Sunday, 7 April 2013

The right tools for the job

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

The tools of any trade are paramount to success.  The shepherd carries a rod, to discipline and control the sheep, and the staff to protect the flock and to support the shepherd.  The tools for a modern shepherd leader are obviously more modern and universal, but still essential for success. 
 McCormick & Davenport identify two metaphoric tools they see as the rod and staff of the contemporary shepherd leader, the compass and the frame.  The compass is a guidance tool, but beyond step by step directions, or even a map, it empowers the leader and the followers to chart a course.  The shepherd leader should define the bearing, but allow the followers to use the compass as a tool in their own journey.  When I translate the compass as a leadership tool in my own life, I liken educational research as the compass that will guide me as an informed leader.  The wealth of knowledge that exists in the body of educational research is staggering.  As teachers, we often talk about always reinventing the wheel. A significant learning that I take away from my ETAD journey is that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  We, as teachers, can access the academic articles that are published, to validate our practice, to inform different teaching and learning methodologies, and to spark our own creativity.  We can even access research conducted close to home, I was delighted to find research produced by our own Alberta government and Teachers Association that reflect realities in our classrooms.  I am truly passionate about sharing scholarly articles, as they will makes us better educators.  Even in my B.Ed program, we didn’t access educational research,  and not many teachers know how much is out there, so I think it is a hidden gem that we can mine.  As a shepherd leader in education, I know that current educational research and scholarly articles will be the compass that guides my practice.

The second essential tool for the shepherd leader is the frame, a framework in which we operate, the boundaries we respect to stay on the right path.  The reason that this tool is so indispensable is that we live in an economy of knowledge.  Long gone are the days of anyone, a king, a leader, a teacher, a father, knowing best.  With the abundant availability of knowledge and ideas, no one person know best about anything.  In my experience, the gifts and talents of each individual are honoured and utilized in a school. The frame is so important because we know great things can happen when people have freedom to experiment and think outside the box.  While the room to create is essential,  a shepherd leader must set out the boundaries, name important priorities and set the playing field for ideas and innovation.  Relating back to ETAD, I think of instructional design and program evaluation.  These two frameworks are the beginning and the end of instruction.The theories of instructional design inform us to make a well planned design, considering the needs for the instruction, the learner and the context.  We must be guided by sound instructional strategies, as well as proper  visual composition.  Usability testing, and program assessment than allow us to gauge the success of the design.   Program evaluation, at the tail end, gives structure to ask the right questions for assessment and improvement.  The practice of reflection, evaluation success and identifying areas for growth is essential for framing leadership in education.  

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