History provides us with the opportunity to inform the future and hope that the past provides a framework for building a positive and quality learning environment. There are many facets to leading a school. During my time as an administrator, I have had the privilege to refine my craft as a school leader. Through this work, one piece that I feel is at the core of creating a successful school is instructional supervision. Supervision is meant to provide a forum for a principal or assistant principal to engage teachers in professional conversation that builds best teaching practice. The opportunity to work with my colleagues has been crucial to the creation of a quality learning environment for both students and teachers at our school. For the purposes of this reflection, I have examined my school board’s policy on the supervision and evaluation of teachers. The following excerpt highlights the expectations of my school board for principals regarding supervision of teachers:
- a) Supervision of teachers shall be an ongoing process carried out by the Administrator to: i) recognize the teacher’s success in meeting TQS; ii) provide support and guidance to the teacher; iii) observe and receive information about the quality of teaching a teacher provides to students; and iv) identify the behaviours or practices of a teacher that for any reason may require an evaluation. – Peace Wapiti School Division – Policy GCN
Educational supervision is a term used to identify the work duties of administrators in education. Educational supervisors make sure the educational institution operates efficiently and within the legal requirements and rules. The purpose of this field is to make sure teachers and other faculty members are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and that students are receiving the best education possible. Teachers, through professional development and other learning opportunities, equip themselves with the tools and knowledge they need to help students reach their full potential. Educators who have a role of supervision attached to their portfolio of responsibilities should take this responsibility seriously, as it is important that these individuals take the opportunity to mould teachers to engage in best teaching practice.
According to Allen (2004), “to meet the needs of school administrators and teachers facing relentless pressure to reform schools and increase student achievement, professional development providers are turning to models of ongoing collaboration, relying more on technology, and even building state of the art bricks and mortar facilities” (p. 23). This model of developing collaborative professional development using technology as a support structure is now transforming what supervision is becoming in the education profession. It is my belief that the role of the supervisor is to provide the supports necessary for teachers to ensure a quality learning environment for students.
Personal reflection is an important component to supervision as it provides an opportunity for the supervisor to critically analyze the approaches that were used. Supervision is still an integral piece to the education profession and we must be mindful in how it is used to build and support best teaching practice. However, how can collaborative structures within a quality learning environment impact instructional leadership within a school? I have found that the models of mentorship and peer coaching are the most prevalent in my school division as we are building the framework of a quality learning environment model across the school division.
Peer Coaching in a Quality Learning Environment
Peer coaching models are also present within my school division. According to Showers, and Joyce (1996), “successful peer coaching teams developed skills in collaboration” (p. 13). This is a widely-used model within my school division, as we implemented a quality learning environment model.
“The Quality Learning Environment (QLE) document was created collaboratively by teachers within Peace Wapiti Public School Division throughout the 2013-2014 school year. The focus of the model is teaching and learning in environments where it is assumed the basic elements of classroom practice and key elements of Inspiring Education are addressed. The QLE is research driven; as research expands and context evolves, the model will shift to accommodate new knowledge and realities.” – Peace Wapiti School Division No. 76
This collaborative model of engagement is the cornerstone to the development of a peer coaching model. Teachers are becoming more engaged with helping one another foster learning amongst themselves by creating collaborative networks within subject disciplines. Although, this is not a new model, our district has been traditionally challenged, as some of our schools are geographically far apart from one another. As a result, meaningful collaborative opportunities between schools, with often only a single-grade or course teacher, were few and far between. This new model has re-engaged the isolated islands that were once present in my school division to a large interconnected network that have bridged gaps for student and teacher collaboration. As an example, we are embarking on the development of a district wide technology plan that will focus on the use of the google classroom. The ability of this platform to interact between schools that are on opposite ends of our school division will allow for teachers to collaborate and support one another through peer coaching model. I am excited to see what this brings in the future and our central office has supported this change through financial and professional development opportunities.
This peer coaching model will hopefully build into a version of the CFG model presented by Bambino (2001). Bambino describes that “by providing structures for effective feedback and strong support, Critical Friends Groups help teachers improve instruction and student learning” (p. 25). I have been in my school division for 13 years as both teacher and administrator and have seen growth in teacher collaboration opportunities but with the QLE model this is the first time that I have seen teachers truly collaborate with one another. I hope to see teachers build professional practice through collaboration as the network of experts that we have in our division is diverse and unique. Bambino highlighted that feedback is crucial to the development of improving instruction and student learning. I strongly believe that my current school division is embarking on this journey and the teachers are far more engaged than I can remember. I would like to see how my division plans on carrying the development of the QLE model as it is a great framework and vision from which to work from. The only barrier that I see emerging is funding.
I feel that as a principal that l continue to learn daily as to what it takes to become a better leader. However, I do have questions about the following:
- Instructional supervision is important to the development of best teaching practice. If a leader does not have the tools or the desire to build best teaching practice, how can these leaders be allowed to continue in their leadership capacity?
- The internet provides administrators with endless amounts of blogs, twitter accounts and other forms of social media to draw from and build leadership models of success for their schools. How much is too much information? Where do we draw the line to try one concept as opposed to trying three at the same time? Does central office leadership draw the line for professional development direction?
These are some of the questions that I have moving forward, as I believe being a leader is multi-dimensional and requires an individual to be adaptable but also someone that knows when to push their staff with a gentle but firm hand.
Allen, R. (2004). Sustaining Professional Development – Collaboration and Technology Reshape Training – Educational Leadership Journal – March 2004 | Volume 46 | Number 2.
Bambino, D. (2001). Critical Friends. Educational Leadership, 59(6), 25-27.
Peace Wapiti School Division, (2015). Quality Learning Environment Model http://www.pwsd76.ab.ca/services/curriculum/Pages/successful_learner.aspx
Showers, B., and Joyce, B., (1996). The Evolution of Peer Coaching. Educational Leadership, 53(6), 12-16.