Wednesday / May 22

The POWER of the Collective [Excerpt]

Although distinct in their size, communities and history, three schools in Melbourne’s west are united in their Catholic faith. Annunciation, St Margaret Mary’s and St Martin de Porres primary schools belong to the sixth largest education system in Australia, administered by Catholic Education Melbourne (CEM).

Over the last two years the schools have forged yet another strong bond through their commitment to enhance learning and professional practice in a joint engagement with a Visible Learning+ School Impact Process based on John Hattie’s research1,2. Together, the schools have formed a learning collective which entails undertaking common professional learning, sharing practice and experience, collaboratively designing resources and openly assessing and exchanging evidence of impact.

The concept of the power of the collective involves harnessing the power of professionals working together and has gathered strong momentum in the school improvement process. But the approach is an ambitious one and not for the faint-hearted. It requires capacity building and responsibility for student progress not only within but across
schools. Done well, it builds an efficacy ‘that involves shared beliefs among a staff that they can positively
influence student outcomes.

The ambition of creating an effective collective is one that the schools’ leadership group enthusiastically
espouses. The Principals, Deputies and Impact Coaches of the three schools meet regularly to learn and plan collaboratively. Andrea, the Principal of St Margaret Mary’s, says that while they were three Visible Learning impact cycles focus on teachers using evidence which privileges student voice data. Teachers engage in cycles of inquiry, action and evaluation focused on building assessment-capable learners and improving student learning. In Denise’s
view, sharing the impact cycles has been powerful because not only are teachers sharing in each other’s work, they are involved in planning sessions, are schools who wanted to go on the Visible Learning journey together, initially their focus was on their individual schools, but through sharing their student data, the notion of the collective became more authentic and more productive.

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Written by

Dr. Pam Ryan is an educator who consults in Australia and internationally on leadership and school and system transformation. Having previously been Industry Professor (Learning and Education) in the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, Pam is now Adjunct Professor there. Previously Pam spent 10 years as secondary principal and 11 years as an Education Director in NSW and Hong Kong. Pam has authored: Leadership in Education: Learning from Experience (2015); Wise Heads Wise Hearts (2016), and Action and Reflection Tools for Busy School Leaders (2017).

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