Leading through Inquiry: A focus for Leadership Learning

October 26, 2015

By New Tech Networkers Jim May and Julia McBride

Historically, occupying a position of school leadership has come with the expectation that the leader will have all the answers and fix all the problems.  However, leading through inquiry means letting go of having all the answers and accepting responsibility for structuring and animating the process of learning, particularly for the adults. As Michael Fullan suggests in his article Learning is the Work, “the greatest impact a principal can have on student learning is the degree to which the principal participates as a learner in working with teachers to make improvements.”

No longer being responsible for having all of the answers should be a welcome relief for leaders who already knew that was an unreasonable and burdensome expectation. However, the work of leading through inquiry is no small undertaking, representing an adaptive challenge that confronts leaders with the prospect of playing a larger role in the design and use of adult collaboration time. This has typically been an area where school leaders have left teachers to their own devices and playing a more active role in those times can be intimidating.  Nonetheless, establishing a set of common expectations, routines, and practices around the use of every moment in your day where adult learning unfolds truly is the work of leadership.  Moreover, it is the work of all New Tech Network schools who strive to be learning organizations that continually improve their capacity to achieve the outcomes they care about.

At the recent 2015 Fall NTN National Leadership Summit, the over 170 participants learned that assessment can and should be a key source of insight in this inquiry-driven adult learning effort. But what does it look like to do assessment well in a PBL environment? And how can adults learn from meaningful assessments to improve their instructional practice over time? This is a complex systems reality. Are you working to lead through inquiry and is your staff learning from assessment? If so, tell us about it! And for those wanting to learn more, join us for the 2016 Spring Leadership Summit in sunny San Diego, CA.

If you were unable to attend the Fall Summit but are interested in perusing resources from it, you can find it all here! (It is possible you will need to self-enroll in the Course, “NTN Leadership Summits” first in order for this link to work.)

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