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Creating the right conditions for pedagogy growth

Updated: Feb 12, 2023

by Rebecca Thomas

“How do we set up communities in our staff to share pedagogy, not just strategies? And how do we ensure that these are spaces of equity and equality where the enthusiasm and idealism of a beginning teacher has the same voice as a teacher who has the wisdom of years in the classroom?”

- Steve Saville

Setting up a community where pedagogy can be discussed and shared requires an environment that encourages transformational change where transformational learning capacity can be realised. This all begins with an environment of trust. Trust being created through active support and encouragement at leadership level.

Trust is a socially constructed phenomenon that means different things to different people depending on our life experiences. If you have been in a traumatic relationship where trust has been compromised you may bring a different discourse to the word than someone who has been in a loyal, loving relationship.

Dr. Paul Browning, a principal in Australia, studied the concept of trust for his doctorate. He wanted to investigate if trust can be measured, and if so what behaviours highly trusted leaders exhibit. He concluded that there are ten key practices that can help create compelling leadership. When you lead a diverse group of people each of the qualities that Dr. Browning describes are equally important, these ten attributes have been very briefly outlined below.

#1 Admit your mistakes - showing vulnerability demonstrates your humility as a leader.

#2 Offer trust - your colleagues are professionals, nobody likes to be micromanaged; encourage your staff to grow professionally.

#3 Active listening - Ask clarifying questions as you listen to your staff, notice what isn’t being ‘said’, listen with empathy.

#4 Affirmation - Being appreciated and valued can have a big impact on your team and encourage them to continue to make transformational changes.

#5 Consultation - trusted leaders use a consultative process, ensuring a range of views and perspectives are considered; be transparent.

#6 Be visible - the administrative burden of a leadership job can easily keep you in the confines of your office. Seek out staffrooms at breaktimes, assemblies, meetings, functions, performances, this not only shows your are committed as a leader, but also makes you accessible to the community.

#7 Consistent demeanor - a predictable and approachable manner shows you can regulate your emotions and helps people know what they are going to get; remain calm and level headed in a crisis.

#8 Coach and mentor - invest in the professional development of your staff, give them feedback on their progress to show them their growth and efforts are valued.

# 9 Care - just as students thrive when they have a good relationship with their teachers, teachers thrive when they have good relationships with their leaders.

#10 Keep confidence - In any kind of relationship, confidentiality is essential for maintaining trust.

Once you have created a culture of trust, how do we balance relationships with Pedagogy?

Relationships and pedagogy must be specific and grounded in the personal and cultural situation of the group. Michael Fullan acknowledged this balancing act in a recent article titled ‘How to address system change in education.’ He admits in order to see breakthrough change we must focus on relationships and pedagogy whilst grounding ourselves in our context.

Equally he points out that although teachers may have excellent pedagogical knowledge, does it meet the needs of their students? Whilst we usually know which pedagogy might be available to us through our growth and experience, do we always think about the impact of that pedagogy on the students in front of us? The way we captured our students last year, or in our previous school, may not necessarily work for our students today.

Once you apply the right pedagogy for your learners the next step is to monitor its impact.

"Some teachers taught the curriculum today. Other teachers taught their students today. And there's a big difference."

- The Blunt Educator

A simple pedagogy such as tapping into a students prior knowledge not only maximises their engagement as they appreciate the teacher taking their time to hear their existing thoughts/ideas/worldview on a topic, but it also minimises exclusion. However, you may have to vary the way you access the students' prior learning as not all students will respond to this pedagogy by simply raising their hands, or voicing their ideas; you may need pedagogical imagination: ranking cards; silent debates; group discussions; KWL charts: 1o truths or a lie, are just some of the many ways you can access prior learning - don't always stick to your default setting, be brave.

Asking ourselves what the impact is of a particular pedagogy on our students will help you investigate if that pedagogy is good for all of your learners; thus maintaining the relationships and pedagogy balance Michael Fullan alludes to.

So, to recap, in order to enable the conditions for pedagogy growth we need to create a climate of trust and encourage our teachers to be a little vulnerable by reflecting on the impacts of the pedagogies they use on the students in front of them today.

If you want to explore your own Pedagogy Pearls of wisdom as a staff, or as an individual, this tool may help.

'The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides, and in its depths it has pearls too.'

- Vincent Van Gogh

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