Leaders in Learning – Barcelona 2014: A movement for grassroots change

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Are you looking to the future, or stuck with your eyes on the rear view mirror? #LeadersinLearning @Stephen_H

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just two schools:

Northern Beaches Christian School, Sydney + Col.legi Montserrat, Barcelona

One conference: Leaders in Learning: Accelerating Change Conference

2-3 October 2014

90 participants: Australia, UK, Denmark, Sweden and, of course, Spain

Passionate educators, architects, designers and service providers

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Two languages – Spanish and English

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The skill of the simultaneous translators made for seamless dialogue and communication. They were amazing, “simultaneous” input in one language and then output in another. How did they do that?

 

 

We discovered that English has 30% more words than Spanish, so when we spoke fast it was a challenge.

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Col.legi Montserrat in the hills above Barcelona View from the terrace

The setting of the conference, at Col.legi Montserrat, in the hills above Barcelona, looking out toward the city and the Mediterranean Sea. Down in Barcelona it was about 28 degrees, much hotter than many of us had anticipated, yet as we enjoyed our breaks on the terrace, the cooling breeze prevailed.

Col.legi Montserrat is a school where active learning is evident all around. Students are engaged, writing, talking, discussing and sharing ideas.

CM Science

Accelerating change

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It was essential to us that the conference program was consistent with our philosophy for learning – open, active, action-focused. It recognized that the “expert input” IMG_1486 IMG_1495 IMG_1494
was inspiring and a catalyst for dialogue and connection. Participants were encouraged to take the ideas and form questions, to develop ideas and take action.

We heard from

  • Stephen Harris from Northern Beaches Christian School – a call to action for change
  • Mother Montserrat the congregational leader for the order at Col.legi Montserrat – implementing a design-thinking approach to embedding change
  • Dr Becky Parker and Dr Matthew Baxter from Simon Langton Grammar School – A case study on a school as a centre for scientific research
  • Anne Knock from Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning – rethinking professional learning

Not just a talk-fest…
a call to action

There was fun, music, laughter and drama. Friends were made connections strengthened. Most importantly, we felt like there was a movement for grassroots change, a gathering of a critical group of international influencers to grow and make a difference.

Where to next?

Our plan is that Leaders in Learning becomes a nexus for change makers, that we reconvene the idea in Australia in 2015. Stay tuned.

@anneknock

Designing effective spaces for working and learning: How to avoid the factory, the treadmill and the waiting room

IMG_2599In my international travels I’ve seen many amazing schools, universities and libraries, some that are visually stunning, but often there is something missing. Designing spaces for effective work and learning requires the connection of three distinct ‘spaces’ – cultural, technological and physical – each in harmony. When one is missing you are stuck in…

 

…a waiting room, a factory or a treadmill.

Cross-pollination is a healthy thing. I look for opportunities to experience new contexts, learn about other sectors and meet people in different professional fields. This broadens the scope of  my experience and challenges mindsets. Over the last 12 months I have enjoyed connecting with James Kemp MD at Amicus Interiors. On the one hand Amicus (which is Latin for ‘friend’) Interiors could be described as a furniture company for office fit-outs, but on the other, and more realistically,

IMG_0016The brand personifies the business and represents the foundation of trust that we place at the centre of our company culture. We are an enthusiastic, friendly team and we love what we do…

We have developed a solid reputation for meticulous care and attention to all our work. This reputation has been built upon an underlying commitment to our clients, to understand, and plan for, the key issues and challenges that surround the delivery of each project.

James visited NBCS and was struck by the similarity of our school and the work of his company, he wrote on the company blog:

Led by the inspirational principal, Stephen Harris, they have created an Activity Based Working (ABW) environment at NBCS for the children to learn, develop and have fun. If you had told me it was possible to have over 180 year 5 & 6 children working effectively (and quietly!!) in one open plan area, I would not have believed you! But when you see it in operation it is truly inspiring.

These children are given the trust, responsibility, the technology and the right support from their facilitators (the ‘teachers’) to excel. Whether they are sitting at desk, on the floor in small work groups, on sofas or beanbags, they are working away with excitement. I loved it. (Read the full blog here.)

I first came across the idea of Activity Based Work (ABW) a couple of years ago after visiting a CBD corporate refit and wrote a few blogs (like this one) about it as I believed that this approach to the work environment had much to inform the educational context, a corollary to James’ inspiration for NBCS informing work spaces.

Amicus InteriorsJames and I caught up last week, to see the transformation of the Amicus Interiors office in Martin Place in Sydney as an Activity Based Work(place). This was my first opportunity to see the new fit out. We talked about how the team are adapting and changing to work in an ABW environment. As with anything that involves people, the shift to change takes them on a journey – no fixed desks, closed and open collaborative meeting areas and close co-location with colleagues.

 

 

In our lively discussions about the places of work and learning, James highlighted the three types of spaces that must inform the effective place of work (and learning):

  • Cultural space – the way we do things around here
  • Technological space – the tools that enable
  • Physical space – the surroundings that support the work and relationships

Each of these play a crucial role to encourage innovation and creativity and foster productivity.

What happens if something is missing?

Factory Treadmill Waiting Room

When we are thinking about the redesign, refit and transformation of learning spaces, how do these three elements interplay? In 2015 NBCS ‘Project Barcelona’ will be complete – a space that is open, social and connecting. It involves new ways of thinking about school, spaces and learning for the 21st Century. Right now we are gearing up to look at what is needed to optimise the space and prepare our staff:

  • Cultural space – how will the community shift their thinking about school and then own and embrace the space
  • Technological space – what tools and infrastructure are required for the space to function as intended
  • Physical space – how will the fit out, the zones and the movement meet the dreams and aspirations for connection

@anneknock

Some other posts to check out:

Leadership Reflection: Being Teachable. How do you rate?

Once upon a time the leader had to know everything.

As our society has shifted in the last couple of decades, one of the crucial areas in leading today is being teachable. In this era of accessible knowledge and collaborative problem solving, leadership has become open – open to the ideas of others and open to embracing change, rather than maintaining the status quo. The current thinking that knowledge is shared, our skills complement one another and one person doesn’t need to know everything, challenges the notion of the stereotypical boss, the solo operator, secreted away in the corner office.

Post-war President of the USA, Harry S Truman, famously had the sign on his desk “The Buck Stops Here”.

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The President made the decisions and accepted the ultimate responsibility for those decisions. While a principal, CEO and even President still carries the weight of responsibility for decisions and subsequent actions, effective people-centred leadership in the 21st century is less autocratic and unilateral. Change, decision-making and development can be stalled, as one person becomes a bottleneck through which all activity must pass.

Putting aside our own agendas and being open to learn from others is challenging at first, but is ultimately freeing. Being teachable is essential to being an open leader. Without this as a key value leaders can default to “The Buck Stops Here” mentality and all the baggage it may carry.

For those of us in the business of education the shoe is often on the other foot, we are the teachers. Shifting that mindset to being a learner, deliberately becoming teachable. This ultimately breaks habits that can hinder growth potential.

What does it mean to be teachable?

1. I need to recognise that I am constantly growing
Not: “I’ve got it all sorted”
What new skills have you learnt in the past 12 months?
Have you put yourself into a challenging situation?
Do you allow yourself to fail?

2. I am willing to change
Not: “I’m comfortable here”
How often are your colleagues revisiting the same things with you?
Do you keep defaulting to past behaviours?
Do you find yourself longing for the good old days?
Are you defensive when someone makes a suggestion?

3. I must listen, no, really listen
Not: “I’ll tell you what I think”
Do you listen to people, no, really listen?
Are you able to give yourself completely to another’s perspective or idea?
Can you listen without considering a response?

4. I accept that others can teach me
Not: “I have all the resources I need”
How self-aware are you? Do you know your gaps?
Are you able to identify areas of growth?
Are you open to put aside your tried and true methodology?

5. I am comfortable with uncertainty
Not: “Everything is in its place”
Can you cope with the messiness of change?
Are you able to push out into uncharted waters?
How does disruption affect you?

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All of us need to work hard at remaining teachable. . As leaders we set the culture and this is a culture that I would like to see flourish in my world.

@anneknock

Cutting through the edu-jargon: What does it mean to be a ‘coach’? 5 attributes of great coaches

Just like the term ‘facilitator’, the ‘coach’ is often used to describe the role of the educator and leader. When used, heads nod in agreement, and then what? Do we assume that we either know what it means, or are actually doing it?  ‘The Coach’ is quite a defined role and it is worth looking at the attributes of great coaching to see how they can apply to the education sector.

I came across a post on the Melbourne Sports Institute website: “Defining and Explaining Great Coaching”. The original study by Andrea Becker in International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching broke down more than 60 attributes that emerged from athlete questionnaires of great coaching. In education, either as a leader or teacher, successful coaching provides an effective approach to developing skills, establishing culture and creating an encouraging and goal-focused learning environment.

For each area below analyse yourself as an effective coach.

1. Personal attributes of the coach

As with any leadership role, the internal qualities of the leader are what shines the loudest. In sport, great coaches display certain attributes. They have a passion for the game and are experts, always learning, always updating their knowledge. It is crucial that coaches see potential in the people they lead.

Introspectively, great coaches are real people who make mistakes and admit mistakes. They are emotionally stable, genuine, loyal and honest. Character matters and modelling behaviours such as commitment, discipline and being organised.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Passionate about what makes a great teacher or leader
  • Ongoing learning and development
  • See potential and growth in others
  • Admit mistakes
  • Emotionally stable
  • Real and genuine
  • Consistently model desired behaviours

2. Culture of the learning environment

In sport, the coach creates an athlete-centred environment, focusing on individual growth is essential to the success of the team. This then leads to a team-centred approach, collectively creating the culture of achieving what is best collectively. Coaches are accessible, approachable and good listeners, creating an atmosphere for the athlete to flourish. The practice environment is well-planned, highly structured and game-like, it replicates the authentic purpose.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Ensure a learner or team centred environment
  • Clear about the desired culture for success
  • Accessible
  • Good listener
  • Well-planned and executed coaching structure
  • Authentic outputs for the team/individual

3. Coaching relationships

The relationship with the team or individual extends beyond achieving the task itself. The quality of the relationship matters.

The personal attributes of the coach are the grounding for creating the relationships that underpin the success of the athlete. These relationships are both professional and personal, strong and lasting. They are built on a foundation of trust, confidence and respect. The coach takes responsibility for the team or individual performance when things go bad.

Athletes are provided care and respect and they know that the coach believes in them. Players are empowered because they are included in the decision-making.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Believe the best for the team
  • Put relationship first
  • Trustworthy
  • Respectful
  • Caring
  • Humility
  • Empowering of the team/individual

4. Behaviours of a great coach

These behaviours extend beyond the particular focus of the players and extends to life skills. Coaches help players achieve high expectations and these qualities are very consistent with great teaching, using a variety of instructional methods and pacing the coaching according to learner need

High level coaches prepare meticulously, they are focussed on the details. Coaching is not random. Great coaches create great systems. They also own the systems and believe they are essential for success.

Most importantly is the impact of effective communication. Great coaches remain confident, calm and emotionally stable under pressure. Communication needs to be clear, consistent and honest. It is well-timed, motivating and positive.

Coach’s Checklist:

  • Whole person focus, not just task completion
  • Teach identified and essential skills
  • Vary instruction methods
  • Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
  • Implement a system for coaching
  • Effective communicator
  • Stable under pressure

The role of coach in both professional development and student learning is a broad and encompassing role. After reading this, I have come to the conclusion that it is also an essential role in any workplace or school. There are, however, a discrete set of skills to enable the team or individual success. It is easy to say “the teacher’s role is now more like a coach” and leave it there, how often have you heard that?

What if we committed to a coaching culture? This means at a school staff level, coaching becomes a significant approach to professional development, that is then embedded in the school culture and becomes a model for student learning.

@anneknock

 

Teacher as “facilitator” cutting through the jargon. Try this quick quiz.

We’ve all heard it teachers are coach, the ‘guide on the side not sage on the stage’ and facilitator. These words are easy to say, but what do they actually mean?

Slide14Last week we had a great group from Melbourne come to NBCS for an Immersion Day. These are opportunities beyond Edu-tourism, to drill down, gain clarity in priorities and identify next steps. I really enjoy working with these groups. Facilitating is not telling people what they should do, but providing the conditions for the group to learn through input – knowledge and experience – and then provide time and space for them to process and develop their own outcomes, for their own school.

facilitate (v) to make easy
1610s, from Fr. faciliter “to render easy”

There are a few key elements of effective facilitation:

  • Leading people through a process of agreed objectives
  • Encouraging participation, ownership and productivity
  • Creating conditions where participants feel safe
  • Ensuring that the group is the star
  • Achieving their outcomes

Probably, the most important point is that a facilitator recognises that the answer is ‘within’ the individual or group, they have the capacity to find a solution. The facilitator guides the process and allows the group to draw their own conclusions. They empower the group and then step back.

The art of facilitating has four priorities:

Clarity of the task: what needs to be completed

Facilitator, know thyself: impact of the facilitator on the process

Empower the group or individual: Channeling the energy and understanding the group dynamics

Enable the process:  Create the right environment to get the work done

2013-09-05 04.19.01Allowing for the process doesn’t mean operating without structure. The best facilitators implement a structure that feels organic and fluid to the participant, yet it is well-thought through and meticulously planned. It is much easier to be a controlling content knowledge specialist than an effective facilitator. Facilitators work in-the-moment – they are ‘present’ with the group. This is their highest priority as a practitioner.

It’s not always easy to take that step back and allow the group to own the process and outcomes. Human nature wants to take control. When we consider teachers as facilitators the responsibility for learning is the students’.

Here’s the paradox: Facilitator is a leadership role where the power resides in the group.

Teacher as facilitator: What does it mean?

Being substantively neutral
Not the only source of knowledge and expertise

Create a climate of collaboration
Not command and control

Provide a range of tools and resources to help the group find their answers
Not one way is the only way

Being a content knowledge expert is challenging in the era of teacher as facilitator. Where once you were a teacher because of what you knew, now, the role is more about what the student needs to know to achieve their own learning goals. Handing over the responsibility of learning to the student is not abandoning the job of the teacher. Content matters. As with the group from Melbourne coming to our school. I presented input and knowledge from our experience, but then provided the conditions for them to set priorities and next steps.

Try this quick quiz. Do you:

  1. Need to be the focus of every session with your students?
  2. Know what it means to be ‘present’?
  3. Embrace the notion of making the way for learning *easy?
  4. Have a toolkit of ideas and resources to employ as needed?
  5. Commit to seeking the needs of the group or individual, not your own?
  6. Believe that collaboration plays a significant role in learning today?
  7. Allow the students to plan and drive their learning?

This is what a facilitator does.

@anneknock

* easy is a challenging word here. It is not used in the sense that there is no rigour, but that the teacher’s role makes the path clearer.

Every space tells a story: Is your library the community’s living room? 6xCs to shaping your narrative.

In the libraryI have a soft spot for libraries. I started my teaching career in a primary school as the teacher librarian. This isn’t usually the first job for a young graduate, but it was mine. I loved reading to the children, making author and theme related display, but most of all, seeing the children explore the world of literature and their own passions for learning.

Learning Spaces

Learning Spaces Making more effective learning environments  is an online journal by Imaginative Minds

The most recent edition (Vol 2.2  2014) has an article “Libraries for the future of all users” (by Lee Taylor).

The key function shift from one of “collector” to “connector” – where the primary purpose has moved from one of collecting books, information or music, to one providing a range of people the opportunity to use this space to connect intellectually and physically – a kind of “living room” for the city.

Have you ever considered the library as your school of community living room? This can happen when there is a shift from “collector” to “connector”.  Prioritising people over things.

What characterises a people-focused, future-focused library?

It’s a place for connection, where people’s needs are understood. In this article Taylor makes connections with new community libraries in the cities of Newcastle and Manchester in the UK, by Ryder Architecture. Both of these projects:

  • minimised staff spaces
  • maximisation of public/shared space
  • book collections mechanised for efficiency
  • provide varied places for different types of work
  • variety of collections that respond to community interests
  • welcoming entrance space

These points contrast to the libraries of the past:

  • books front and centre
  • command and control culture
  • task and process oriented staff
  • large designated staff work spaces to hide away
  • one large controlled space where silence is reinforced
  • facing barriers to entering

The architects decided that to make the library the community living room the users needs were important, that it was a shared and community-owned space. This meant that the designed included things like easily accessible power charging points and that the design was able to accommodate mixed mode study. I think we can all relate, I often have my laptop, iPad, mobile phone, paper, pens spread out around me when I’m working.

Newcastle City Library and Manchester Central Library are characterised by welcoming entrances. Generous and comfortable, a space to linger, where library-users can catch up for coffee.

So if it time to rethink your library, where do you start?

If you are thinking about making changes to a space, to make it more person-centres there are a few things to think about. I have synthesised these into 6xCs

  1. Community: All stakeholder needs considered
  2. Connection: Design space for connection and working styles
  3. Collections: Placement and storage of resources, books, artefacts
  4. Communication: The verbal and non-verbal messages conveyed
  5. Comfort: Fit out meet users’ needs  – furniture, air, light, technology, modes
  6. Cool: The space is interesting, attractive, inviting, fun and quirky

Here is a process to facilitate your team’s thinking and action steps for change:

1. Articulate the aspirations of the 6xCs for your context

  1. Community
  2. Connection
  3. Collections
  4. Communication
  5. Comfort
  6. Cool

2. Gather your working group, go on a field trip and have lunch together.

Visit recent developments in your city how do these spaces interpret the 6xCs:

  • City offices with a variety of places for working and connecting
  • Community libraries
  • Incubator/co-working spaces
  • University libraries and social spaces

Look again at your 6xCs and create a statement of aspiration for each.

City sights

3. Develop your strategy

A. What is the current situation?

B. Describe the library what you want to see.

C. What are the pathways from A to B? Can you prioritise them?

D. What are major barriers and obstacles to achieving your B?

E. Now, what will you do:

  • Within a week
  • Within a month
  • This year
  • Within 2 years

This is the kind of process I enjoy working through with groups – Identifying their A, dreaming about their B and then developing the strategy to get there. Let me know if I can help you with your change process.

I’m also thinking about a Library Learning Space Study tour to the UK. Looking at community, university and school libraries. Interested?

@anneknock

The Listening Leader: Collaboration is critical to innovation and opening possibilities #Level4Listener

ChurchillLast week I attended a facilitator training workshop at Centre for Continuing Education at Sydney University. These two days were probably among the my most valuable learning experiences, ever.

To facilitate means to ‘draw out’ and the create hospitable settings for conversation and dialogue. (Lord & Hutchison, 2007)

Facilitation is a leadership role in which decision-making power resides in the members of the group. This frees the facilitator to focus on creating a climate of collaboration and provides the group with the structure it needs to be effective. (Bens, 2012)

I had expected to spend two days assiduously taking notes about being a facilitator, when in reality our ‘facilitator’ led the process of learning by immersing us in the ‘doing’. He modelled everything, from the room set up, the culture of the group and communication.

Of all the many things we processed and experienced, one thing shouted out loud to me:

LEADERS LISTEN.Covey
Facilitating is a leadership skill, essential for those who are professionals in the field and valuable to those who move people, from A to B and implement strategies. Listening matters. But it is not “just’ listening – but how to listen. Listening recognises that I cannot know everything, but collectively we can make a difference.

Successful leadership depends on the quality of attention and intention that the leader brings to any situation. (Scharmer, www.theoryu.com)

In Theory U, C. Otto Scharmer identifies four different types of listening. He talks about the inner world of the leader and that successful leadership depends on the attention and intention that the leader brings to a situation. This is similar to self leadership or personal leadership, looking inward before leading others.

The listening leader makes a difference. In the past great leaders have been orators, ideas-generators and trail blazers. They moved ahead, often with others scrambling to keep up. Listening may not have been a key skill as these leaders seem to already know the answers. However, in the complexity of the knowledge age, when information can be easily accessed and people readily mobilised to action, a new type of leader is required.

As leaders today, listening is a critical skill for us.  How do we need to listen?

Level 1. Downloading: Hears what is already known. Re-confirms

Level 2. Factual: Pays attention to facts and focuses on what differs from that which is already known. New Knowledge

Level 3. Empathic: Sees through the eyes of another. Redirected

Level 4. Generative: An open heart and open will, listens from the emerging field of possibility. Changed

(Scharmer, paraphrased)

Level 4 builds on the previous levels and is essential in leading innovation, being open and listening for possibilities, from wherever they may emerge. It changes us.

Level 4 Listening: How to be a Generative Listener

Listen to:

  • Yourself, first, to what life calls you to do.
  • The others, those that may be related to that call.
  • That which emerges from the collective you convene

The journey of innovation starts with embracing the incompleteness of self and that of the challenge ahead. As the leader, listening to our own sense or calling and purpose is the starting point and cannot be ignored.

Other people are the essential contributors to the journey, not just the partakers of the end-product. This puts collaboration front and centre of innovation, not just an add-on process.  As Scharmer puts it, this involves leading with an open heart and open will. Grounded in the purpose and then listening with wholeness.

Leadership is so much more that taking people on a mystery tour toward change.

@anneknock

Reference: Theory U: Addressing the Blind Spot of our Time