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The Winding Road to Exemplary Instructional Leadership

-by Phil Butterfield, Assistant Principal

As you may know from visiting the Connect! Blog or the Calgary Science School website, we have developed frameworks for exemplary teaching and exemplary learning. Together these two documents form the guiding principles by which we believe students can enjoy rewarding educational and social experiences that will equip them for success beyond CSS. But what mention is made of the role of school administrators within those frameworks? Certainly leadership as a desirable attribute of teachers and students is a key element but there is no specific reference to the nebulous and hard-to-define capacity of instructional leadership. Our Superintendent, Dr. Garry McKinnon, has very clearly articulated the need for a rethinking of the role school administrators play in the teaching and learning process, but to truly operationalize an instructional leadership model that is aligned with the exemplary teaching and learning frameworks is a challenging task that will pay huge dividends for
student learning when we get it right.

At an open (i.e. – not mandatory) meeting of CSS staff interested in exploring the leadership topic and beginning a collaborative process of developing an exemplary instructional leadership framework, there was resounding consensus to maintain the four overarching themes that shape the existing teaching and learning frameworks: Who we are, What we do, How we do it, and Why we do it. The work to follow over the coming weeks will require a synthesis of staff comments on what defines instructional leadership, and perhaps more to the point, what is the role of school administration in instructional leadership?

There is a considerable body of research and theorizing in educational circles on this topic, not to mention action research projects that are underway in many jurisdictions, to gain better insight and understanding into the role of school administrators as instructional leaders. Is it simply a matter of semantics, whereby two handles define the same function? Or are we at a critical intersection on this long and winding leadership road where we need to redefine the roles of formally designated school administrators with an emphasis on leading teaching and learning? Do we still need educators who are presumed to be among the most experienced teachers in a school fussing over budget lines, playground equipment, and lunch supervision? Maybe we do…or maybe there is a middle ground somewhere that allows those exemplary teachers occupying the ‘office’ to collaborate with teachers and students in doing what we all entered this profession to do in the first place…help children to develop into ethical citizens with a capacity to solve problems, think critically, and never stop asking questions.

And so, in the spirit of inquiry, I invite anyone who may stumble across this blog to respond with your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions so that we can begin to piece together a road map for this journey that is sure to be bumpy in places but with an exemplary destination.

This topic will be a featured session at the ConnectEd Conference to be held at the Calgary Science School on May 26-27, 2012. For more information on the conference please visit the Calgary Regional Consortium.

1 comment:

Garry McKinnon said...

Phil, I like your photo which reflects the complexity of instructional leadership. I believe you are taking a unique approach in making meaning of instructional leadership by inviting teachers to share their views and expectations with a focus in particular on school administrators as instructional leaders. You raise some significant questions, which I am sure sure will generate great discussion at the ConnectEd conference and through our ongoing exploration of instructional leadership at the Calgary Science School.

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