Being with someone is sometimes the best support we can offer. The shepherd leader is with the people, in times of normal times and times of crisis. This verse reminds me of an online discussion I participated in about action research. Action research is really what teachers are doing on a daily basis, collecting real time data, informally in a natural setting, like assessing students on an ongoing basis in the classroom, and using the data to inform decisions, areas for growth and possible improvements, in short assessment for learning. Many in the discussion acknowledged that we as teachers do the first steps of action research. Where we stop short is reporting the data we collect, and to formalize the actions we take.
A shepherd leader is active in normal times, and can act decisively in times of trouble. The example I shared was when the Provincial Achievement Test results of my school were lower than was acceptable to us. We formed a professional action group, we looked at the results, identified tangible areas for growth, for example the skill of using inferencing to answer questions. We then set about teaching that skill explicitly in our classrooms, but without a unified strategy. What we didn’t do, in terms of an action research methodology, was articulate our process, or re-assess after we took action, to identify our successes and failures. We didn’t actually report our action research.
What I take away from this example, in light of what I have learned in ETAD, especially in the course on Educational Research, is that the leadership was there, but it wasn’t seen through to the end. The leadership wasn’t present enough in the normal time, and so decisions weren’t as decisive in the time of trouble.
As controversial as Provincial Achievement Test are in our province, the students are required to write them, and they do provide a snapshot of data. Knowing what I know now, I would actively encourage using an action research methodology in normal times to set a baseline for practice. Then, in the years where there is trouble with the scores, the precedents are in place, and real action can occur to make improvements.