questions remain; how to successfully facilitate students for ongoing and consistent learning?

 

A simple question yet the answer appears less so. Traditional teacher training offers academic theory and ideologies; fired up and raring to go… the years pass, times change, and values evolve. Ideologies remain – how could they not? Yet, something stale also hangs limp in the air …

 

“During the past decade, many teachers and principals have felt devalued and confused by their changing role, and stress levels have risen as self-esteem has fallen. Many young people hesitate before or reject a career in education, while many practicing teachers no longer aspire to a career path that leads to the stress of the principal’s office. All this when thousands of new recruits are needed just to fill vacancies as the “baby-boom” teaching generation retires, and expectations about education’s importance are higher than ever. Strong inspirational, yet empathetic, school leaders and management teams are needed to help forge the way to better education. Although there is no one model of leadership that is best for all circumstances, in this article Glatter presents four ideal-type models of educational governance:

 

  • Competitive Market (CM),
  • School Empowerment (SE),
  • Local Empowerment (LE), and
  • Quality Control (QC).

 

Mulford (i) examines their implications in reference to international research for key factors of governance and management: autonomy; accountability, intermediate authority and functions, and school leadership.

 

he presents key findings from the Leadership for Organisational Learning and Student Outcomes (LOLSO) Research Project in Australia, relating these to broader international research. The leadership that makes a difference in secondary schools operates indirectly, not directly, to influence student outcomes via organisational learning (OL) that creates a collective teacher efficacy. Rejecting “the great man or woman” theory of leadership, he identifies the features of the ideal principal. A “transformational principal” creates the following:

 

Individual Support of staff, including taking account of their opinions.

A Culture of caring, trust, and willingness to change.

A Structure that promotes participative decision-making.

Vision and Goals with consensus, communication, and purpose.

Performance Expectations that are high for students and teachers.

Opportunities for Intellectual Stimulation of staff and self in order to improve practice.

 

Unfortunately, the professional development of educational leaders has been a badly neglected aspect of the school reform agenda, especially in terms of preparing them to cope with the growing demands with which they are faced. In the last section of this article, Shuttleworth presents key findings from an OECD/CERI “What Works” study published in 2000 that analysed innovation in school management in nine countries. It discusses the tension between “top-down” reforms and “bottom up” renewal through knowledge leadership.”

Teachers are indeed the powerhouses and Leadership is key.

 

“Investing in schools and leadership within competing pressures on school managers lies a major tension. Should they now be the supervisors of quality control standards consistent with models from the Industrial-age (the powerful principal), or multi-dimensional knowledge managers of human and physical resources, sharing power, and facilitating learner-centered communities? Can these roles be combined? Where are we to find such leaders?

 

….. Strong inspirational, yet empathetic, school leaders and management teams are needed to help forge the way from the hierarchical and linear assumptions of an earlier age and the infinite flexibility of the lifelong learning society. Schools, teachers and principals should, of course, be accountable to the people they serve but standards should be created rather than set, achieved through continuous improvement based on a collective assessment of learning needs. An organic service delivery system must continually respond to diverse consumer needs, but as a public service it cannot pick and choose its clients nor manipulate its outcomes. Schools are but one facet of an essential public service infrastructure that has been struggling with decentralization, taxpayer accountability, restructuring and privatisation against thin financial support. If societies are to get the educational service and leadership they deserve, we must invest in renewing the self-esteem, learning capacities, and leadership skills of these professionals.”

 

Teachers are indeed the powerhouses and Leadership is key.

 

 

References:

(i) Governance, Management and Leadership, By Ron Glatter, Bill Mulford, and Dale Shuttleworth | Published in Networks of Innovation, OECD/CERI, 2003

“Governance, Autonomy and Accountability in Education” in The Principles and Practice of Educational Management, TC Bush and L A Bell (eds.), Paul Chapman Publishing (2002), London.



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