Goals and Targets
- In order to create the right level of focus and engender common interest, it is best to identify a few (2-4) key goals and set specific targets for improvement in these areas.. Trying to improve everything at the same time leads to burnout, dispersion of effort and frustration and failure to achieve anything worthwhile.
- Key goals must be educationally sounds and relate to factors that are directly related to making a difference to educational outcomes.
- Goals need to be ambitious but realistic.
- They must be public and measurable in some way so that they can be reported in a meaningful way.
- Results should be used to inform planning, not to impose rewards and sanctions.
A positive stance on improving all schools and success for all students.
- Reform strategies must come from a positive stance, on the basis of appreciating what we have but wanting always to make sure it is the very best and believing there is room for improvement. They must be explained in ways that engage the idealism and professional commitments of educators, rather than make them feel attacked and criticised.
- A positive stance means all schools can be included in the reform movement, not just ‘low-performing’ ones and enables improvement to address achievement gaps and inequalities wihtin or between groups of students.
- A focus on results is important but the capacity to get there is the driving priority.
- Capacity building involves increasing collective effectiveness to improve outcomes for all students, which means developing individual and collective knowledge and competencies; resources; motivation
- New capacities not only get better results but they build motivation because they generate clarity, skills and success.
- Capacity building involves continuous and sustained learning in context, which itself requires a cultural change of administration and teaching in schools.
- Capacity building is a collective process and requires many people in a school to collaborate in making that contextual change.
- When learning from each other happens, knowledge and motivation are increased.
Multi-level engagement with strong leadership and a ‘guiding coalition’
- Reform requires sustained attention from many people in all parts of an organisation.
- There can be a variety of strategies employed to achieve the goals but there needs to be broad consensus on the goals themselves.
- There needs to be a common understanding and clear articulation of agreed goals, built through effective and extensive communication, defined by honest, frequent two-way communication about what is being attempted, and its challenges, setbacks and successes. There also needs to be a balance between commitment to goals and a course of action with a willingness to change based on feedback about results.
- Strong leadership needs active cultivation across all levels of the organisation.
- Shared vision and ownership result from a process. Action and learning needs to be prioritised in order to create and embed these. Behaviour often changes beliefs.Some planning is certainly necessary but ‘it is inversely related to the amount and quality of action.
Continuous learning through innovation and effective use of research and data
- Disciplines innovation needs to start with what is known and build on what is learned. It involves ’experimenting in thoughtful ways and studying the outcomes’
- There is a growing body of research providing evidence on effective practice. This should be used to guide decision-making and innovation.
- Data needs to be analysed in ways that actually informs practice and is used as an improvement tool to help more students be more successful not just as an accountability tool to rank schools.
- Schools should focus on how well they are progressing (using their own starting points as the basis for comparison); how well they are doing compared to other similar schools; how well they are doing compared to absolute standards
A focus on key strategies while also managing other interests and issues
- Maintaining focus on a small number of key goals is essential but perhaps the single hardest thing to do over time*. Even if everyone has agreed on the priorities, other priorities always seem to emerge and demand time and energy. Yet time is what is needed for sustained change to be effective.
- Competing interests are inevitable and maintenance is easier to achieve than improvement. Explicit attention needs to be given to managing these distractions so they do not take centre stage.
- strong partnerships between political leaders and senior officials
- strong political leadership
- key organisations and leaders to ensure other issues are managed effectively but without taking time or attention from core strategies
- some key change leaders are protected from the other distractions and able to keep much of their attention on the change in hand
- creating coherence and alignment across the organisation, so everyone knows the priorities and doesn’t inadvertently undermine them
- being proactive and anticipating problems that might arise
Effective use of resources
- How resources are used is often more important than how much money you have.
- New money can be important in the following ways: it serves as a tangible commitment to change, which improves motivation for that change; it can be useful in managing distractors e.g. teacher’s salaries must be handled effectively in order to get good people and to prevent wage and benefit issues from distracting from the important change; it can lever significant change when focused in the right places e.g. professional development, coaching, leadership development can all be supported with modest input of funds
- But existing resources also need to be used effectively and efficiently, matching what exists to priorities in the change
- Leaders need support (for example from governors) to make more informed decisions about resource allocation and economic management.
A strong implementation effort to support the change process
- Implementation is often neglected after the attention paid to planning of announcing a new policy or programme. Decision makers often do not have the time to follow through decisions.
- Implementation needs to be understood as ‘an effort to achieve the intended purpose’ - it does not have to be stuck to strictly but can involve adaptations to suit circumstance and conditions.
- Distribute responsibility for implementation to many levels.
- Barriers to change include the characteristics of the change itself (how clear is it?; how complex is it?; how difficult is it to achieve? etc); the setting (what type of organisations is it? how committed are key players to the change? what skills exist to implement the change? what resources are there? what structural or cultural barriers exist? etc); the wider context (political, social climate; competing demands; nature of the support system, etc)
- Implementation needs to be nurtured and appropriate infrastructures need to be developed to build capacity.