Friday, 24 May 2019

Teacher Agency Initiative Update: From defining our why to using data

Throughout the first term, the teacher agency initiative worked on inducting two new schools into the initiative (Remuera Primary School and Epsom Girls Grammar School), co-constructing our 'why' statement, updating the teacher agency progression matrix that was developed last year, and finally using the matrix 2.0 to collect baseline data for 2019.

Image result for limbic brainWe began the year with revisiting our 'why' with a view to co-creating a 'why' statement to guide our work in this initiative - however finding the right wording proved to be more difficult than anticipated. The reason? Trying to put feelings into words is not always as simplistic as it sounds. Enter Simon Sinek, whom we have used several times previously to guide us.

Simon says (no pun intended) that the 'why' we do things exists in the limbic part of the brain that controls our feelings. This is the reason we say things like “it just doesn't feel right” when trying to wordsmith a statement of purpose. Simon Sinek and his golden circle gave us permission to look at the feelings and emotions that sit behind our teacher agency initiative. This video Finding the right words for your why gave us guidance with our ‘why’ statement.

A word cloud generated by the group of across school leaders, in school leaders and principals clearly showed the elements that led (or keep) us in education. Coming through strongly were emotions such as ‘joy’, ‘pride’, and ‘satisfaction.’ If these were the central drivers and motivators for us as educators, then these also needed to drive our why. Ie, how can we as educators get more of those feelings of pride, joy, happiness and overall satisfaction? The short answer is by continually developing our practice to maximise the possibilities for student success, which in turn elicits these very emotions. This is what we FEEL when our students succeed.

Next on the agenda was a review of the teacher agency progression matrix. This matrix was devised by those working in the teacher agency initiative early in 2018. Feedback suggested it was time to make minor refinements, and also add in a 6th element, wellbeing and resilience. Why ‘resilience’ in a matrix that provides a potential roadmap for teacher growth you ask? Other elements of the matrix require teachers to be open to challenge, to be highly reflective, and to invite constructive critique. This can only happen with any depth if teachers have some level of resilience. Work by the Resilience Institute suggests that wellbeing and resilience are intertwined - hence the new matrix element: Wellbeing and resilience.

With the new matrix v2.0 in hand, the in school leaders collected baseline data from the staff in their respective schools (Kohia Terrace, Meadowbank School, Remuera Primary, Remuera Intermediate, and Epsom Girls). The group recently met to analyse that baseline data with a view to informing our strategic directions for the year.

So what did our initial data tell us? Interestingly, wellbeing and resilience was the lowest scoring element across the initiative, with over ⅓ of teachers surveyed (n=123) scoring themselves in the lower half of the matrix. On the other hand, scores from the reflective practice matrix element looked very healthy in the combined schools data. This is encouraging, as reflective practice sits at the heart of the concept of spirals of inquiry. Its the individual school data however that really informs our actions. Based on this data each school in the initiative is now defining actions to effect an increase in one or more elements of the teacher agency progression matrix. Our next meeting will be in week 7, term 2.

Alaric Nicholls
Across Schools Leader
Teacher Agency Initiative

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