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Leading for Learning:  How does professional learning and leadership teams impact teacher practice and increase student learning

Date: April 15-18, 2018
Author(s): Barb Brown, Lori Pamplin, Candace Saar, and David Stevenson
Presented at: uLead 2018 in Banff, AB

How does a large system build leadership capacity and maintain systemic coherence while at the same time addressing the unique learning needs of a new generation of aspiring leaders? And how might the growing expertise of this new generation of aspiring leaders be further leveraged in helping to achieve important system and ministry goals while at the same time attending to each school’s unique school improvement agenda? These were some of the leadership issues that Calgary Board of Education system and school leaders were wrestling with and that this design-based professional learning and research study was attempting to investigate.

Through this initiative, CBE hoped to better understand how designing, implementing and sustaining professional learning could enable aspiring leaders to acquire the kind of principled practical knowledge and adaptive expertise necessary to help lead from within today’s diverse contemporary school contexts.

Each year for the past three years, CBE has invited approximately 700 of their aspiring school based teacher leaders, identified as Learning Leaders, to participate in ongoing professional learning in collaboration with the Galileo Educational Network. These Learning Leaders are teachers with expertise in teaching and the desire to lead pedagogical leadership initiatives within their respective schools.  Although, the responsibilities of the Learning Leader vary from school-to-school, there are two aspects of their role that are common. All of the individuals who were selected for these entry-level leadership positions were asked to:
1.  play a key role in supporting colleagues in developing evidence based practices and
2.  support school administration with leading effective teaching practices to positively impact student learning.

This design-based research study is therefore significant because of its potential to increase understanding of and inform professional learning practices for school leaders around two of the key competencies that have been identified for all school leaders in the province of Alberta: Leading a Learning Community and Providing Instructional Leadership (draft SLS 2016). Initial findings suggested that the professional learning was having a significant impact on teacher learning and practice.

Determining the impact of professional learning for middle level leaders on teacher practice was relatively straight forward. However, tracing the impact of this type of professional learning to student learning becomes far more challenging.  Therefore the second phase of this research study seeks to identify impact on student learning through cross-referenced and triangulated data sets that include site visits, observations, interviews, and  an examination of student and teacher artifacts. This session will describe preliminary findings in tracing the impacts of leadership learning, to teacher learning and student learning within individual classrooms.

Pamplin, B., Brown, B., Stevenson, D., & Saar, C. (2018). Leading for Learning: How does professional learning and leadership teams impact teacher practice and increase student learning? ULead Conference: The summit of educational leadership, Council of School Leadership (CSL), April 15-18, 2018, Banff, AB.