This post was originally written for GESS Education‘s #GESSTalks #edtech series in January 2023, you can see the post here and on my GESS author page here.
As with all strategies, the most important part of the jigsaw is the people.
Therefore taking people on the journey is of vital importance, but it is only the first step. We must ensure that we are clear, consistent, and purposeful in our communications at every level while also intently driving the mechanisms of success so that we are fostering every opportunity to build not only a positive culture in our schools but also improve outcomes for learners. Collective teacher efficacy, as highlighted by Hattie has the largest effect size and is therefore, one of, if not the, most impactful intervention in an organization; “A shared belief that through collective action, they can positively influence student outcomes.”
Quite often, one barrier to driving efficacy can be communication. As George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Use the tools at your disposal to ensure that every stakeholder understands and can clearly articulate the “why” behind your strategy.
By eliminating the possibility of illusion it is made simpler when you make use of the tools of technology at your disposal to work to assist you in your goal(s). There are many ways you can use a wide variety of mediums to communicate such as via digital newsletters, video (and face-to-face!) briefings/training, parent webinars, short videos as reminders, forums for stakeholders, digital signage, feedback using survey tools, and more.
Above all, ensure you reach, as much as possible, a consensus as a staff body as this has an implicit and direct impact on achievement.
Empower Teachers, Curate Cohesive Knowledge
Provide as many opportunities as possible to give a voice to teachers so that there are opportunities to participate and feed into school-wide decisions. Along with this, seize every opportunity to curate a carefully constructed professional learning cycle to build skills and knowledge over time. This is important so that you are crafting a learning network within your school(s). Build into the process opportunities to develop teaching techniques where colleagues have the opportunity to share their learning and the impact it has had on their teaching and its impact on student learning.
Developing solid systems and processes for your context, which teachers can feed into collaboratively while collecting quantitative and qualitative data will help you to identify progress and adjust your trajectory accordingly to meet your strategy.
Ask yourself, is your environment psychologically safe and transparent where you create the conditions for true collaboration? By encouraging teachers to work towards a coherent and cohesive approach to teaching, you will help them to see that this isn’t a one size fits all approach, but one which acknowledges the nuanced needs of each curriculum area.
Embedded Reflective Practice
Provide the time and opportunity to allow colleagues to consider and attend to the conditions that allow for pedagogical practices to be reflected upon, refined, and adapted over time. This is helpful as it gives teachers the opportunity to be confident, competent, and cognisant of their pedagogical choices around technology, thanks to your consistent approach to development. Ideally, this should permeate the very heart of your culture of professional learning; create the conditions, and don’t leave it to chance!
It is also worth being mindful here that everyone will move at different speeds, so plan for this and for opportunities where colleagues can support one another; it’s a shared journey after all.
Ensure that leaders at every level are listening to understand, as opposed to replying, and constantly seize opportunities to foster a culture of collective teacher efficacy. After all, your leadership team are responsible for bringing the people together to achieve the strategy.
“Excellent communication doesn’t just happen naturally. It is a product of process, skill, climate, relationships, and hard work.” Pat McMillan
It’s not about the edtech
Successful and efficable implementation isn’t about the technology, it is about the people. Therefore, we must remember that technology is a tool to support the strategy but it isn’t the strategy itself; the people are.
Digital implementation rarely fails because of the technology; more often than not, the technology will have been sufficiently planned enough in order for there to be the right infrastructure and support in place to make it work. The glue that binds all of the planning and hard work into place is that of people, not technology. Focus on getting that part right with some of the approaches and outlines shared above and you’ll already be well on your journey to success.
Thinking of your technological toolkit as a carpenter’s bag of tools, it’s the carpenter that crafts the amazing final product, not the screwdriver, saw or chisel – by spending time developing your colleagues you’ll support colleagues who are happy and keen to hone their craft – that of being successful weavers of learning, with (or without, because sometimes that’s the best option) technology.
You can see Olly’s author page on the GESS website here.