Recent years have brought a crescendo of support for today’s schools to facilitate the development of new skillsets and mindsets that will enable students to thrive amidst the changes and challenges of the 21st Century.
The most forward-thinking schools will continually assess the opportunities that emerging technologies bring to the process of teaching and learning.
So how can school leaders best transform school wide initiatives to effectively lead improvement and drive innovation in a rapidly changing era?
If we truly are to respond to the shift required in education in the 21st Century, then the fundamental C.U.L.T.U.R.E of a school must also change. In the most responsive and relevant schools, several characteristics continually emerge as the key for reimaging the learning process to ensure that students are future ready.
Create opportunities for sharing and showcasing of work
This includes encouraging staff to share and showcase work via digital and physical spaces such as online forums, informal sharing of initiatives during face to face meetings, connecting with the wider community using social media, and encouraging professional learning communities so that teachers can collaboratively work together in areas of interest.
Use resources wisely
It is important that school leaders align their physical, organisational and technology resources to the school’s strategic priorities. This requires some creative thought as to how to allocate resources to help to develop, sustain, and drive meaningful innovation. Early investment is crucial in ensuring that teachers are provided with the essential knowledge, skills and support to continuously evaluate and improve teaching and learning programs that advance student learning, creativity and innovation, in and beyond the classroom.
Lead by example
To expect teachers to do what school leaders are not doing themselves will be a barrier to driving innovation and transformation in schools. School leaders need ensure that they are modelling the change they wish to see. This is achieved by their rhetoric matching their actions. Rather than imposing change, it is essential that school leaders are setting an example via their own practice.
Think big but start small
Creating a shared vision is essential for any organisation as it provides a strong driving force for ongoing and systemic practice development; however, the most difficult aspect is moving past the visioning stage by articulating measurable goals and resulting outcomes. Developing a school strategic plan with long-term and short-term goals will provide a detailed roadmap of how a school will achieve their priorities.
Uncovering potential within a school empowers staff to unleash their talents and become leaders themselves. By empowering teachers at all levels across the school to make decisions and solve problems, school leaders can build on their key strengths and shared expertise to bring about sustainable school improvement.
It is important to celebrate and showcase the success of a school by recognising the achievements of teachers as leaders in the field of innovative 21st century teaching and learning. Celebrating individual and collective success will continue to motivate and empower teachers to try new practices, lead initiatives and take risks.
Eliminate the excuses
Developing the skillsets and mindset that will see students cope well with the changing nature of work and life will require teachers to continually adapt methods and practice to respond to these changes. For this to happen, school leaders need to eliminate the excuses of why something can’t be accomplished. Just as we know that our students are individuals who learn at different rates and in diverse ways, so do our teachers
The world is in the age of the digital disruption. If we truly want students to be future ready and cope well with the ongoing disruptions of the 21st Century, then we need to dramatically shift our processes so we are responsive and relevant to the needs of society and the workforce.