School Improvement in the UAE: A Practical Implementation of the School Effectiveness Literature

Leadership, Professional Development, Professional Learning

The title of this post may be a little long yet its impact is extraordinary.

We know that establishing the conditions for continuous school improvement depends on the school’s leadership. Schools, regardless of their philosophy, curriculum, or teaching ideologies, are all working to improve student learning. At the heart of school improvement is effective teaching, which is enhanced through the intervention of targeted and “intentional” strategic endeavours. This is where the work of the leaders comes to the fore.

Our school, Al Yasat Private School in Abu Dhabi, has implemented an approach to teaching improvement which comprises an orchestrated interplay between:

  1. a strategic teaching improvement intent (the goal);
  2. an approach to leadership and;
  3. the use of data to inform decision making.

This was undertaken through the adoption and establishment of the teacher as researcher premise (TAR).  In simple terms TAR is an approach to teacher professional learning that uses action-based research to enable the teacher to investigate and improve what they and their students do in classrooms and the greater school environment. This approach was recorded in two key publications: Teachers TEACHing Teachers and School Reform: Case Studies in Teaching Improvement.

The Learning Model used to guide the strategic intent of the teacher learning process was developed in 2016/2017 in a considered manner and implemented. During the early part of the 2019/2020 academic year we investigated the impacts of such an approach to teaching improvement through an evaluation project. The results have have been collated and, with contributions from Dr Denis Peters, Dr Asif Padela, Mr Thomas O’Meara, Mrs Reem Rekieh and Dr Paul Triegaardt, will be published in a book to be released late April/early May 2020.

The publisher has just released the book cover.

School leaders looking at re-organising their schools as a means to drive school improvement will read this book through the lens of not only their school’s journey but also their own leadership formation. This book highlights the impact leaders can have on leading school improvement and ultimately raise student outcomes. While it is not expected that schools will adopt the Al Yasat School Improvement Model, but rather, understand the processes and the thinking that leaders need to undertake in order to make meaningful educational gains.

7 Ways to Support Your Professional (Educational) Reading

Leadership, Professional Development, Professional Learning

Every effective teacher wants to be a better practitioner tomorrow than they are today. They are always looking to improve. While attending conferences and workshops, undertaking courses or joining a professional association are helpful activities to develop your prowess as a teacher,  the reading of academic journals and educational texts/books is a good way to meet your own learning needs.

Here are 7 tips to help you read more:

  1. Set Targets: Aim to read a set number of books and articles in a chosen time period. By setting achievable goals you will build a positive reading habit. Set achievable goals to fit in with your own personal and professional life. 
  2. Set a time to read regularly: Whether you schedule to read before breakfast, while on commute to work or after the staff meeting, the important point is to develop a positive reading habit. Even if it is only for 15 minutes, setting time aside to read will keep you on track to reach your reading goal.
  3. Make a List: During your day to day teaching and learning cycle you will come across a field of ideas that you would like to know more about. Maybe it’s dealing with the SEN student or how to rearrange your teaching centres or how to ask questions more effectively. Write them down and make a list. This will direct your choice when visiting the bookshop or browsing the online store. It will also add more value to your teaching and learning as you become more reflective on your teaching practice.
  4. Read With a Purpose (and then take action): Whether you read to answer burning questions or just to learn new ideas and techniques, always take notes. Turn these notes into actionable items that you can use in your classroom.
  5. Set Up A School Book Club: Having colleagues read the same material and then discussing content material over a coffee helps to keep you on track (ie forces you to read!!). This collaborative professional learning activity will help everyone.
  6. Write About It: Share your reading through contributing to the publication field or even sharing with your colleagues. The more you read, the more you will be able to share with others. Writing helps to consolidate your thoughts and gives more clarity to your own reading.
  7. Keep a Book With You: There will be opportunity to read wherever you go (waiting for the Doctor; commuting on the train). While carrying a hard copy is useful, having your phone/tablet with the Kindle app is useful too. (Listening to a book/podcast is good too)

Professional Development is a Key Indicator of School Success

Leadership, Professional Development, Professional Learning

The role of the teacher is key to student success and that is why leaders spend plenty of time developing and engaging in professional development.  Teacher PD is pivotal to school success.  What does professional learning look like in your school.  This 90 second clip gives insight to what teachers can expect at mine.

Michael Fullan in his unpublished paper, Learning is the Work,  states that learning on the job, day after day, is the work teachers need to be committed to. With the mover towards collaborative learning and the fact fact that teachers learn best from their colleagues, the provision of a job embedded professional development program to foster teacher development is a must.

School principals take on the school leadership with a commitment to helping the school improve. A key mechanism for this is teacher professional development. How a leader approaches PD for teachers should be a consideration for teachers when looking for new positions!