Monday 28 August 2017

Monday 28 August 2017
Monday, August 28th
8:45 AM

ACER Research Conference Proceedings (2017)

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

8:45 AM - 9:00 AM

Educational leaders play a crucial role in setting directions for improvement and innovation. Leaders – whether or not they are in formal leadership roles – create the tone of an institution, set priorities and directions for change, build coherence and shared commitment across the community and maintain a sharp focus on measurable improvements in student outcomes. Effective leaders take a deep interest in the quality of teaching and learning. They closely monitor indicators of student achievement and wellbeing and promote institution-wide conversations and professional learning focused on improving teaching and learning processes and student outcomes. They also form partnerships with other educational institutions and external organisations to better meet students’ learning needs. Research Conference 2017 will profile recent research into leadership practices and initiatives that have revitalised educational institutions and produced significant improvements in student engagement and performance.

9:00 AM

Capabilities required for leading improvement: Challenges for researchers and developers

Viviane Robinson, University of Auckland

9:00 AM - 10:15 AM

The leadership of improvement is a challenging task, requiring capability in 1) using relevant knowledge to 2) solve complex educational problems, while 3) building relationships of trust with those involved. In this keynote address, Viviane describes what she has learned from her leadership research and development program about each of these three leadership capabilities. In addressing the first of these leadership capabilities, she describes key findings about how leaders’ relevant knowledge intersect with their ability to build trust and solve the problems that stand in the way of their improvement goals. Her discussion of the second capability draws on empirical research about how educational leaders typically solve complex on-the-job problems. She discusses how leaders communicate perceived problems, how they analyse and attempt to solve them and the consequences of their typical strategies for single- and double-loop learning and for educational improvement. In discussing the third capability, that of building relational trust, Viviane presents key findings about the interpersonal skills leaders employ in their on-the-job problem-solving conversations and the dilemma they frequently experience between progressing the problem and maintaining trust. She then discusses the types of professional learning and development that are more- or less-effective in building leaders’ capability in these three critical capabilities. In the final part of her address, Viviane reflects on the considerable methodological and design challenges that are involved in conducting research on leadership capabilities that is simultaneously highly rigorous and highly relevant to leadership practice.

10:45 AM

Nourishing teachers’ leadership for learning: Insights from practitioner research

Simon Clarke, Graduate School of Education, University of Western Australia

10:45 AM - 12:00 PM

This session contends that leadership and learning are mutually supporting and reinforcing. It is only recently that attempts have been made to describe in practice the complex connections existing between the two activities by drawing on empirical evidence. To this end, this session will depict ways in which leadership and learning are indispensable to each other in day-to-day teachers’ work, and the implications this symbiosis has for practice. Firstly, the session will consider the key foundations and principles of leadership for learning, especially as they relate to the Carpe Vitam international leadership for learning research project. Secondly, we will discuss the features of teachers’ professional learning that are likely to facilitate desirable conditions, practices and opportunities for promoting interconnections between leadership and learning in schools. Finally, the session will present exemplars of teachers’ work at an empirical level, in which teachers’ agency is enhanced when they are learners and leaders in different contexts. These exemplars are drawn from teachers’ action-enquiry projects designed to contribute to organisational improvement. Collectively, the exposition will present a persuasive portrayal of teachers’ agency being nourished when teachers are both learners and leaders, in their classrooms, among their colleagues and across their communities.

Enhancing instructional leadership: Lessons from the NSW Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan

Tim Wyatt, Erebus International

10:45 AM - 12:00 PM

Over the past decade, schools, school systems and governments at all levels have invested heavily in enhancing the quality of school leadership. The Australian Government-funded National Partnerships (2012–2014) identified principal leadership as one of its explicit goals. More recently, the emphasis of leadership development has been on enhancing instructional leadership. This paper describes an approach to enhancing instructional leadership adopted as part of the NSW Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan (2012–2016), which was the particular approach of the NSW government school sector. The three school sectors in NSW each adopted different models for their implementation of the Action Plan relevant to their differing contexts. The Action Plan implementation in the government sector (where it was known as Early Action for Success) had as its centrepiece the appointment of dedicated instructional leaders to the 310 most disadvantaged schools in the state. Their role was to build the capacity of teachers to deliver high-quality pedagogy through focused in-school professional learning. Drawing on the findings of a five-year evaluation of this Action Plan, this paper describes how the instructional leaders undertook their roles, the factors that influenced the success of the role, and their impact to date on schools, teachers and student learning.

Courageous and coherent leadership required for excellent and equitable outcomes

Linda Bendikson, University of Auckland

10:45 AM - 12:00 PM

The paper illustrates the complexity of leadership work, using data on the varying perspectives of middle and senior leaders about their own goals; the seriousness of the problems that they face in reaching those goals; and the perceived effectiveness of the senior leadership team. The findings from these studies indicate that the basic leadership skills of problem analysis, focused goalsetting and close monitoring of progress towards goals are lacking in many leadership teams in secondary schools. These findings highlight the importance of a team of middle and senior leaders being aligned in their goal pursuit, being active problem-solvers and being prepared to take some calculated risks to gain improvements.

1:00 PM

Stronger Smarter: A sustained and enduring approach to Indigenous education (whether education researchers know it or not!)

Chris Sarra, University of Canberra

1:00 PM - 2:15 PM

In 1988, Professor Sarra commenced his career as an educator. After a very personal revelation about how he as an Aboriginal student had been ‘sold short’ by schooling, he became determined to change expectations of Aboriginal children in schools throughout Australia. It was a lofty career ambition, but one he feels he has achieved: the stronger smarter approach, which he developed and now shares with an army of hardworking and courageous educators, has had success – despite the questionable efforts of education researchers with little or no insight into the profound complexities of such an undertaking. This paper will reflect on aspects of the stronger smarter journey and invite education researchers to consider how to enhance this pursuit rather than get in the way of it.

2:15 PM

Pre-service and in-service teacher education: A leadership model for collaborative learning

Jo-Anne Reid, Charles Sturt University

2:15 PM - 3:30 PM

Innovative collaboration between schools and university can enhance teacher education. This model was developed as part of a partnership between a school principal leading a cluster of diverse primary schools, and a local university school of teacher education. The partnership established a memorandum of understanding to support targeted and standards-based professional learning for teachers and new leaders across the schools in the cluster. Novice pre-service teachers were also assigned to these schools for an extended weekly professional placement. This session outlines the model as it was designed: to respond to the strategic demands of particular school communities, as well as to ensure teaching and leadership development for pre-service and in-service teachers. The session will explain the model’s conceptual and research base for professional learning. It will identify practical theories for skill and leadership development in pre-service and in-service teacher education respectively.

Principals as Literacy Leaders: A strategy for improving reading engagement and achievement in Australian schools

Tony Townsend, Griffith University

2:15 PM - 3:30 PM

By the end of 2017, approximately 1500 school leaders from all states and territories in Australia will have undertaken the Principals as Literacy Leaders (PALL) program. This program was first funded in 2010 for 60 primary principals of disadvantaged schools by a Commonwealth Government grant under the Closing the Gap strategy. Since that time, additional cohorts of school leaders have been funded by state departments of education, professional associations and individual schools. Many of the programs were associated with research looking at various outcomes of the learning gained from the PALL program. To date, there have been six published studies, (including one that considered PALL for principals working in Indigenous communities, numerous conference papers, chapters and journal articles and a forthcoming book. In 2016, further data were collected from case study schools that were the subject of case study research in 2014. This presentation provides an overview of PALL and the previous research. It focuses on the most recent data collection, which was designed to look at the sustainability of the learning from PALL over time and its impact on leadership strategies, teaching practice and student engagement, learning and achievement in reading.

4:00 PM

Leading empowered evaluations to develop trust and improve learning: Insights from qualitative research

Peter McClenaghan, University of New England
Kerrie Ikin, University of New England

4:00 PM - 5:15 PM

What does ‘empowering teachers-as-evaluators’ mean in whole-school strategic planning and evaluation? Our work seeks to develop and empower teachers as whole-of-school evaluators to embrace ownership of the school’s plan and directions, build communities of practice, create transparency, openness and trust, and ultimately improve student learning outcomes. Our previous research in whole-school qualitative empowerment evaluation showed that principals who were fully engaged in their schools’ evaluations were more likely to be influenced by the evaluation process, use the evaluation results and build evaluation capacity than those who merely participated as a guest. They engaged in double-loop learning. We further found that key values, such as trust, acted as catalysts for evaluation influence. This raised questions as to whether the influences on principals from this research would also apply to all staff if they were similarly engaged in their whole-school’s evaluation. We describe one school’s ongoing journey since 2015 in such a process and our research findings to date. Our findings draw on observation, interview and questionnaire data from all staff at all levels in the school. The research reveals that as staff members develop transparency and trust in the process and with each other, their understanding of and input into the school’s plan and directions are increasing and their evaluation capacity is being built.

Developing a professional certification system for school principals: The Principals Australia Institute certification project

Lawrence Ingvarson, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

4:00 PM - 5:15 PM

In 2014, the Principals Australia Institute (PAI) decided to develop a national system for providing professional certification to accomplished school principals, based on the AITSL Australian Professional Standard for Principals (the Standard). ACER has been assisting the PAI in the development of valid and reliable methods whereby principals can demonstrate how they meet the Standard. This work has included conceptualising the system, developing an assessment and evaluation framework for certification, and developing guidelines for three portfolio initiatives linked to the Australian Professional Standard for Principals. The portfolio initiatives were field-tested in 2015 and a group of principals was trained to assess them. The portfolio tasks were rated high on validity and, after training, assessors demonstrated high levels of reliability in assessing portfolio entries and identifying benchmarks.

Developing evaluative thinking and evidence-based practice: A synthetic case study

Tim Wyatt, Erebus International

4:00 PM - 5:15 PM

The NSW Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan, which operated from 2012 to 2016, provided $261 millon to improve literacy and numeracy learning in 448 the most disadvantaged and lowest performing schools across the three education sectors in NSW. A key objective of the Action Plan was to enhance teacher and school leader capacity, including the ability to apply evidence-based practices and evaluative thinking to planning and programming for teaching and learning at a classroom level, and to planning and decision-making at a whole-school level. The concept and terminology of ‘evidence-based practice’ is in common parlance in Australian schools; however, in many of the schools targeted by the Action Plan, authentic application of the principles of evidence-based practice was not well developed at the commencement of the initiative, and in some cases, often misunderstood. This presentation draws on data gathered during more than 70 schools visited and six longitudinal case studies conducted as part of the evaluation of the NSW Action Plan to develop a ‘synthetic’ case study of how successful schools have gone about building the confidence and competence of teachers and school leaders to embrace the new ways of thinking and working required to become true ‘evaluative thinkers’. What occurred in many of the schools visited can be described as nothing less than a complete paradigm shift in how they operated, providing a much richer, engaging, and relevant learning experience for their students. The case study will discuss the key role of Instructional Leaders in providing the professional learning necessary to underpin the new practices, data systems to provide authentic evidence for planning and teaching, and the implications for adoption of differentiated teaching, personalised learning and targeted interventions from adoption of the new models.