No-one can compel learning in others. The decision to learn is an internal one that can be influenced by previous experience, readiness, our perceived sense of competence, our emotional state, our interests and our self-confidence.
The OIQ Factor: raising your school's organizational intelligence (Kusuma-Powell and Powell, 2013)
There has been a lot of discussion among classmates on the coaching course about the difference between directive and non-directive coaching and which is more effective. But Kusuma-Powell and Powell argue that while the ultimate goal would be for all teachers and educators to engage in transformational learning, the kind of learning that develops high collective intelligence and has the capacity to truly impact student learning outcomes, 'there needs to be a match between the developmental level of the individual and the supports and challenges that are provided’. Similarly, in order for schools to engage in transformational learning leadership must identify the organisation’s developmental level and then design appropriate supports and challenges.
In the book, they reference the work of Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan (1994), who developed a theory of adult development which is based on how adults make meaning of the world around them. His basic idea is that as we grow cognitively and emotionally, the ways in which we construct meaning become more and more complex. His theory is based on three primary ideas:
- Constructivism: humans actively construct and make meaning of our experiences and create our realities with respect to cognitive, emotional, intrapersonal and interpersonal pathways of development
- Developmentalism: the ways in which we make meaning and construct reality can develop over time and throughout our lifetime, provided that we benefit from developmentally appropriate supports and challenges.
- Subject-object balance: this balance centres on the relationship between what we can take a perspective on - hold as an object - and what we are embedded in and cannot see or be responsible for - are subject to. This balance changes at different developmental stages as our ways of knowing become more complex.
Kegan’s research suggests that meaning making is not associated with age or gender or stage of life. It is developmental. He identifies four developmental stages of adult life: instrumental, socializing, self-authoring and self-transforming.
Self-transforming school leaders know the developmental stages of colleagues and provide appropriate support and challenges to help them grow through the stages. This serves to enhance collaboration, prevent destructive personalized conflict and minimise resistance to innovation. However, the conditions can be set for learning but the decision to learn is always made by the learner. For this reason the most effective leaders develop leadership capacity - the capacity that we develop individually and in groups to self-manage, self-monitor and self-modify - in others through mediation and ongoing coaching.
However, individual and organisational growth emerges in an environment with the appropriate support and challenge for the developmental stage(s). Kusuma-Powell and Powell present four different functions of support that can be provided to individuals or groups:
- Coaching: to support the thinking of the colleague. The coach does not offer advice, solutions, ideas or judgements.The belief is that the individual or the group has all the resources needed to plan, reflect or resolve problems. Focuses on transformational, self-directed learning.
- Consulting: an expert is called in to give advice, offer ideas and generate solutions. The purpose is to transmit useful knowledge. Informational learning.
- Collaborating: two or more individuals come together as equals irrespective of positions of authority to engage in a common task. Collective sense of responsibility and individuals in the groups share accountability for outcomes. Norms and skills need to be taught explicitly and practices self-consciously. Many of the norms of collaboration can require individuals to engage in flexible thinking which can be a useful challenge for instrumental individuals and groups.
- Evaluating: to encourage compliance to certain standards through judgemental feedback. Can be comforting and provide guidance but self-evaluation should be encouraged even if uncomfortable.
Of course, most schools and individuals are combinations of different stages of development depending on the situations and challenges they may face. Just as we can all exhibit growth or fixed mindset behaviours. So any type of support requires an ability to understand the other person/ people's needs.
Kusuma-Powell and Powell give the following guidelines for the appropriate kinds of support and challenges that individuals or groups at different stages of development might benefit from:
Socialising individuals/ groups/ schools:
- encouragement and emotional support - positive approval of supervisors
- gentle but directive behaviour
- facilitation of groups through structures, organisation, values, beliefs and vision
- cognitive and affective challenge through mediative questionning that reflect the 5 states of mind, particularly flexibility and consciousness
- learning how to be assertive
- learning to distinguish between cognitive and affective conflict
- leaders need to model critical thinking and public adult learning
- explicit practice of norms of collaboration
- engage them in big picture thinking - developing consciousness and understanding of interdependencies
So, I guess what I am trying to explore through all this, is how all those things - mindset and its behaviours, stages of adult development, developing emotional intelligence and the different functions of support - all fit together. And despite my desire for answers, I am trying to slide into that self-transforming outlook, in which I am comfortable accepting complexity and ambiguity and playing a variety of roles.