An excerpt from the white paper Collaborative Leadership: How to Inspire Your Leaders to Become Learners
Peter DeWitt has his own take on leadership. DeWitt, a longtime teacher and principal, is now an author, leadership coach, education consultant, Education Week columnist, Visible Learning trainer working with John Hattie, and creator of Collaborative Leadership, an onsite professional development partnership designed specifically for administrators. His belief is that school leaders, like the best athletes, need coaches.
Instructional coaching for teachers, he has written, is a “proven method of professional development that has an enormous impact on teaching and learning because coaches cater their approach to the needs of teachers that they are coaching.” Likewise, he says, leaders could learn from the same kind of experience. Leadership coaching offers principals the opportunity to learn with someone from outside of their typical circle of influence on a weekly or monthly basis, he says. “In the best cases the relationship becomes a confidential partnership where they focus on a goal or a couple of goals together,” DeWitt says.
The coaching process, says DeWitt, can provide focus, offer outside perspective, raise self-efficacy, and help build collective efficacy. By going through the coaching process, school leaders are better equipped to coach others, such as assistant principals and teachers, and help them develop their own leadership skills.
The best coach, he emphasizes, is the person who can help you get from where you are now to where you want to be, based on your own goals, insight, and wisdom.
Bellingham Public Schools in Norfolk County, Mass., faced a turnaround situation. One of its elementary schools had earned a “level 3 rating”– not on the bottom rung but heading there. In response, the school developed an instructional leadership team that included the principal and grade level teacher-leaders. This team examined every piece of data available and asked hard questions about practices that had been in place for years. They identified areas where change was needed and developed a plan for implementing those changes.
Halfway across the country, the state of Iowa was requiring school administrators to take an “evaluator approval” course every five years. Heartland Area Education Agency, which serves some 10,043 teachers, superintendents and principals in 11 counties in central Iowa, had experience in working with Corwin and DeWitt on training connected to Visible Learning. But this time, Jim Verlengia, director of Leadership Supports for the agency, proposed that he and DeWitt develop a four-day workshop focused on collaborative leadership for those administrators. This was new ground for the Iowa Department of Education, which had previously been solely responsible for its training offerings.
Download the white paper to read how Bellingham and Heartland partnered with Peter DeWitt and achieved school change success with Collaborative Leadership.