ETL504 Part B: Critical Reflection

Teacher-librarians are middle leaders, involved in influencing change with staff members and with leadership. Leadership for the teacher-librarian also relates to advocacy as they use their ability to support the goals of others to build trust. A reflection on my initial thoughts of teacher-librarian leadership can be found here.

The case-studies provided an opportunity to explore scenarios requiring different aspects of leadership and change management. During the first group case-study, I fell into the leadership role. This was because the group agreed to my interpretation of the scenario. I used distributed leadership to suggest that group members choose a section of my interpretation to expand and relate to readings. I was a subtle leader, and open to opinions from others. The positive views of the team to my response helped me see that I was on the right track with my learning, and that my contribution was valuable. Distributed leadership was used consistently throughout the case-studies. Discussions were initiated by the same team member. Individually we identified an issue of interest or which needed more depth and worked on this to contribute to the final product.

The scenario presented for the case-studies was intricate and involved different personality types we could possibly work with. My teacher-librarian experiences have only been in teams of two. In both cases our personalities and ways of working complemented each other and there was no conflict. Because of this, I found the scenarios to be very helpful. I can now come up with a stronger response to conflict resolution questions in interviews!

Through the module content and case-studies I now have a more thorough understanding of how different leadership styles can impact a school culture and staff willingness to participate in change (Smith, 2016). I have subconsciously been applying different leadership styles to my principals in previous employment and also reflecting on how different initiatives have been presented to staff for implementation.

During Module 2 I connected with transformational and distributed leadership, as describe here. Because of this, these styles have been the basis of my assessments. When working with a library team or faculty it is necessary for there to be a shared vision, collaborative culture, and appreciation of efforts (Smith, 2016). These form the basis of transformational leadership. In the same situations, being able to share tasks and expertise helps increase staff involvement and reduce burnout. Case-study 6 emphasised the importance of the teacher-librarian using these leadership styles to implement change.

In reflecting on change implementation, I considered what steps I may need to take in my next TL role. I suggest change away from NIT library time to collaborative inquiry over 1-2 years. This ensures there is time for planning, completing trial units, gathering support, and building understanding of the change and pedagogy. I would be hopeful that with slow, considered implementation change fatigue can be avoided and staff can have their voices heard.

Leadership and the teacher-librarian are integral to a smooth running of the library and to ensuring an expansion to 21st century curriculum, pedagogy and learning. Through leading from the middle and implementing leadership and change strategies, the teacher-librarian can influence both the teaching staff and the leadership team. This is important for the smooth implementation of any new initiatives.

 

References

Smith, B. (2016). The role of leadership style in creating a great school. SELU Research Review Journal, 1(1), 65-78. Retrieved from www.selu.usask.ca

Module 3 Reflection: Leading Change

Module 3 focused on the process of implementing and leading change in an organisation. Ideas covered included management of change, impact of technology, internal and external forces of change, incentives, factors of stress, processes to lead change (eg. Kotter’s 8 step model), impact of specific teams and communication, conflict within organisations and teams, and how to be a change leader.

Through 3.1 (change in organisations) ideas about mandated change in education arose in the readings. Mandated change will always be around, but it is necessary to have a suitable mindset towards it. Clement’s (2014) discussion around the way change is introduced being highly important towards perceptions of the change is relevant. It is necessary to introduce change in a way which will encourage staff to embrace it. Mandated change should also be integrated into site priorities. In addition, change fatigue needs to be downgraded or eliminated if possible (as discussed by Dilkes, Cunningham and Gray, 2014). Through this discussion I can see the importance of implementing change slowly and not having too many initiatives being introduced at one time. Staff need the opportunity to learn and embed one change of practice before beginning another. I think it is also necessary for connection between potential initiatives to be identified. How does one initiative support the next etc? How do they support site priorities and improve teaching and learning?

3.2 (leading change) looked at the development of teams and the importance of good communication. Kotter’s 8 step model for change management was introduced here, along with 7 step problem solving. I think that together these models can support the implementation of change within an organisation quite well. Development of teams which support each other and work well together is necessary when leading change. Aguilar (2015) highlighted the importance of a clear purpose, alignment to school vision and team needs, and the provision of time to meet. Being willing to mix teams up if personalities are clashing or if there aren’t the right people in specific roles is sometimes necessary when building teams for a purpose. Having the right types of people in roles will make the team run a lot smoother and more efficiently than not. Discussion about conflict (organisational vs personal) also comes into leading change and the creation of teams. It is necessary to deal with conflict when it arises, not let it fester. The information given in this module about dealing with conflict is important to me. This is an area which I do not have much experience, and I am someone who would like to avoid conflict where possible. The problem solving and change models will be useful for implementation of change in the future, and in dealing with conflict.

3.3 (change leader) focused on innovation and management vs leadership. I think it makes a lot of sense for a leader to be a successful manager first, if you cannot manage your role and your people how can you expect to be able to lead a team through an innovative change. The reading by Oberg (2011) highlights how the TL can influence and change school culture. I think it is necessary to ensure changes still align to school priorities and vision/mission, and meet teaching and learning objectives.

This module has provided steps and information about how to implement change in a workplace. I now understand the pitfalls of too much change and implementing it too quickly. As noted in my earlier blog post, if I were to change the perception of the TL role I would do so over a 2-year period, providing opportunities for staff input and practice sessions.

 

References:

Aguilar, E. (2015, July 15). Cultivating healthy teams in schools [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/cultivating-healthy-teams-schools-elena-aguilar

Clement, J. (2014). Managing mandated educational change. School Leadership & Management, 34(1), 39-51. doi: 10.1080/13632434.2013.813460

Dilkes, J., Cunningham, C., & Gray, J. (2014). The new Australian Curriculum, teachers and change fatigue. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(11). Retrieved from http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ajte/vol39/iss11/4

Madsen, S. (2016, October 24). Kotter’s 8 step change management model [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/7qlJ_Y8w5Yk

Oberg, D. (2011). Teacher librarians as cultural change agents. SCIS Connections, 79. Retrieved from https://www.scisdata.com/media/1353/connections-79.pdf

Module 3 Blog: Implementing Change

A change I have been thinking about implementing is regarding how teachers use the library and the TL. I do not know where my next TL job will be or the specifics of the role (eg. is library considered NIT? Is it collaborative inquiry learning? Is it teaching skills just in time? Is the library just used by classes with no support from the TL?) My ideal library usage is one where teacher and TL are working collaboratively on units of inquiry and embedding information and digital literacy skills into the process. A process of change may be required to reach this goal.

To change how staff view the use of library time and library space I think it is necessary to show them what could be possible. Drawing on ETL401’s discussion of advocacy, I would consider getting a few people on side with the idea of collaborative learning and demonstrating the process with them. It is important here to show the Principal how working collaboratively through inquiry units adds to student learning and the ‘big picture’ of the school. Once a successful unit (or two) have been completed this can be shared with the Principal. Hopefully they will see the benefits from the test cases and want this to occur school wide. The next step would be to convince other teachers that this is the way to go – this could be done through a staff meeting presentation given by the test case teachers to share their experiences and what their students (and them) got out of the process).

While transforming the usage of the library and TL could be considered a top-down directive (the Principal now wants it this way), it would be directed from the TL, and teachers are encouraged by those who have worked this way to give it a go. There is also an opportunity to put it to the teachers: what else do you want from the TL? Things are going to change, what changes would you like to see? This adds in teacher voice and gives them notice that things will be changing.

A process like this could take 1-2 years to be fully supported and implemented by the staff. It could be introduced in stages.

  1. Get the principal on-side. Provide them with readings and data about collaborative inquiry learning
  2. Remove library as a NIT time (if it is this way)
  3. Brainstorm ways the library and TL could be used instead
  4. Get a few teachers on-side to work collaboratively with as test cases
  5. Share results and experiences with whole staff
  6. Work with a few more teachers
  7. Implement some of the brainstormed ideas – as relevant and applicable to circumstances
  8. The following year – start the year off fresh with collaborative inquiry units

Through this process staff voice is being heard, they can see the outcomes from the collaborative opportunities, the process can be tweaked and changed, and staff have the opportunity to ‘give it a go’ at any stage during the year prior to full school implementation.

Module 2 Reflection: Organisation Theory

Module 2 expanded my understanding and knowledge of theories behind management and leadership, and what makes an information service. I read about different theories including: Classical Management Theory, Mintzberg’s classifications for organisations, Situational, Transactional, Transformational, Servant, Distributed, Instructional and School Leadership. As well as why leadership is important for Teacher-Librarians.

I didn’t realise there were so many different theories behind leadership. During my reading I connected some theories to education and schools more than others. Classical Management theory relates to jobs being precisely defined, hierarchical structure and clear levels of command. I see this as teacher and leadership role descriptions, Principal at the top of the pyramid, and various middle and senior level leaders in the chain of command to deal with any issues or changes.

There was cross-over between levels of Mintzberg’s classification regarding where school’s sit. I think schools lie between Divisional and Professional, with a little bit of Innovation. They are under the banner of a large department (the state, catholic, independent systems) with centralised control. But they are also characterised by professional and competent teachers in specialised areas of expertise. Schools which have expanded to Distributed leadership could work towards becoming Innovative as other staff members begin to have control of decisions and direction.

In terms of leadership theories, I connected with situational, transformational and distributed.

Situational Leadership: I think it is necessary to be flexible in how to lead in a particular situations (context is important). However, for this method to be successful relationships with all members of the team are highly important as you could call on any of them to assist in a particular situation. This type of leadership calls for a good understanding of your team’s skills and the structure of the task at hand.

Transformational Leadership: I like the big picture direction required for Transformational Leadership. It is a focus on identifying what the next steps are to build on performance and success. I see this form of leadership in convincing subject teachers to team-teach with you. This is an opportunity to develop change in practice. Collaboration across all levels can be seen in team-teaching with different year levels and subject areas. There can be team building in preparing library staff for these opportunities (resource collection, online presence), and in working with faculties (what I can do to help you and your students achieve – inquiry and information literacy). There is also the opportunity to provide PD to staff about how a collaborative session can be planned and implemented.

Distributed Leadership: This form of leadership can be used within the Library team. It requires an understanding of the areas requiring leadership and the skill sets of the team members. Can other people take on leadership roles in their area of expertise? For example, someone working on explaining copyright practice to staff and students – they can also teach that understanding to all library staff.

I also understand further now that leadership for a TL could be leading by example, being visible, being a manager, knowing when to delegate, and integrating myself into teaching and learning. This connects to TL Advocacy (from ETL401), identifying how the TL can help other members of the school. Get them onside and then incorporate/suggest ways of working together to improve teaching and learning outcomes.

I found this module to be highly useful in expanding my knowledge and understanding. I have a greater picture of what how different types of leadership could be used as TL. Examples and explanations (particularly in Smith, and Bush & Glover) expanded on the basic concepts and highlighted areas to consider.

By better understanding leadership theories, I can identify what styles I connect with best and how I can use them in the future. In completing the case studies, I hope to better apply leadership understanding to the scenario, which, in turn, will assist with future leadership responsibilities. My knowledge about leadership styles can also direct me about what styles are not suited to my personality or situations.

 

References:

Bush, T., & Glover, D. (2014). School leadership models: What do we know? School Leadership & Management, 34(5), 553-571. doi: 10.1080/13632434.2014.928680

Smith, B. (2016). The role of leadership style in creating a great school. SELU Research Review Journal, 1(1), 65-78. Retrieved from www.selu.usask.ca

Initial Thoughts on TL Leadership

Beginning my journey into learning about leadership of the Teacher-Librarian I am interested in finding out about different leadership styles and what suits my personality and way of working best. I understand that often TLs are leading from the middle to implement changes with classes and teachers and filtering change upwards through faculty leadership towards the principal.

From ETL401 I learnt about advocacy and identifying ways to help other members of the school team by finding something the TL can do to support the goals of others. I think this is a form of leadership which would be particularly useful when dealing with Principals and higher leadership, and those who are resistant to change.

I am looking forward to this topic and developing my understanding of leadership and how it can be applied by a TL. I am also keen to work through the case study scenario. I have only worked in two person teams before, with good group dynamics. The case studies will be valuable for identifying ways of working with people in different roles and with a range of personalities.