A view from Nairobi, Kenya: Deborah Kimithi on school closures and the pandemic

This week’s post features an e-mail interview with Deborah Kimathi, the Executive Director of Dignitas, an education development organisation in Kenya.  Dignitas uses an innovative training and coaching approach to empower schools and educators in marginalized communities to transform students’ opportunities.   Deborah is also a Trustee of UK Charity Raising Futures Kenya, and Country Lead of the Kenya chapter of Regional Education Learning Initiative (RELI) which brings together more than 70 education actors from across the region.

This is the fifth in a series that includes posts from Chile,  from Japanfrom the Netherlands and from Scotland.  The “A view from…” series editors are IEN’s Thomas Hatch and Karen Edge, Reader/Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at University College London’s Institute of Education.

IEN: What’s happening with you and your family?

Deborah Kimathi: Kenya announced its first case of COVID19 on March 13th, and on March 15th the government announced national school closures, and social distancing measures that included working from home for those in non-essential services. I spent the next morning in the Dignitas office, setting up our team of 15 for remote working, with no idea of what that would really look like (for a team who are typically 80% in the community delivering training and coaching to our 140 School Partners) or how long it might last for. Now, 11 weeks the team are all still working from home, and being incredibly fruitful despite the challenges.

Ever since, my family and I have been working from home in Nairobi, schooling from home, shopping from home, socializing from home, and everything-else-from-home! My husband and I are both still working full time (or more than), and managing our three children. Our childcare ceased on the same day, so that our nanny could also follow the government’s guidelines. Our oldest two (7 and 9 years old, one lockdown birthday later) are doing some home learning (not their school prescribed program which was 6 hours per day of poorly managed Google Hangouts), and our 3 year old, who was due to start nursery this term, is generally having way too much screen time. My working day currently starts at 5am, and goes until around 10pm, with a variety of interruptions.

IEN: What’s happening with education/learning in your community?

DK: One word comes to mind – inequality.  I have two very different ongoing conversations when it comes to education.  The first is with my children’s friends’ parents, mostly struggling with schedules, the need for each child to have a device or laptop, how to turn baking into a science lesson, and where to source real butter for said cake.  The other, and the more urgent conversation, is with our School Partners and friends, largely in Nairobi’s urban informal settlements.  Here, the struggle is not for comfort, the struggle is for survival.  COVID19 has brought with it severe social, health and economic hardship, and these hit the poorest communities the hardest.  In these communities, more than 60% of families were unable to access public education pre-COVID19, as a result of poverty and systemic exclusion.  Marginalised by poverty, these are the same families excluded from a myriad of essential health and education services now, and often fighting a daily, violent war with police in their struggle to exist.

The more urgent conversation, is with our School Partners and friends, largely in Nairobi’s urban informal settlements.  Here, the struggle is not for comfort, the struggle is for survival.  COVID19 has brought with it severe social, health and economic hardship, and these hit the poorest communities the hardest.

The significant challenge of inequality is, as a result, exacerbated in the most violent way, only bringing harm to children, families, and society as a whole.  This raises critical, urgent questions of ‘What happens next?’  When schools reopen, will those who’ve participated in online or home learning be ‘ahead’ of others?  How will schools assess progress and promote students to the new school year?  How many girls will be married or pregnant, never to return to school?  How many families will end up on the street, their children never to return to school?  How many children will have died from starvation?  How many children will be so scarred by the trauma, violence and anxiety of this season that learning never really resumes?

The significant challenge of inequality is, as a result, exacerbated in the most violent way, only bringing harm to children, families, and society as a whole. 

A young learner proudly carries his school books outside a typical partner school. Photo: Dignitas

IEN: What do you/your community need help with?

DK: Dignitas is working tirelessly to protect and promote the learning and well-being of children living in poverty.  Whilst everything else is disrupted, our vision to ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive and succeed remains core to our COVID19 response.

In an effort to reach and protect these children, we immediately thought of our amazing community of School Leaders and Teacher Leaders.  Dignitas has trained over 1,000 educators, and have another 450 educators enrolled for 2020.  These School Leaders have already benefited from Dignitas training and coaching and they are also leaders who are rooted in, and passionate about the needs of their communities. Our partnership lays an ideal foundation for them to be further equipped to respond in these times of crisis as community champions of well-being and learning.  Dignitas is remotely training and coaching these educators as Community Champions who can work in household clusters to protect and promote children’s learning and well-being.  

Dignitas is working tirelessly to protect
and promote the learning and well-being
of children living in poverty.  Whilst
everything else is disrupted, our vision
to ensure all children have the opportunity
to thrive and succeed remains core
to our COVID19 response.

To make this possible, we need help in curating more digital content for these educators, the educators need tablets to access and share learning content, families need basic devices or radios to benefit from the government’s education broadcasts, we need to design and print home learning packs for children, and we need to help families with food!  The list is long, and we’ve been excited to collaborate with some amazing partners like Safaricom Foundation, Team4Tech, Cosaraf Foundation and Synthetic so far, but the need is huge!

A young girl, now at home, facing an uncertain future. Photo: Dignitas

IEN: What resources/links/supports have you found most useful? 

DK: I’ve really appreciated being part of some great networks – WISE, Global School Leaders, RELI, Global Schools Forum and others who have curated relevant content and tools, and offered consistent, valuable support.  The opportunity to share and learn with peers has helped me to stay focused, inspired and fruitful in this season.

Friends and donors who are authentic partners in our work!  Can donor relationships be unhealthy, and have skewed power dynamics?  Yes. However, they can also be wonderful places of strategic collaboration, bringing together passionate, committed teams of people and resources to respond to community need in a wise and compassionate way.  We’re fortunate to largely experience the latter, and they’ve been amazing thought and action partners for this season.

IEN: What are you reading, watching, listening to that you would recommend to others?  

DK: I’m mostly listening to podcasts and recordings of webinars that I’ve missed in the busy-ness!  WISE and Africa.com have had great content, relevant to our context, and not afraid to ask the hard questions.  In terms of reading, material from Harvard Graduate School of Education and Brookings Institute have offered interesting insight.  However, I think my most valuable learning experience in this season has been listening to others – peers in the Kenyan and Global education sector, and the communities in which we work.

IEN: What have you found most inspiring?

DK: People!  People who are so intentional in bringing hope and light to others.  People giving so generously of their time and expertise.  People who don’t have much, always willing to give the most. 

Lead the Change Q & A with Izhak Berkovich

This week’s post features an interview with Izhak Berkovich, faculty member in the Department of Education and Psychology at the Open University of Israel where he serves as the head of the Research Institute for Policy Analysis. This is the 106th edition of the Lead the Change (LtC) Series. The fully formatted interview can be found on the LtC website of the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association.

Lead the Change: The 2020 AERA theme is The Power and Possibilities for the Public Good: When Researchers and Organizational Stakeholders Collaborate and is a call to “address educational challenges through policy and community engagement and to work with diverse institutional and organizational stakeholders.” How can such leveraging of educational research contribute to collaboration and engagement within and across diverse stakeholder groups and to educational change?

Izhak Berkovich: The AERA theme for this year reflects one, if not the most central, challenges of the educational research community. It touches on the principle of relevance, which is perhaps the defining element of an applied field of research. Although relevance is often associated with applied research, some have suggested it as a basic scientific commitment. The noted educational psychologist, Lee Cronbach, argued that social scientists need not accumulate generalizations to “a theoretical tower”, but first and foremost capture contemporary facts, relationships, culture, and realities. I agree with Cronbach’s argument and I think policy and community actors are excellent partners if we want to make research more relevant to practice. 

First, policy and community engagement can help researchers better understand whether and to what degree their ideas on educational change are context specific. The aim here is to promote, by discussion with stakeholders, more context-emic studies that use the local context and its specific features as central input in selecting the concepts of interest and in forming the theoretical model and relations between the concepts. For example, some cultures value improvisation in implementation, and others value meticulous execution in implementation. Second, engagement with community and organizational stakeholders might shed light on matters in which stakeholders use research. These insights can help researchers develop an improved understanding of educational change as an empirical functional concept and the processes underlying it. These insights can also aid researchers in producing a better understanding of educational change as a normative concept that involves a value judgment on the nature of the baseline, the change process, and the ideal of change. Thus, engagement has valuable potential for promoting new practical understandings and for giving a voice to silenced individuals and groups. From my experience, I found that prolonged research relations with specific sites help develop such understandings. Immersion of this type enables researchers to better understand what is considered a school challenge, functioning work relations within the school, and community support for the school. That said, I think there is a tension between policy and community engagement in research on one hand and the expert and independent nature of science on the other. As a result, democratization and equality are difficult in many cases, and undesirable in some. For example, we can see this in the evaluation of policy programs and the heavy pressures to perform pseudo-positive evaluations.

LtC: Given your focus on leadership and school leaders emotional support of teachers, what would be some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?

IB: My work with Ori Eyal (Berkovich & Eyal, in press) on school leaders’ emotional support of teachers, focuses on developing a model of emotional leadership in schools that is cardinal for sustaining change. We argue school leaders need to understand teachers’ emotions and be able to positively influence these emotions. Some may question why promoting emotional meaning making and teachers’ emotional wellness are so important, but because teaching is an autonomous profession, performed most of the time by a sole teacher behind closed doors, and at the same time an interpersonal occupation that involves maintaining relationships with students and parents, we must acknowledge that teachers’ emotions are a valuable input and output of teaching. Two central lessons can be learned from our work for the field of educational change. 

First, we contend the process of influencing emotional meaning making of the work, which we call “emotional reframing,” is the key for fostering motivation to sustain change in schools. Conventional claims of work design inspired by scientific management argue that shaping contextual elements at the workplace is the method to promote employees’ intrinsic motivation, but our findings suggest otherwise. Our work points to the fact that school leaders’ ability to promote positive emotional meaning making of work events is a main mechanism by which leaders affect and promote teachers’ intrinsic motivation. This seems logical when acknowledging that individuals are not a motivational “blank canvas” and that many of them, specifically in public service professions, come to work with strong crystalized motivational drives. This type of drive has been referred to as public service motivation, i.e., the “orientation to delivering services to people with a purpose to do good for others and society” (Perry & Hondeghem, 2008, vii). Our qualitative and quantitative work stresses that emotions are the key organizers of identity and that individuals who connect emotionally to a positive frame of meaning are more likely to work for the organization than those who have the change imposed on them.

“School leaders’ ability to promote positive
emotional meaning making of work events is a
main mechanism by which leaders affect
and promote teachers’ intrinsic motivation.”

Second, we suggest thinking about effective emotional leadership as a dual process of influence. On one hand, we found that school leaders embracing transformational leadership behaviors as a generalized style of action, beyond individuals, time, and situations, are successful in altering their negative emotional frames of meaning in a manner that supports their motivation and commitment to school. On the other hand, this is only half of the story. Our findings suggest that those interested in institutionalizing change must also seriously consider the mundane aspects of leadership (e.g., active listening, informal exchanges) (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2003)‏. We found that mundane leadership communication practices, such as words of empowerment, normalization messages, and empathic listening, together with principals’ availability, are central to help teachers process affectively charged daily work events (e.g., failures with students, parents’ complaints, and so on). We showed that both extroverted managerial behaviors and reserved ones can be emotionally effective. Effective school leaders, therefore, promote positive affective influence at the collective general level as well as in daily communication around mundane events. 

LtC: In your recent work connecting school leaders’ effectiveness with teachers’ organizational commitment, you find that the principal’s leadership is mediated by things like teachers’ relationship with the leader and their internal resilience and empowerment. What do you see as the most needed changes to policy/practice to address these findings?

IB: This recent study, conducted in collaboration with Ronit Bogler (Berkovich & Bogler, 2020), is a conceptual review that uses and augments empirical data published over two decades to better understand what promotes the most discussed outcome in the literature in relation to effective leadership, that is, subordinates’ affective and normative organizational commitment. This type of commitment reflects a deep internalized mental attachment between a person and an organization. 

To understand how deep this link is, we turn to Blake Ashforth’s work on organizational commitment and identification, which involves anthropomorphism—the attribution of human qualities to nonhuman entities (Ashforth, Schinoff, & Brickson, 2020). The strength of commitment lies in our coming to think of the organization as a person whom we bond with its own identity. We then are moved to feel affinity for the organization, when we feel well treated, dislike the organization when we feel mistreated, and/or indebtedness when we gain opportunities, and so on. Guided by a theoretical lens, we found robust support for two central paths that serve effective school leadership to influence teachers’ commitment: the socio-affective path (e.g., principal-teacher quality of relationship, trust in principal, teacher’s job satisfaction) and teachers’ psychological capital path (e.g., sense of psychological resilience and of psychological empowerment). 

Understanding how leaders affect commitment is vital to promoting effective schools and schooling systems. Longitudinal data on public school teachers’ mobility from the US suggests 8% of teachers move to other schools and most of them do so voluntarily (Goldring, Taie, & Riddles, 2014). This movement is amplified among new teachers, 12% of whom change schools. The scope of this phenomenon is likely to have a considerable negative effect on the resources and operation of schools, particularly when taking into account shortages in effective teachers and public pressures to improve educational outcomes. Our work supports changes in educational policy and school management practices. For example, policymakers are advised to finance psychological counselling for teachers to support and promote their resilience. School leaders need to make time for interpersonal communication with staff that help form high quality relations and trust. Principals can also create a system of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that is broad and aims to recognize teachers’ diverse contributions to school functioning.

“Understanding how leaders affect
commitment is vital to promoting effective
schools and schooling systems.”

LtC: Educational Change expects those engaged in and with schools, schooling, and school systems to spearhead deep and often difficult transformation. How might those in the field of Educational Change best support these individuals and groups through these processes?

IB: The field of educational change has done an excellent job in shedding light on many aspects of initiating, mobilizing, and sustaining change in schools and educational systems. I identify three main collective challenges in this applied academic field, which we address to amplify our contributions to practitioners. I call these the three Cs: context, complexity and chronology. 

First, we need to better capture the external and internal context of change in schools and educational systems. This pressing need is recognized by many. Philip Hallinger (2018) called for “bringing context out of the shadows” and outlined several types of contexts (e.g., institutional, community, socio-cultural, political, economic, school improvement). We need to better understand their influence on the mobilization and operation of effective schools. For example, the vast majority of effective school leadership literature ignores socio-economic and cultural aspects despite schools being community embedded institutions (Berkovich, 2018). In light of such disconnection, it is no wonder that, at times, educational practitioners remind us that while interesting, academic work often has little to do with real life. 

Second, we need to better represent the complexity of change circumstances, behaviors, and processes. Complexity is a basic human characteristic, and as such it is embedded in all changes. We need more research that conceptualizes and tests schooling contexts, behaviors and outcomes as multifaceted phenomena. By this I mean that social phenomena are not uni-dimensional, the unique combination of such aspects is what creates the effects. This requires using typological thinking and clustering analyses, and can be applied in quantitative (e.g., Urick & Bowers, 2014) as well as qualitative works (e.g., Berkovich & Grinshtain, 2018). Alma Harris and Christopher Chapman’s studies (2002, 2003) on schools in challenging circumstances are excellent examples of multifaceted conceptualizations and typological thinking. 

“We need more research that conceptualizes
and tests schooling contexts, behaviors
and outcomes as multifaceted phenomena.”

Third, we need to better capture the chronological development of change behaviors and processes. We need to better understand how relationships and processes evolve over time (Shamir, 2011), and how early events or circumstances shape the organizational dynamics that follow (Howlett, 2009). Some studies in this area show that layering the dynamics of policy meaning at the individual level (Coburn, 2005) develops over time and influences the subsequent chain of events in education. Other works in this field have argued that educational systems often exhibit strong organizational imprinting that has persisting effects for decades and even centuries after the imprinting period (Mehta, 2013).

LtC: Where do you perceive the field of Educational Change is going? What excites you about Educational Change now and in the future? 

IB: I am greatly interested in the effect of digital activism of teachers and parents on educational policy. Digital activism has gained global momentum in recent years in light of the financial crisis and a renewed neoliberal agenda. In 2018, we witnessed the role of digital media in educational protests worldwide in the “Teachers’ Spring” in the US, in France, where thousands of teachers joined the “Red Pens” movement, and in Iran, were teachers organized to protest against the government. In all these protests, public school teachers acted together using digital media to influence government priorities and promote investment in public education. While scholars increasingly acknowledge that digital media is not the democratic game changer once thought of, it does open new paths for organizing and exerting influence, which challenge traditional structures and at times even overturn elite agenda. My recent book on the topic, with Amit Avigur-Eshel, based on Israeli cases (Berkovich & Avigur-Eshel, 2019), provides new insights on how activist collectives and social movements of teachers and parents take advantage of the capabilities of digital platforms, how they structure their messages, what distinctive operational dynamics of protest can emerge, and on the link between the lived experience of participants and online activism. The growing integration of digital platforms in educational policies and reforms is an uncharted research water, despite being a fact of life today. I expect, therefore, that expanding knowledge on this topic will be one of the main challenges of educational change researchers in years to come. 

Another topic that interests me as a researcher is the de-stabilization of the democratic state model. We see more and more citizens in democratic countries turning a cold shoulder to traditional politics and political institutions and adopting an anti-immigration agenda. So many citizens worldwide renouncing liberal democratic ideas and forming a basis for solidarity on perceived threats is of great concern that undoubtedly will affect the educational policy environment. This is not a process that came out of the thin air, and to some degree it is related to countries embracing minimal state policies (e.g., cuts in public expenditure, privatization). Growing socio-economic gaps is one of the key outcomes of such policies. As a result, the fabric of social cohesion is beginning to unravel, and with it liberal democracies. Regretfully, the coronavirus and its economic aftermath will potentially accelerate this process. Consequently, I think we will see higher levels of societal tension and conflict surface in the policy arena and the school arena, and educational changes will be more entangled with what Andy Hargreaves (2001) called “emotional geographies,” specifically around sociocultural differences and moral conflicts between stakeholders. In this context, empathy and listening skills, as well as creating working conditions that make emotional understanding possible will be more valuable than any technical knowledge.

References

Berkovich, I, & Eyal, O. (in press). A model of emotional leadership in schools: Effective leadership to support teachers’ emotional wellness. Routledge. 

Harris, A., & Chapman, C. (2003). Effective leadership in schools facing challenging circumstances. Nottingham: National College for School Leadership.‏ 

Three Different Types of School Leadership for Learning: Results from TALIS 2018

This week’s post comes from Alex J. Bowers who draws from his recent working paper published by the OECD using the newly released TALIS 2018 dataset. Bowers is an Associate Professor of Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. 

Across countries, what is the role of school leaders and to what extent do teachers in schools agree with the leader on perceptions of their leadership practices? How many different types of leaders are there and how do these different types distribute across countries?

I examined these issues by analyzing the responses of over 152,000 teachers, across more than 9,000 schools with their principals, in 47 countries/economies on their perceptions of practices linked with the concepts of leadership for learning. I found three very different types of schools based on the alignment and mis-alignment of teacher and leader perceptions, and the results suggest that the proportions of the three different types of schools varies in important ways across national contexts.

I found three very different types of schools based on the alignment and mis-alignment of teacher and leader perceptions, and the results suggest that the proportions of the three different types of schools varies in important ways across national contexts.

Over the last few decades, researchers, policymakers, and school system leaders across the globe have shifted their conception of school leadership from the heroic single leader appointed at the top of the organization, to more distributed and shared conceptions of school leadership between teachers and principals. These new conceptions include leadership for learning, which encompasses aspects of transformational leadership – engaging teachers in the collaborative work of improving instructional practice – and instructional leadership – setting the vision, mission, and goals of the school, leading professional development, and supervising instruction. Importantly, leadership for learning also includes human resource development through mentorship and induction of teachers and strong management of resources to address specific student needs, community outreach, and student behavior and discipline.

To understand the extent to which teachers and leaders agreed across key aspects of leadership for learning, I analyzed data from the newly released TALIS 2018 survey items that asked teachers and principals similar questions around issues in their school of:

  1. Student assessment
  2. Feedback on teacher practices
  3. Teacher self-efficacy and a common set of beliefs about teaching and learning
  4. Professional development and trust
  5. Professional collaboration around lessons
  6. Mentoring and induction of teachers
  7. Engagement of stakeholders, such as teachers and parents
  8. A shared discipline climate

My results showed three different patterns of responses among teachers:

  • A high response type that has the highest responses across the eight domains and is the majority of teachers. These teachers have the highest work satisfaction, more often chose teaching as a career, and are the most experienced.
  • A low response type in which about a quarter of teachers responded with some of the lowest levels of perceptions of leadership for learning in their schools. These teachers reported the lowest job satisfaction and the highest workload stress.
  • A mixed response type in which about a fifth of all teachers reported high levels of self-efficacy, professional development, trust, stakeholder engagement, and a shared discipline climate, yet low levels of teacher feedback, professional collaboration, and mentorship and induction by the principal. These teachers have high job satisfaction and the lowest workload stress.

Second, I found three different patterns of responses between these three different types of teacher responders and their principals. In the first type, the principals have the highest responses across the leadership for learning domains, and thus are generally well aligned with the majority teacher type. In the second school pattern, principal responses are somewhat more in the middle providing a moderate response type. The third type of school, however, is typified by principals who disagree primarily around issues of mentorship and induction of teachers.

Importantly, while a large percentage of the school leadership research is grounded in the USA context and education research literature, the results from this analysis suggest that the USA may have only two of the three types of school leadership identified. The third type, in which leaders disagree more often across the survey, is a type of school that is more often found in countries such as Finland, as well as Portugal, Spain, Chile, Austria, and Argentina among others.

Percentage of respondents by school leadership type and country; Figure 10 from “Examining a congruency-typology model of leadership for learning using two-level latent class analysis with TALIS 2018

As I note on pages 53-54 of the working paper:

…it is intriguing that although the research that supports both theories of instructional leadership and leadership for learning, and the TALIS 2018 items, depends to a large extent on research from the USA context, the results of this study suggest that the USA has only two of the three types globally of leadership for learning schools… Given the global conversation on both leadership for learning, as well as policy in many nations attempting to implement instructional leadership theories and ideas, this finding that the United States is missing one of the three types of schools is intriguing. I will note, that I am not arguing here that the USA research is wrong, but rather that it may be incomplete, as USA researchers have not had access in their context to this third school type in the typology… The point that this model with the TALIS 2018 data captures the current global research issue that indicates that at the education policy level, mentorship by principals is “contested practice” across multiple national contexts provides a means to extend leadership for learning frameworks to include a wider global lens of schooling practice that includes these types of differences across national contexts (p.53-54).

Although no causal interpretations can be made, the results do provide an opportunity to surface previously unknown patterns and similarities across schools and countries, increasing the opportunity for collaboration and dialogue. For instance, in considering professional development and instructional improvement, the three different types of schools may need quite different types of supports and professional development resources. An intriguing professional development opportunity would be to bring together the principals and teachers from each of the three different school clusters, and provide them with the opportunity to collaborate, discuss, and surface the issues for instructional improvement that matter most to their type of school and their instructional practice with students in their community. Countries with similar patterns of leadership for learning across national contexts, may also find interesting and useful collaborative opportunities for improvement around shared interests and conceptions of teaching and school leadership.

Bowers, A.J. (2020) Examining a Congruency-Typology Model of Leadership for Learning using Two-Level Latent Class Analysis with TALIS 2018. Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) Publishing: Paris, France. https://doi.org/10.1787/c963073b-en

A view from Glasgow, Scotland: Maureen McKenna on school closures and the Pandemic

This week’s post features an e-mail interview with Maureen McKenna, Executive Director of Education, Glasgow City Council. This is the fourth in a series that includes posts from Chile,  from Japan, and from the Netherlands.  The “A view from…” series editors are IEN’s Thomas Hatch and Karen Edge, Reader/Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at University College London’s Institute of Education

IEN: What’s happening with your family and friends?

Maureen McKenna: Since the UK and Scottish Governments announced lockdown, I have been working between home and the office. My youngest son has moved back home with us from Belfast and he has set up his IT equipment in the back room. He has managed to complete his probationary period with the company during this lockdown. My oldest son has been placed on furlough (a government scheme where you get 80% of salary) with a major sports company – it is hard financially for him but he is grateful to still be employed. My daughter is expecting her second child in early July and is desperate to get back to work in her nursery school but that is looking increasingly unlikely as the lockdown continues. She is helping her six year old son with his school work, completing the transition records for the four year old children in her key group to support them when they go to primary school in August and doing lots of on-line professional learning. We live outside the city so we are managing long walks most days. However, like most people, as this lockdown continues it is becoming more challenging to maintain work patterns.

https://www.glasgowtimes.co.uk/news/18418825.puzzles-glasgows-stem-experts-might-leave-stumped/

IEN: What is happening with education/learning in your community?

MM: In Glasgow, in normal times we have around 68,500 children in our primary and secondary schools. A further 12,000 are in our nurseries. Almost all closed on 23rd March 2020. We have kept some nurseries and schools open for the children of key workers. We have only around 500 children coming in to the schools and about 400 in nurseries. This has been increasing recently and in the last week we have around 650 primary-aged children in schools. Glasgow has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the UK. Many of our families’ lives are impacted by poverty, alcohol and drugs. When we consider how to support our families we think of them as thriving, coping, just coping and chaotic. In normal times, most families are thriving and coping – some are just coping and a number are chaotic mainly due to addiction. In our ‘new normal’ fewer families are thriving and coping and notably more are just coping. 

Wellbeing, compassion and care had to be our focus – if we got that right then learning would follow.

Our priority for Glasgow schools and nurseries was to ensure we remained connected – in a world where news bulletins were incessant in their spread of fear, raising the anxiety of all. Therefore, wellbeing, compassion and care had to be our focus – if we got that right then learning would follow. Heads of nurseries and schools were asked to create contact trees where each member of staff would have a named contact and put in place arrangements for staff to contact families regularly, particularly vulnerable families. This has worked well. Relationships have remained strong in the main which will be essential for the next phase. Phone calls, social media, Apps, STEM e-bulletins, and YouTube channels have all been used. Teachers have sent home lesson packs as well as “sensory boxes” for students with visual and hearing impairments. A partnership with the local city newspaper produces twice weekly two-page spreads with activities in math, in STEM, and other subjects to help families support learning at home, and some inserts into national news have all worked well – all with the consistent message of ‘we care’.

https://www.glasgowtimes.co.uk/news/18418825.puzzles-glasgows-stem-experts-might-leave-stumped/

Before 23rd March we were part-way through the roll-out of 50,000 iPads to staff and pupils. We had a carefully planned programme of support for staff and pupils that launched in August 2019. Our ambitious plan had all secondary-aged pupils getting their own iPad, along with upper stage primary pupils. Other stages would have access to class sets of iPads. At the time, there were some in the educational world who criticised us for being so ambitious and told us via social media that digital learning was not all it was cracked up to be – now, there are some in the education world highlighting how awful it is that some children don’t have access to digital learning and what are we doing about it. Given our new situation, we have plans to accelerate the issuing of iPads to secondary staff and we are exploring how quickly we can accelerate the issuing of iPads to senior pupils in secondary schools, recognising that the whole of academic session 2020/21 is likely to be our new normal. So our staff are providing pupils’ work using on-line links; where this is not possible, packs of work are prepared for parents to collect or they are delivered to homes. Other staff are volunteering with our third sector partners to deliver much needed food parcels to families all across the city.

Now we are starting to think about recovery – the longer our children are out of school the wider the attainment gap is becoming between those from the least disadvantaged and the most disadvantaged communities. In the last ten years, we had made tremendous progress closing the attainment gap – I worry a lot about our children and young people who were so dependent on the structure and support of school.

IEN: What are you working on now?

MM: We need to continue to focus on the wellbeing of our school communities. In our recovery plans, we are planning on how we use the nurturing principles which are so embedded in our everyday work to help us build the confidence of staff, parents and pupils to re-establish learning. We are structuring our plans around Recovery, Resilience and Re-connection. Our psychological service has developed really good advice for schools and nurseries to support their planning. Wellbeing, compassion and care must continue to be central to our plans – recent events have been traumatic for even the most resilient of people – so it is critical that we take time to build resilience and think carefully about how we re-connect with each other, with children and young people and with families.

Recent events have been traumatic for even the most resilient of people – so it is critical that we take time to build resilience and think carefully about how we re-connect with each other, with children and young people and with families

This past week, we engaged with groups of headteachers from across the city to discuss what physical distancing will mean in their buildings, what steps will they need to take to re-connect and what will academic session 2020/21 look like in our ‘new normal’. We are gathering the findings from these discussions and we will share them more widely so that ideas are shared, promoting more discussion encouraging heads to start to include their staff. We have a strong culture of relational trust and collaboration across our schools and nurseries – this will help us build for the future. I am also linking with Directors of other local authorities in Scotland, sharing ideas while we try to find innovative and creative ways to continue to deliver high quality learning and teaching to our children and young people.

IEN: What are you most proud of?

MM: I am always proud of the achievements of the children and young people and the commitment of our staff. It is no different through this challenging time. We have staff who are continuing to come to work in the hubs we have set up to provide childcare. They are integrating learning with fun activities for the children. The numbers are increasing as support is offered to more of our just coping families. We also have staff who have worked with health colleagues to design face shields which can be made from 3D printers and other staff who are making scrubs out of bed linen, including my mum (she’s not a member of staff – she has just volunteered to keep herself busy!). They are working in our schools doing this great work. Three of our secondary schools are being used as food distribution centres through a partnership with third sector organisations. School staff are working with them to link with families in the greatest need. I have just ordered £25,000 worth of sanitary products which will be included in packs to families.

We will all have to dig deep in the coming months drawing on our own resilience but I know that we will come back just as strong, hopefully with a better sense of community. I know our staff will rise to the challenge – it will not be easy but education is too important. We know that education is key to reducing the impact of poverty on people’s lives so we have no choice – our children and young people continue to deserve the very best we can give.

A view from the Netherlands: Melanie Ehren on school closures and the pandemic

This week’s post features an e-mail interview with Melanie Ehren, Professor and Director of Research of LEARN! at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. This post is the third in a series that includes posts from Chile and from Japan.  The “A view from…” series editors are IEN’s Thomas Hatch and Karen Edge, Reader/Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at University College London’s Institute of Education.

IEN: What’s happening with you in Amsterdam? 

Melanie Ehren: The Netherlands has been in ‘intelligent lock down’ for over a month now. Starting the 12th March, cafés, restaurants, hairdressers and many shops closed. Initially, schools were to stay open following advice from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) that there was a minor risk of children spreading the disease. Widespread concern over teachers’ health and national outrage however resulted in a closure of all primary, secondary schools and vocational schools on the 14th. I was at the Dutch Ministry of Education on the 12th to give a talk about ‘trust and accountability’ when the announcement was made. It was a surreal experience to leave the building at the end of the day and say farewell to colleagues, knowing that it would be a while before we would meet in person again. With so much time in lock-down the world has become quite small. In a short amount of time, all national and international events, meetings and conferences were cancelled and the days are now filled with a continuous stream of online meetings interspersed with attempts to write papers, develop proposals for new research (much of it now concerned with the consequences of COVID-19), finish a book on ‘trust and accountability’ with Jacqueline Baxter, and write up case study work from South Africa on the same topic. At LEARN!, as a research institute, we’ve worked hard to build a knowledge bank with our relevant research work.  We have been publishing a series of articles on education and COVID-19 for parents and educators as well as a series of blogs on the relevant education news here and internationally.  That work is informed by the weekly meetings I have on Friday afternoon with a rapid response network of practitioners in the field. The crisis is bringing unprecedented change to teaching here and to how schools are organized, and we have doubled up our efforts to map these changes as well as help schools and policy-makers to make the best evidence-informed decisions.

The view from the author’s desk, picture courtesy of M. Ehren

IEN: What’s happening with education/learning in your community? 

ME: Our university also closed on Thursday 12th March, one day before I was teaching my group of students on the MA ‘Education and Innovation’. The first week was really hectic with moving all teaching online, finding out about which platform to use for online lectures, allowing for small break out groups. Most of us are now using Zoom with break out rooms for small group work. My own teaching ended after that first week but we are now preparing to move all our courses, even those that are scheduled for the fall online, including assessments with online proctoring. It has been a major challenge and learning curve for many, and we are collaboratively learning about how to teach well in an online learning environment where large seminars just don’t work that well and students don’t show up for them. There is also a real challenge in connecting to students who go off radar, where some also experience anxiety, a lack of motivation or opportunity to study due to living in small, shared and noisy housing or losing a sense of purpose when family and friends have health concerns.

There is a real challenge in connecting to students who go off radar, where some also experience anxiety, a lack of motivation or opportunity to study due to living in small, shared and noisy housing or losing a sense of purpose when family and friends have health concerns.

The National Institute for Public Health have reported that there are over 40,000 positive COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands, but with new hospitalization falling below 50 each day, they suggest that control measures appear to be working. Consequently, primary schools are now set to reopen again on May 11, though with lessons in smaller, alternating groups of students. Secondary schools will reopen on June 1.

IEN: What do you/your community need help with?

ME: We have seen over the past weeks that schools have had to ramp up their offer of online teaching, rethinking their educational partnership with parents. Schools serving pupils from deprived backgrounds have had to think of ways in which to connect to these pupils, given that some did not even have a laptop at home and where many are still unable to understand how to access online teaching. Schools have worked with youth services and municipalities to reach these children and have come up with solutions that work best for the pupils involved. All these solutions have been highly context-specific as the reasons for why pupils are not involved vary and the best solutions capitalize on existing high-trust relations. After schools had a couple of weeks to adapt to the situation, more substantive questions have arisen, such as how to ensure the quality of teaching when schools remain closed for longer periods of time or when they only open in a phased manner and some type of blended online and classroom-based teaching is required.

IEN: What resources/links/supports have you found most useful? 

ME: The problem is that there is just too much out there and it is hard to sift through all the resources, links and support. Many reports also highlight similar issues,  particularly on how the current situation increased inequality. I find the weekly conversations with practitioners most helpful to understand the questions that still need answering and to hear alternative views. One of the practitioners in my network, responsible for inclusive education for example told me that some children are actually doing quite well in the current situation of home-schooling; the safety and structure of the home environment enables them to learn much better then in school.

The problem is that there is just too much out there and it is hard to sift through all the resources, links and support.

IEN: What are you reading, watching, listening to that you would recommend to others?  

As my days are filled with so much COVID-19 related work these days I really want to read, watch and listen to something unrelated. I’ve downloaded archived podcasts like ‘Freakonomics’ and ‘Revisionist History’ and tend to listen these during long hikes in the weekend.

Lead the Change Q & A with Terri N. Watson

This week’s post features an interview with Terri N. Watson, Associate Professor in the Department of Leadership and Human Development at The City College of New York. This is the 105th edition of the Lead the Change (LtC) Series.  The fully formatted interview can be found on the LtC website of the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association.

Lead the Change: The 2020 AERA theme is The Power and Possibilities for the Public Good: When Researchers and Organizational Stakeholders Collaborate. Organizational leaders, “who bring knowledge, status, and constituents to critical educational topics” were invited to this year’s meeting to reconnect and to harness our collective possibilities. How can the leveraging of such a diverse body of scholars contribute to collaboration and engagement within and across multiple stakeholder groups and to educational change?

Terri Watson: The 2020 AERA theme rightly calls for increased collaboration amongst education researchers, organizational leaders, and stakeholders. These partnerships are essential to educational change and reminds me of a similar charge echoed throughout Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, And the Foundations of a Movement, a collection of essays and speeches by Angela Y. Davis. In this work Dr. Davis, a political activist and scholar, passionately articulates the need for ‘movement builders’ and calls for seemingly divergent movements to coalesce for a common good, a public good. She consistently challenges neoliberal policies and practices found in society at large and in far too many K- 20 schools and schooling contexts. The latter is troubling as public education is one of the few services that, if it is to be effective, must address the human condition. In this light, I view the work of education researchers, organizational leaders, and stakeholders as akin to those of movement builders who, by way of AERA’s 2020 theme, are charged to unite for a public good: public education.

We must cease conducting research in schools and communities and, instead, establish meaningful partnerships with schools and communities

If we, as an association of 25,000 scholars, are to leverage educational research for the public good, we must intentionally forge meaningful relationships with the public. And, in addition to organizational leaders and stakeholders, education scholars must join forces with students, parents, teachers, school administrators, community members, and educational policymakers. To do so, we must cease conducting research in schools and communities and, instead, establish meaningful partnerships with schools and communities. Too often, education researchers are detached from the realities of schooling, the lives of young people, and the experiences of those deemed ‘other.’ And while we read journal articles, conduct research, and publish our findings, few researchers engage with schools and communities outside of the course of their study. Moreover, we rarely, if at all, share our findings with the general public nor employ what we have learned to inform education policy. If our scholarship is to impact educational change, we must engage with the public. To be clear, education scholars must endeavor to establish connections with the people, paradigms, and perspectives we persistently marginalize in and outside of the schoolhouse.

‘Theory is cool, but theory with no practice ain’t shit.’  – Fred Hampton, 1969.

At the start of my academic career, I conducted a longitudinal study of the leadership practices exhibited in a large urban high school. Using the lens of Critical Race Theory, I examined how teachers and school leaders identified and considered the challenges to parent involvement “without either engaging in or disrupting normative constructions of the term parent involvement” (Watson & Bogotch, 2015, p.258). Based on what I learned from the school’s parents, teachers, and administrators, and with funding obtained from a community based organization, I conducted parent meetings, teacher workshops, and worked with the school’s leadership team to redefine and reframe the function and purpose of parent involvement. I shared my experience with Sylvia Saunders, a reporter from NYSUT: A Union of Professionals. Our conversation, along with a link to the journal article, Reframing Parent Involvement: What Should Urban School Leaders Do Differently?, can be accessed here. A major lesson the field of Educational Change can learn from this study is that as critical researchers, we must be open to alternative ways of knowing and practice to facilitate change and, ultimately, student achievement.

LtC: Given your focus on how racism manifests and is manifested in schools and the impact of such racism as well as class and gender discrimination on Black girls in particular, what would be some of the takeaways the field of Educational Change can glean from your work and experiences with Black girls?

TW: I wrote the following text (tweet) on November 18, 2019:

Dear Educators,

Black girls are not loud – they want to be heard.

Black girls are not seeking-attention – they are seeking a connection.

Black girls are not aggressive – they know what they want.

Black girls are not bossy – they are leaders.

Last, Black girls are not adults.

To date, this tweet has been shared over 21K times and was ‘liked’ more than 68K times. As a Black woman and the mother of a Black girl, I know that schools, for many Black girls, are sites of trauma. This tweet is based on these truths and aimed to challenge oft-cited (mis)perceptions of Black girls. In addition, my article, “Talking Back”: The Perceptions and Experiences of Black Girls Who Attend City High School, is based on data gathered as part of the aforementioned longitudinal study. In this manuscript, I centered the voices and perspectives of Black girls and Black women scholars “to honor the voices that are oftentimes silenced in schools and to employ standpoints that are seldom considered in education research” (p.239).

As a Black woman and the mother of a Black girl, I know that schools, for many Black girls, are sites of trauma.”

The recommendations from this study appear below and were offered to improve the educational experiences of Black girls at CHS and are offered here as takeaways the field of Educational Change can glean from my work and experiences with Black girls.

Affinity groups. Several of the study’s participants described negative perceptions that many of CHS’ teachers, administrators, and security agents held of Black girls. In response, schools should establish affinity groups for Black girls: They build self-esteem, provide a safe place for students, and foster positive relationships among students and the larger school community.

Mental-health professionals. Mental health is essential to student success. Several girls shared that they suffered from depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, by-and-large, therapy is frowned upon in the Black community, and many Black girls oftentimes suffer in silence. Schools should provide access to mental-health professionals to students and, if requested, their families.

Post clear rules and regulations. Several Black girls felt CHS’ security agents targeted them. By posting clear rules and regulations throughout the school building, unpleasant interactions between students and security agents may be avoided. Moreover, if a student is disciplined, the student should know why she is being disciplined, and the consequence(s) should be clearly articulated in the regulations.

Form a task force. While all the study’s participants were on track to graduate from high school, data trends show Black girls tend to drop out of high school at higher rates than their peers. Furthermore, based on the data gathered for this study, several Black girls at CHS were found to experience challenges during their high school career that could have caused them to drop out. To ensure their success, schools should form a task force aimed at improving the educational experiences and outcomes of Black girls.

Professional development. Several Black girls interviewed for this study detailed conflicts they experienced with teachers and administrators at CHS and readily offered advice for the school’s leader to improve their lived experiences. In this light, schools should invest in professional development centered on meeting the needs of culturally, socially, and linguistically diverse students to improve teacher practices and, ultimately, student achievement.

LtC: In your recent work, you conceptualize racism in schools through an ecological lens to show the ways it operates across the system (i.e., individual, dyadic, subcultural, institutional, and societal) and how it is dynamic and changing. In so doing, you challenge school leaders and others to think beyond traditional approaches to addressing racism in schools and towards more systemic approaches. What do you see as the most needed changes to policy/practice to address these findings and bring them into practice?

TW: To effectively address racism in schools through policy and practice, we must first commit to the fact that society in general and public schools, in particular, are fundamentally racist. This truth is evident in the nation’s founding charter and in legal jurisprudence and throughout the history of public education. It is also quantified in the disparate educational outcomes of America’s children (see NCES Graduation Rates). Next, we must problematize the process of schooling. Meaning, we must ask hard questions about the ways in which schools function in our society. Paying close attention to how neoliberalism and its byproducts (capitalism, school choice, and standardized testing) have polarized the most vulnerable children, families, and communities. Then, we must gather the political and moral will to create systemic race-conscious educational policies and practices. Gathering such will is challenging, as while most people will readily admit that they are not racist, very few will support mandates that operationalize racial equity and social justice in the places that we call schools (see NYC’s Chancellor’s school desegregation efforts) In fact, I will go one step further and suggest that while most people, especially White people, will call out overt racism, very few will acknowledge and address the systemic and insidious ways racism functions in our society and schools. And that, dear colleagues, is wherein the challenge lies.

We must gather the political and moral will to create systemic race-conscious educational policies and practices.”

Dr. Rosa Rivera-McCutchen, my colleague at the City University of New York, and I drafted the case study #BlackLivesMatter: A Call for Transformative Leadership to provide aspiring and current school leaders with the opportunity to engage in critical reflection and transformative leadership practices. We were inspired by the acceptance speech Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings delivered in the spring of 2015, upon her receipt of the Social Justice in Education Award at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting:

In her lecture aptly titled “Justice . . . Just, Justice!” Ladson-Billings explained why she was troubled by the current use of the term “social justice” and feared how it was, for some, purely ideological. Most distressing, she noted how many social justice advocates fail to recognize injustice. Poignantly, Ladson-Billings challenged the audience to move beyond justice as a theory to justice as praxis.” (p. 3).

Public education will not right itself. We must move beyond rhetoric and theory – if we are who we say we are.”

Dr. Ladson-Billings’ message rings true for the field of Educational Change. Public education will not right itself. We must move beyond rhetoric and theory – if we are who we say we are.

LtC: Educational Change expects those engaged in and with schools, schooling, and school systems to spearhead deep and often difficult transformation. How might those in the field of Educational Change best support these individuals and groups through these processes?

TW: I began my teaching career in 1994 at a middle school in East Harlem. I elected to teach at JHS 45 because it was located between two housing projects and many of the students who attended the school shared life experiences similar to my own. Nearly 20 years later I joined the Department of Leadership and Human Development at The City College of New York (CCNY). The College’s legacy of proffering “access, opportunity, and transformation” to the children of the City of New York aligns with my primary aim, as a scholar-activist, to improve the educational outcomes and life chances of historically excluded and underserved children and families. Moreover, based on my educational experiences, I deeply understand that schools are complex systems and require a heavy lift from individuals and groups who seek to transform them. Hence, during my first year at CCNY, my colleague, Dr. Hope Hartman (Professor Emeritus) and I explored the effects of metacognition on school leaders. Our article, Transformational Leaders Who Practice Metacognition, appeared in the New York Academy of Public Education’s research journal here.

Dr. Hartman and I wrote the aforementioned manuscript with our graduate students in mind. We knew that as novice school leaders they would be charged to contend with systemic racism, inequitable funding, and the legacy of low expectations for children of color. We explained:

“We posit that in order to reform schools, specifically in urban areas, transformational leaders who systematically practice metacognition are better able to promote effective, caring, and socially just schools and communities than those who do not. This article provides a paradigm for and examples of metacognitive transformational leadership” (p.8).

The field of Educational Change can best support individuals and groups engaged in the transformation of schools by creating and offering workshops on transformative leadership practices (see Shields, 2010) and metacognition (see Schon, 1983). Those who seek to transform schools and the process of schooling “must observe their own actions, inactions, and attitudes, as well as their impact on others. Upon awareness, they should take steps to enhance their effectiveness” (Watson & Hartman, 2013, p.9). Learning experiences centered on transformative leadership practices and metacognition promotes social justice and self-awareness and can help individuals and groups actualize their goals for educational change.

Where do you perceive the field of Educational Change is going? What excites you about Educational Change now and in the future?

We are currently experiencing unprecedented times. In an attempt to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus NYC’s public schools, the nation’s largest public school system, recently announced that its 1,700 schools will remain closed for the remainder of academic year. I am sure other school districts throughout the U.S. will soon do the same. While many are lamenting the possibility (and impossibilities) of this decision, I am inspired by its promise. The physical closure of schools will force many in the field of Educational Change to reimagine and redesign the form and function of schooling. We can no longer rely on traditional paradigms and practices and must find new and different ways to engage young people, establish community, and effect change. This forced shift will be refreshing. The traditional structure and function of schools and schooling created nebulous and hostile environments for far too many children, particularly those of color. This is the time for the field of Educational Change to implement new solutions to old problems. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

This is the time for the field of Educational Change to implement new solutions to old problems. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain!”

References

Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books.

Shields, C. M. (2010). Transformative leadership: Working for equity in diverse contexts. Educational Administration Quarterly, 46, 558-559.


Watson, T. N. (2016). “Talking back”: The perceptions and experiences of Black girls who attend City High School. The Journal of Negro Education, 85(3), 239-249.

Watson, T. N.,  & Rivera-McCutchen, R. (2016). #BlackLivesMatter: A call for transformative leadership. Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, 19(2), 3–11.

Watson, T. N., & Bogotch, I. (2015). Reframing parent involvement: What should urban school leaders do differently? Leadership and Policy in Schools, 14(3), 257-278.

Watson, T. N., & Hartman, H. (2013). Transformational leaders who practice metacognition. The Professional Journal: The New York Academy of Public Education, 8-11.

A view from Japan: Hirokazu Yokota on school closures and the pandemic

This week’s post features an e-mail interview with Hirokazu Yokota, a government officer at Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). At MEXT, he has tackled such missions as increasing the number of public school teachers, encouraging Community School initiatives, promoting special needs education, and spearheading a ministerial reform. Recently, he published an article on school leadership in Japan in Journal of Educational Administration. The post shares his own views and does not necessarily represent the views of MEXT. This post is the second in a series launched by IEN last week with a post from Chile. The “A view from…” series editors are IEN’s Thomas Hatch and Karen Edge, Reader/Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at University College London’s Institute of Education.

1. What’s happening with you and your family?

Hirokazu Yokota: I was taking a paternity leave from October 1 of 2019 to April 7  in order to take care of my second child (who has just turned one year last week!). As you might know, being a stay-at-home dad is as hard a job as working for the government. Although I enjoyed such things as playing with my son, cooking lunch for my wife and helping my four-year-old daughter with reading and writing letters, I sometimes needed a pastime. That’s why once a week, I was looking forward to having lunch with my old friends – just to chat and do a little catch-up. That has completely changed over the past three months. During weekdays, I refrained from going outside – to avoid getting infected and to make sure that my son and I did not spread it if we had it. What was especially concerning was my son had been sick early in March for nearly two weeks – but his fever did not go as high as the threshold of 37.5 Celsius. Now he is doing fine and has finished the phase-in at a nursery school which started on April 1, but I’m kind of feeling guilty about not being able to continue my paternity leave despite this COVID-19 outbreak.

“What is extremely challenging is that education is the act of human interaction, and now we must stay away from that”

2. What’s happening with education/learning in your community?

HY: Although almost all of the public elementary, junior high, and high schools in Japan have been closing after March 2, this does not apply to nursery schools. Therefore, my daughter was going to her nursery as usual, although I kept her at home for a week or so at the beginning of March. Because the nursery refrained from taking children outside, my daughter seemed to feel stressed, so I oftentimes could not help going to the playground, while practicing social distancing (which, I admit, is very difficult for kids).

My children at the playground (Photos from Hirokazu Yokota)

HY: Nationally, as of March 24th, MEXT announced new guidelines for the reopening of schools after spring break (e.g. necessary measures for local governments to implement in order to prevent further spread of the COVID-19) and for temporary closures in the new school term (e.g. how to determine whether the school should be closed on a temporary basis, in case of an infection of children, students or teachers. At that time, this policy decision was reasonable given the relatively slow rise of confirmed cases in Japan, although MEXT revised the latter guideline on April 1 to suggest how to determine the temporary closure based on the overall situation in the community, even if there are no infected people in the school. However, due to the recent rapid increase of confirmed cases, the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency, which took effect from April 8 to May 7. At first this measure had been targeted at seven prefectures (mostly metropolitan areas), but later was expanded to all the forty-seven prefectures on April 16. Accordingly, on April 10, MEXT issued a notification on the instruction to students who cannot go to schools owing to the temporary closure. In this notice, MEXT asked Boards of Education to ensure that schools couple instruction and assessment by teachers with appropriate learning opportunities at home (based on the instructional plan devised by schools), while taking into account the current status of infection in each area. Additionally, it mentions that after schools open, they should assess learning that occurred at home during the temporary closure and implement measures to supplement the lost learning opportunities. Although schools are supposed to make maximum efforts to ensure learning and to reteach material that should have been learned at home during the closure, schools do not have to cover the same content again if and only if assessments confirm that students fully understand the material (NOTE: this measure is an exception rather than a rule).

3. What do you/your community need help with?

HY: Before the COVID-19 outbreak, our ministry published an ambitious policy package to ensure every student in elementary and junior high schools will have access to an ICT device at school by the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. The official document in Japanese is here, and English version is here (p23-24) (you might find this article by the Japan Times helpful). Moreover, given the importance of ICT as a tool to ensure student learning during such temporary closure, on April7, the aforementioned policy package was revised so that MEXT can subsidize ICT devices in order for each student to have an access at the end of THIS YEAR (FY2020, not 2023) (p12 here, although it’s in Japanese). Now is the time to fully expand the potential of ICT devices, but when it comes to implementation, there are so many issues to be resolved – from teachers’ capacity to use ICT devices, internet access at home, and from security concerns to measures for tracking student progress. What is extremely challenging is that education is the act of human interaction, and now we must stay away from that. However, at the same time, I’m hopeful that after this pandemic is over, we can find a proper balance between face-to-face teaching and remote learning, and accordingly the desirable roles of teachers/schools in this era.    

In this period of turbulence and uncertainty, we, regardless of our own positions, have to collaborate with each other to protect ourselves, our family, our community, and our society

4. What resources/links/supports have you found most useful?

HY: Thanks to the great efforts of my colleagues, our ministry opened a new web portal (in Japanese), to support children’s learning during this temporary closure – just ONE DAY after we asked schools to temporarily close. This website includes such contents as textbooks of each subject, “how to make masks on your own,” “museums at home,” and “my sports menu.” Of course, private companies are working on providing inspiring contents for children – such as NHK for school and Katariba online.  Personally, as a father, I found textbooks with intriguing pictures and sounds useful as a tool to help my daughter learn Japanese, math and English.

My daughter learning phonics

5. What have you found most inspiring?

HY: In this period of turbulence and uncertainty, we, regardless of our own positions, have to collaborate with each other to protect ourselves, our family, our community, and our society. But I’m deeply encouraged by, and grateful for, the fact that people around the world are combating, to the best of their ability, this unprecedented predicament. It was not until what we take for granted was taken away that it brought home to me that I, and we, are protected by our society. Since I restarted my journey of public service, we as government officers also work from home every two days in order to considerably reduce contacts with other people. Of course, you can easily imagine that while we have far more tasks than usual due to the coronavirus outbreak, we cannot maintain the same productivity as when we stay at the office every day. This reality becomes even harsher when our nursery schools ask parents who work from home to refrain from sending their children – that is exactly the case with me. It’s like going through a long tunnel, just trying to manage two extremely important, but sometimes conflicting, missions – working for the government and being a father of two at the same time. But I know what keeps me going forward in such a difficult time – my sincere desire to dedicate myself to helping those who are affected by COVID-19!

My workplace (only 9 out of 24 people in this room were at the office)

A view from Chile: Victoria Parra-Moreno on school closures and the pandemic

This week IEN launches a new series of blog posts – “A view from….” – that provides short email interviews about the experiences under quarantine of educators in different parts of the world. The first post comes from Victoria Parra-Moreno, an educational consultant in early childhood education and an Adjunct Professor at the Universidad del Desarrollo, in the Department of Psychology. Parra-Moreno lives in Temuco, Chile which has a significant number of Covid-19 cases per capita. The national government declared a quarantine on March 25th, meaning that no one can go outside without a permit and a “condon sanitaire” strictly controlling people moving in and out the city. The “A view from…” series is edited by IEN’s Thomas Hatch and Karen Edge, Reader/Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at University College London’s Institute of Education.

1. What’s happening with you and your family? 

VP: We have been in complete lockdown for a week, although schools got canceled in the middle of March, my two daughters (7th grade and 10th grade), my husband, and I have been at home a bit longer. As a family, we are trying to have schedules that allow us to meet our personal and professional tasks, so usually during mornings the four of us are connected to computers having meetings, doing homework and sending documents. We have two dogs, so in the afternoons we have a 1/2-hour permit to take them for a walk, which is a moment of immense happiness. It is incredible how small things like walking the dogs became a great gift for us.

2. What’s happening with education/learning in your community? 

VP: In terms of the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Education announced the suspension of schools in March 15th for two weeks although some universities and colleges began closing a few days earlier. On March 25th, the government announced the suspension of schools until April 24th, and just this week the Minister declared it unlikely that students will return to schools in April. After the suspension of schools, the government implemented a website to support online teaching aligned with the national curriculum, so now schools can use this resource as they see it fit. However, there are a significant number of students with no access to the internet so the government started sending curriculum packages to some remote districts for them to share with students directly

3. What do you/your community need help with?

VP: To me this question has two lines of thought. From a more philosophical perspective, I think teaching communities need support to rethink the goals of education under crisis. Despite all the resources and assistance TIC’s (ICT) provide, teaching and learning are a challenge, and maybe we need to put our energy in providing students’ learning opportunities that help them to cope and thrive in a situation like today. I see the efforts of my daughters’ teachers in helping them learn physics and proper grammar, and I’m not arguing they shouldn’t learn that, but I think it could be more useful to engage in critical thinking to help them understand what is going on in the world.  At a practical level, I think teaching communities need more help in understanding how to promote learning and how to assess competencies. In my experiences, professors and teachers rely on testing to evaluate students’ progress, and now I see and hear colleagues struggling to design learning and assessment tools that support students’ growth. It is hard because for so long learning has been understood in terms of students’ tests results. 

4. What resources/links/supports have you found most useful? 

VP: Online platforms for organizing materials and resources have been useful to me, like google classroom and Canvas. These platforms are also useful in providing tools for “meeting” and exchanging ideas. I have seen my daughters’ teachers using social platforms like Instagram to keep students connected with the pace of classes, providing information about incoming meetings and deadlines. For example, my sophomore daughter’s physics teacher created an Instagram account where he posts the information for upcoming calls and provides links to online resources that supplement materials he sends to students by email. Also, one of the head teachers made a WhatsApp group for sending students information about different subjects and to touch base and find out how students are doing.  UNESCO’s list of “distance learning solutions” has also been useful to search for options to fit different needs and available resources.

5. What are you reading, watching, listening to that you would recommend to others?  

VP: Twitter has been pretty useful these days to read other practitioners ideas and struggles in rethinking education. No one in particular, but as ideas float around it provides me opportunities to grasp with what other challenges and approaches are emerging. Listening to podcasts, related and not related to education is always useful to me, as they help me to frame issues from different perspectives. I totally recommend Ted Radio Hour, Radio Ambulante, Hidden Brain and Have you Heard.

Global School Leaders Respond to COVID-19

How are school leaders responding to the coronavirus outbreak? This week’s post describes the responses to school closures of members of Global School Leaders (GSL). GSL provides preparation and professional development programs for school leaders in India, Malalysia, Indonesia, and Kenya.  Sameer Sampat and Azad Oommen launched GSL to build on and expand work they and their colleagues began at the India School Leadership Institute (ISLI) in 2013. Sampat discussed the initial evolution of ISLI in an IEN interview in 2016.  An interview with Sampat about the work of Global School Leaders and the challenges and possibilities for seeding leadership preparation programs around the world will be published in IEN later this spring. This post appeared originally on Medium

School leaders can respond to GSL’s global survey about their responses to the outbreak in their communities: https://t.co/NEQNCgxu6l

As the COVID-19 crisis deepens and spreads, a strong response by school leaders (SLs) is urgent to mitigate against the disruption faced by children who may be out of school for the foreseeable future. SLs are uniquely positioned to have the respect and personal relationships to guide families on how to support their children at home during this unprecedented, fast-moving challenge.

In our program partner regions in India, Indonesia, Kenya, and Malaysia, schools are shut and public gatherings, including training workshops, are banned. We are bringing our four partner organizations together to provide motivation and thought-partnership as we face this unprecedented crisis. Our partners’ response to taking responsibility within their communities is inspiring.

This blog shares the actions taken by our team and partners to support SLs through this crisis. We hope it sparks ideas that other SLs can localize for use in their own communities. We are still finding ways that our SLs and partner organizations can meaningfully build collective action to support those most in need. If reading this blog sparks any thoughts, suggestions, or feedback, we would love to hear from you.

GSL Response Framework

As GSL, we are focused on supporting playing a leadership role by motivating and supporting our partners to take a collective response. Two primary thoughts are centering us:

  1. We must keep the physical and mental well-being of our leaders, teachers, and students at the top of our actions
  2. This moment highlights the critical leadership role our SLs must rise to in service of their schools and communities. To that end, we must first and foremost model the same care and urgency that we hope to see from our SLs.

We are working with our partners to address the needs of our SLs so that they, in turn, can ensure that every child is cared for and their basic needs are met. Parents see the SLs as community leaders, but SLs are dealing with an unprecedented situation.

Partners are now working through a three-step initial response and sharing updates on weekly network calls. We drafted this tool to codify a framework for action that collects the thoughts we’ve heard from our partners:

  1. Set-Up Communication Channels: Partners are checking in on, finding resources to support, and motivating SLs to ensure that they have the energy and ability to serve their communities, despite the personal challenges they may be facing.
  2. Understanding Community Needs: Based on the information that is emerging from the communication chain, partners are facilitating responses to community needs. Partners are collecting data and sharing regular updates on the assets/ needs of the communities.
  3. Inspiring with Stories of Hope: Partners are surfacing and documenting stories about how SLs are finding ways to respond to provide insight and motivation for others, both in our networks and beyond.

Partner Progress and Resources

Over the past week, our partners have been putting together multiple efforts to support their SLs and communities. Here are a few highlights with attached resources:

Pemimpin GSL (Malaysia)

Dignitas (Kenya)

  • Building communications channels with SLs to understand their needs, which they have captured here
  • Developing a comprehensive plan that includes:
  • Skill-building with SLs on relevant Leading Learning competencies — engaging parents, dealing with trauma, leveraging online and radio learning tools
  • Clusters of Support — ways to bring groups of schools together to distribute resources and check-in on well-being

Inspirasi (Indonesia)

  • Creating a call for SLs to share short video clips of how they’re responding to the crisis
  • Developing a webinar on “School Leadership in Crisis” that will feature a panel of Ministry of Education and Culture officials, local academics, and practitioners
  • Will be delivering their planned last workshop of the academic year via Zoom in mid-April

Alokit (India)

  • Setting up weekly small group calls with SLs from the ISLI program in Delhi and Hyderabad that Alokit co-founders worked with personally to understand their needs. See their notes.

Next Steps

As next steps, we are building resources that address the following questions that have emerged from the work being done by our partners:

  1. Are there conversation templates for how teachers should be using their time speaking with families during this crisis?
  2. What are some pre-skills we can be working on with SLs to motivate them to more fully interact with teachers and their communities if they aren’t doing so on their own accord?
  3. What kinds of data should partners be collecting? What is the impact we want to be able to have at the end of this and what is the data we need to be collecting now in order to ensure that we’ve done this?

While our contexts are different, our partners are united by a fierce belief in the importance of school leadership in meeting the needs of learners and their communities. We are compiling a list of education-related resources — please feel free to look through these if they are helpful to you. We will be checking in with our partners regularly and will continue to update our community through this evolving situation.

— Global School Leaders

SCANNING THE HEADLINES FOR RESULTS FROM TALIS 2018: TEACHING, LEARNING, AND LEADERSHIP

This week IEN provides a glimpse of how a few media outlets around the world have characterized the results from the OECD’s recent release of Volume II of the TALIS 2018 results, Teachers and School Leaders as Valued Professionals. This volume summarizes the results of a survey of teachers and school leaders from 48 countries, with a focus on questions related to 1) how society and teachers view the teaching profession, 2) employment contracts and salaries, 3) how teachers work together and 4) how much control teachers and leaders have over their work. This week’s online search for “TALIS 2018 volume II OECD” turned up very few stories in English. However, there were a number of headlines in smaller outlets and other languages, some of which were (google) translated below. More English headlines appeared in a scan of the TALIS headlines last June following the release of Volume I.

Australia

TALIS 2018: Valuing teachers and school leaders as professionals, Teacher Magazine (Australia)

9 out of 10 teachers from all OECD countries and economies are satisfied with their job, but only 26% think the work they do is valued by society; 14% believe that policy makers in their country or region value their view, and only 24% believe that they can influence education policy.

Croatia

Teachers overwhelmingly feel they have control over things (translated), srednja.hr

“About 98% of Croatian teachers believe that they have control over the choice of teaching methods and student evaluation, 93% of them have control over the discipline of students (92% in secondary school), 94% of them have control over the choice of homework.”  But only 9% of teachers agree that the teaching profession is valued in society.

Denmark

Danish teachers are more stressed than their Nordic colleagues (translated), folkeskolen.dk

43% of Danish teachers are considering another job, and 31% of “feel that their job has a negative impact on their mental health to some extent. In comparison, only 24 per cent of Swedish teachers, 23 per cent of Icelandic, 13 per cent of Finnish and 10 per cent of Norwegian teachers.”

England

England’s teachers ‘most stressed’ in developed world, Times Education Supplement

“70% of lower secondary teachers report being stressed either ‘a lot’ or ‘quite a bit’… 77% of teachers are ‘all in all’ satisfied with their job, however, this is the lowest rate in the OECD, with all the other countries having rates of above 80%.”

France

Talis: The French teachers, the most despised in the world? (translated), Café Pedagogique

“85% of French teachers feel satisfied with their work, but Talis demonstrates that French teachers are not only isolated and underpaid but also despised by their institution.”

Italy

80% Italian teachers perceive various degrees of stress, low salary always a reason for dissatisfaction (translated), Orizzontescuola.it

“Only 12.1% of teachers in upper secondary schools feel valued, without particular differences by geographic areas and by order of school. The data also shows that 7% of the entire teaching staff think they are listened to by the country’s political leadership class.”

Japan

TALIS — Teachers’ stress factors: “Amount of work” “Parents” (translated), Kyoiku Shimbun

“The percentage of Japanese elementary and junior high school teachers who have a lot of administrative work and stress on dealing with parents exceeded the average in participating countries. Principals at elementary and junior high schools were also stressed about their responsibility for their students’ abilities and dealing with parents.”

Korea

1 out of 4 middle school teachers “will quit teaching in the next 5 years” (translated), Chosun Edu

“Nevertheless, the proportion of teachers who agree that the teaching profession is valued is 67%, much higher than the OECD average of 26%.” However, only 54% OF teachers and 62% of principals said they were satisfied with their working conditions, slightly lower than the OECD average (66%).

Latvia

Almost all Latvian teachers are satisfied with their work, the survey shows (translated), nra.lv

“23% of teachers surveyed agree or totally agree with the statement that their profession is valued in the community, while 91% of Latvian teachers indicate that they are generally satisfied with their work”

Norway

Norwegian teachers work well together (translated), NEA Radio

95% of teachers say that there is a good culture for supporting each other and working together at the school…Teachers also feel that they have good control over their own teaching.”

Slovakia

Survey: Our educators receive little respect (translated), Felvideck.ma,

“Only 4.5% of teachers in Slovakia feel that teachers’ work has a high degree of social appreciation, while only 2.1% of school principals believe it”

Slovenia

They are not appreciated by the public or by policy makers (translated), Večer

The majority of “Slovenian teachers and principals were satisfied with their profession and workplace, and slightly less satisfied with their salary… but only 3% of teachers say policy makers value their views and opinions.”

  • Thomas Hatch