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Middle Leadership Blog Series Case Study Post 2

How to transform learning in your context

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Who is this blog post for: Current or emerging middle leaders and for senior leaders or Headteachers who are developing middle leaders.

Author:  Stephanie Bingham

Keywords: Change; Prepare; Plan; Explore; Implementation; Enabling.

 Introduction 

Throughout this series we have explored the transferrable skills of teachers and their application to leadership. In our most recent posts we have focused on implementation, examining the complexities and common pitfalls, and presenting some implementation models which help leaders to manage change successfully. We have also, in practice post 1, shown how leaders can create a culture of learning within their team, focusing on how meetings can be more effective if they have a learning intention and the leader has created a culture of collaboration and joint setting of norms. 

This case study draws all of these themes together through a real example of implementing curriculum change to improve pupil outcomes. The leader’s actions reflect the recommendations of the EEF Implementation Guidance (2021) and Kotter’s 8 Steps for Change (2012), as shown in the figures below, respectively. 

Educational Leadership Centre Blog Images

 

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As you read, think about how you can transfer the learning to your own context when planning for change. 

 Case Study 

The teacher in this case study works in a Primary School serving a community with below average levels of deprivation. They are the leader of Modern Foreign Languages (MFL), and their change initiative aimed to improve the progress of disadvantaged pupils (DP) in upper Key Stage 2 (KS2) French and narrow the performance gap between them and their non-disadvantaged peers. The leader also sought to improve the practice of their non-specialist teachers and trainees. This first extract illustrates how they prepared for their change through exploring a variety of evidence: 

Following this extensive data gathering and exploration the leader was able to identify where the intervention should be focused using a proven model. The intervention has an inbuilt tool for monitoring the progress of the pupils, and the leader had a clear idea of the strengths and areas for development for their teaching team. They outlined the initial meetings that were held and the careful work done to ensure that the team feel involved and have ownership of the initiative: 

Note that aside from data-gathering and triangulation, which all form part of the preparation stage, no implementation has yet taken place. This reflects both Sharples’ (2021) and Kotter’s (2012) emphasis on importance of the preparatory stage of implementation planning: they have investigated the school’s readiness for the change and they have ensured that they have support from their team. This leader also had conversations with an in-school coach who helped them to think through how they would manage their team and lead the change. This is also part of the preparatory stage: planning for potential difficulties before they arise, and understanding the different members of the team and how they will be most effectively led. 

Once the data had been analysed and the potential curriculum models explored, a clear implementation model was adopted, which included monitoring points, delegation of responsibility, and provision for adaptation where needed. This is what the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Implementation process refers to as preparation (2021), and Kotter (2012) as creating a climate for change and engaging and enabling the whole school community: 

Once the preparation stage was completed the leader and their team were ready to move into the delivery stage, which included regular monitoring of the impact on pupils and on staff practice: 

The impact on the pupils was maximised by the leader having built in data gathering and also plans for addressing individual pupil need. Because the data analysis included lesson observations, they were able to identify more accurately the cause and potential solutions to any problems. Pupil achievement data alone is not enough to enable staff to address pupil need.  

The intervention led to 88% meeting their target outcome, thus significantly narrowing the achievement gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged pupils in French. In order for this impact to be sustained the leader made permanent many of the actions used in the initial initiative: 

Conclusion 

This case study illustrates that careful planning is at the heart of successful implementation. Both Kotter and Sharples emphasise the importance of the early stages of any initiative, and of preparing the ground before trying to implement change. Effective implementation can’t happen without being founded on strong evidence, which in turn needs to be shared with the team in such a way that they will share the vision and help to make it happen. This middle leader also understood the importance of ensuring that the change was sustained, putting in place an action plan with regular check points, and building in collaboration with other language teams to ensure the process remains live and dynamic.