Shared leadership is about creating the conditions in schools for teachers (and students) to provide and share their expertise, including those who have non-formal roles. Understanding the school and local context and offering concrete opportunities for rich interactions within the school community are two key success factors of that journey.
For a shared leadership approach to be beneficial to a school, it requires most importantly a clear vision of the school’s mission statement that considers the environment of the whole school. The mission needs to be worked on, where possible, by all members of a school community and it also needs to be shared with everyone.
When it comes to implementing the vision and mission on a daily basis, it is important to remember to inspire and motivate all members of the school community and to have leaders including formal and non-formal teaching staff. An effective way is to develop the collective capacity to deliver achievements supporting the school vision and mission.
The question is: how can you do that? One way, is to review and combine evidence about the whole school context along with how teachers collaborate amongst each other. Combining collection of evidence about the school context together with concrete and structured collaboration between teachers, often proved to be a successful approach.
Who are the students in the schools? What is their surrounding environment (family, local community)? What are the needs, strengths, challenges, and opportunities? Which teaching and learning practices would fit the best? What do we know about the impact of such pedagogical options? How to try those options and understand their impact in this specific school? The first step is to collect and review these questions. It requires input from several teachers because otherwise it is a big responsibility with a lot of work for one single teacher or leader. Having input from more than one teacher also allows for a range of expertise feeding into this so more people can analyse and interpret the data and share their ideas. It is important to have structured meetings / opportunities to discuss this so that everyone can reach an agreement for the proposed actions that are being discussed.
Shared leadership should focus on collaboration and interactions, rather than just actions alone. The purpose of interactions is to reveal, support and encourage leadership for all members within the school. There are ways to help teachers develop their competences and collaborative skills, for example, temporary working groups, thematic teams or project groups. The focus should be on interdependent work, i.e. well prepared, organised, focused and effective collaboration, so that everyone can collaborate effectively.
Patricia Wastiau, Principal Adviser for Research and Innovation at European Schoolnet
Examples of good practice from eTwinning schools:
The practices below are just indicative and do not prescribe a specific model that all schools should follow, however, they are inspiring and interesting to investigate.
Direzione Didattica Ottavo Circolo, cluster of preprimary and two primary schools in Piacenza, Italy caters to a diverse student population. Focusing on inclusion and supporting pupils with various learning needs, the leadership team, including the headmaster, vice and staff representatives, have put in place a process of data collection and use of evidence to identify the needs of students, possible actions and professional development of teachers and staff.
This decision-making process is decentralised and provides concrete opportunities for teachers to contribute, influence and design the school goals through an organised and well-structured mechanism. This mechanism includes a clear process put in place by the school leadership where staff are fully engaged in the review, analysis, and mapping of the school practice. The school gathers evidence and consult amongst each other to agree on the pedagogical priorities of the school, which also receives a special budget coming from regional funding.
The leadership team and staff are divided in working groups, based on sector (subject, age group, special needs etc.). Each working group conducts a research where they are asked to analyse what are the best practices so that they are able to achieve the school mission and vision, what are the most effective activities and how they match the school vision.
This analysis is conducted through several steps:
- Each working group reviews relevant documents, students’ achievements and needs and the activities and trainings that were implemented to tackle specific issues.
- Each working group lists the areas of importance for the school and check which actions and activities are supporting student-centred approach.
- Lastly, each working group comes up with a list of areas of importance for the school based on the gathered data.
The leadership team collects the results of all working groups and proposes a workplan. This proposal is brought to the working groups (e.g. teachers and educational staff) so that everyone can consult and discuss the proposal. Teachers discuss the tasks and actions in the various fields so that they can incorporate the plan according to the teachers’ input and feedback. Throughout the year, teachers work in committees to promote and implement the agreed working plan after it has been approved and implemented by the whole school staff.
In Lycée des Métiers Louis Blériot, a vocational school in Trappes, France, the school staff and leadership team work closely to boost students’ academic success and prevent high dropout rates. The school develops an action plan to which teachers are invited to take a lead. According to their technical skills and interest, teachers have an opportunity to lead an area in the action plan to achieve the school goals.
In terms of organisation and structures supporting shared leadership practices, similar to Ottavo Circolo, Lycée des Métiers Louis Blériot is organised through management committees and boards. Teaching staff participate and take an active role in the teaching committees and decision-making process. The committees are the governing board of the school where the decision-making process takes place in conjunction with the formal school leaders. The committees are not fixed, they are established according to teachers’ proposals and programme needs. Teachers can propose candidates and topics to be discussed in the committee. Teachers and school staff are encouraged to join the committees and contribute expertise and knowledge. Each committee proposes an action plan or certain activities, which are then reviewed by the headteacher and the leadership team. While the headmaster carries the legal responsibility for the decision-making process and leadership in the school, it is clear that she fully relies and trusts the teaching staff, encouraging active discussion and participation in committees and projects which in turn provide teachers of all levels to contribute their skills and knowledge for the sake of students’ learning advancement.