In order to realise the vision of transforming schools in India into centres of excellence for student learning it is critical that school leaders take personal responsibility for renewing and updating their skills and knowledge throughout their working lives, as it is they who are at the centre of this movement. Personal development is a lifelong process of nurturing, shaping and improving your skills and knowledge in order to ensure maximum effectiveness in the school work sphere and developing a positive self-concept. Personal development does not necessarily imply upward movement (that is, promotion). Instead, it is about enabling you to improve your performance in leading your school.
Making time for personal development is challenging for busy school leaders. Therefore this unit focuses on two critical key skills to enable you to create space in your schedule: time management and delegation. It will then explore how to use the time you create for personal development by ensuring your actions are purposeful (using a personal development plan) and effective (using SMART objectives).
The criticality of developing the self has been highlighted as one of the six key areas in the National Programme Design and Curriculum Framework, published by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA) in 2014. This is viewed as important for bringing about school transformation and the professional growth of school leaders in India. This calls for convergence between the goals of self-development and institutional development for each school leader.
During your work on this unit you will be asked to make notes in your Learning Diary, a book or folder where you collect together your thoughts and plans in one place. Perhaps you have already started one.
You may be working through this unit alone, but you will learn much more if you are able to discuss your learning with another school leader. This could be a colleague with whom you already collaborate, or someone with whom you can build a new relationship. It could be done in an organised way or on a more informal basis. The notes you make in your Learning Diary will be useful for these kinds of meetings, while also mapping your longer-term learning and development.
Every school leader has competing demands for their time during any school day. They work with teachers, parents, students or education officials who visit their school. As a school leader, one potential source of pressure is your teachers’ dependence on you to solve all day-to-day problems, which often leaves little or no time for you to do other equally important strategic school tasks. This can lead to unintended consequences, as Case Study 1 highlights.
Ms Mehta has been the school leader of a secondary school for ten years. Her staff find her very supportive and will go to her for all the answers they need. She spends every school day helping others but this leaves her very little time to do any tasks that she sets for herself.
In the last year she has been unwell and unable to provide the same level of support to staff as she used to. Although her staff are sympathetic, they feel that her standards have fallen and are beginning to question whether she should be replaced. In particular, it has become obvious that new initiatives in assessment have not been explained and embedded properly with all staff, and Ms Mehta herself seems unable to model or explain them clearly. In a recent meeting with the school management committee, a representative of the staff voiced her concerns about the drop in staff morale. Although teaching and learning standards remained good, the school management committee were concerned that student learning would begin to suffer unless Ms Mehta was able to lead changes in teaching and learning with her staff effectively.
In the coming month, the maths department has to prepare its students for the annual state competition. Ms Mehta has always enjoyed leading the preparation and accompanying the students to the competition, but this year she feels she cannot do this. She is now troubled by the criticism of her leadership, but is also losing her ability to do parts of the job that she really enjoys.
This case study highlights:
All of these ultimately may impact on the quality of student learning.
It is therefore important that you are able to multi-task, and – most importantly – prioritise your work to ensure your effectiveness as a school leader and that student learning is not compromised.
It is important to consider what it means to be a leader in your school and, more widely, your state. Record your notes from these activities in your Learning Diary, as they may be useful to refer back to in later activities and other units.
Think about your typical day and list all the activities that you lead on. Your typical day could include leadership actions such as welcoming students and staff to school, leading the morning assembly, ensuring all lessons start on time, etc.
Now reflect on the activities you have listed and rank them in order of importance (that is, in the order that have the most impact on your students’ learning). Prioritising these tasks may be difficult because you deem all tasks to be equally important. Nonetheless, you will need to identify those activities where you as a school leader will have the most impact, separating the tasks that can only be done by you from those that could be done by others.
For each of the activities, identify a member of your staff who can lead in your absence. You may find it useful to make a copy of Table 1 and fill it in, adding as many rows as you need.
|Activity||Staff to lead in my absence|
Do you have a job description for your role? If you do not, list all the tasks that you need to undertake and complete. Some could be immediate, whereas others could be long-term in nature.
How accurately does your daily activity list reflect your job description or job list? Do you do any activities that are not reflected in the job description or job list?
Being a school leader comes with a lot of responsibility. A large part of a school leader’s job is to get things done by enabling others to do them on your behalf. This includes:
As the school leader, you are expected to be an ‘enabler’ who helps people enhance the quality of their work and supports them to achieve their goals and targets. There may not be enough time in a school leader’s day to complete every task, so it is essential to use time wisely. This means that you need to schedule activities and plan effective use of the available time. If you streamline what you are doing every day by setting yourself simple goals and targets, and avoiding distractions, you will achieve more. Effective time management can help you to gain more control over your activities and increase your efficiency.
Being able to assign – or delegate – some of your activities to others will allow you to start to prioritise your work, manage your time better and more effectively, and develop trustworthy relationships. But clearly you will be able to do this better if you have a way of thinking about what are the most pressing and important tasks that you are responsible for.
Delegation involves giving someone the authority to carry out a task or make a decision on your behalf. However, although you can delegate leadership responsibilities, as a school leader you will still be accountable and ultimately responsible. Therefore you will be the person that the school management committee (SMC) and/or the government education supervisor will hold to account. There are tasks that are local to your school and you, as the school leader, have sole responsibility over the delegation of responsibilities to others.
Delegation is recognised as a management technique that improves efficiency, offers the manager some space to tackle other duties and can provide opportunities for others to develop themselves.
The ‘grid of urgency’ (Figure 2) is a simple way to prioritise your work by clustering all tasks into categories, such as those that need your urgent attention and should be carried out by you, and those that you can easily delegate to someone else. Figure 3 is a representation of how you could cluster your tasks.
Urgent and important
Important but not urgent
Urgent but not important
Neither urgent nor important
The priorities in the grid are as follows:
It is worth noting that others may present some tasks to you as urgent and/or important, although you may think otherwise. As a leader determined to manage your time effectively, you have to stand your ground and be firm. The grid of urgency offers a model for you to prioritise your tasks and activities.
Create your own version of the urgency grid in your Learning Diary, labelling the boxes ‘P1’, ‘P2’, ‘P3’ and ‘P4’. Now consider the tasks that have come to you in the past two weeks and write them down in the various categories on the grid. They do not have to be tasks that have now been completed. They will vary in importance and urgency.
When you have done this, think about what, if anything, has been done so far about each task. Look at whether any section of the grid has more completed tasks than the other sections, and the extent to which you have delegated completed tasks. Finally, think about which tasks could be delegated and to whom.
You should consider the following:
Prioritising your work and choosing what to delegate is never an easy task, because you have to make sure the job gets done. Issues relating to trust and the appropriate support from the person on the task are further reasons why care should be taken when delegating. But reluctance to delegate can leave you jaded and overwhelmed, which can ultimately affect your performance.
Tables 2 and 3 show examples of urgency grids made by two school leaders – one in an elementary and one in a secondary school. To be able to do this task effectively, both of the school leaders had to:
Speak to Adnan’s parents about his absenteeism.
Share my observations of Mr Anil’s class and suggest he observes Mr Sharma’s class.
Send a reminder for furniture order for the new section.
Send the students’ monthly attendance records to the District Office.
Ask more Class V students to bring their projects for the visitor coming to school tomorrow.
Meet the school management committee members sometime during the week for a routine catch-up.
Speak to the staff about filling in for the physics teacher, Mr Mohanty, who has to take leave for a family funeral.
Send Manish to the health check-up for disabled students by 11 a.m.
Inform DIET of staff to attend technology training.
Organise the cultural performances for the event and check if extra practice will be needed.
Get the permission to travel for the students who will be representing the school at the inter-school competition.
Arrange for a microphone to be made available to the speakers on Children’s Day.
Check with the school management committee if they would like to increase the watchman’s maintenance after two months.
Having considered how managing your time and delegating tasks to others may enable you to improve your effectiveness and efficiency, you will hopefully be in a position to see how you may create space for focusing on your own personal development needs.
In the next section you will look at personal development planning. You will begin to think about what you are good at in your role as a school leader, and will be self-critical in identifying what you need to improve on. These reflections will help you improve your own practice, enable you to develop the practice of your staff more effectively and ultimately improve the learning of your students.
A personal or professional development plan (PDP) is a carefully planned document that highlights the key areas that you have identified for development in any planning cycle.
The PDP process involves:
In many schools and other organisations, this process is tied into an appraisal system where you have the opportunity to discuss your development needs with your manager. Your manager may have an important role in the process because they control access to the resources that may support your plan. In case there is a need for you to prepare for an appraisal, you should:
Having a good PDP and acting on it helps to ensure that you are developing and maintaining your professional competency. It is essential for you to keep up to date in this rapidly changing environment. You need to ensure that your students have appropriate skills and knowledge to advance as active productive citizens. For this reason, technology is often cited by leaders as an area they would like to develop knowledge and skills.
The following points outline the PDP process:
Using the PDP process outlined above, work through the first three points yourself. Make notes in your Learning Diary of where you are in your career and clearly define your aspirations. Then identify your development needs and what opportunities there are to gain knowledge and learn new skills.
This will probably be the first time that you have done this, so it may not be easy. You need to be honest and perceptive, to accurately assess your development needs; and creative, to think about how they might be met. It is useful to discuss this with others who may be able to offer you insights and perspectives that inform your PDP.
Continuing professional development (CPD) refers to the means by which people maintain and upgrade their professional knowledge, practice and skills. In some professions elsewhere in the world, it has become compulsory to declare a number of hours of CPD annually in order to renew a licence to practice. These licences have been put in place to ensure that people remain competent post-qualification. Having a good PDP and acting on it helps to ensure that you are developing and maintaining your professional competency.
In India, the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) and District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) provide this type of support for teachers and school leaders through a wide range of training programmes. More recently, the National Centre for School Leadership (NCSL), located in the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, has focused on developing the capacities of school leaders across the country, on a long-term and continuous basis, in order to prepare school leaders for transforming schools into centres of excellence.
According to the National Council for Teacher Education (2009), the broad aims for a CPD programme for teachers are to:
These broad aims inform the in-service training and development strategies implemented by the DIETs. As a school leader, these aims may not necessarily meet all your needs. It is therefore important that you are self-conscious and critical about your practice and take proactive action to develop yourself.
In your Learning Diary, identify three areas that you wish to develop over the next year and state what you could do to make sure it happens. This moves you into the action-plan stage of the PDP process. You can use Resource 1 at the end of this unit. Do not fine-tune your notes at this stage, as there follows more specific guidance on writing objectives.
There are ways in which you can construct the statements in your PDP to ensure that your development objectives are carefully planned, concise and achievable. Although a well- constructed objective does not necessarily guarantee that it will be achieved, it is a good start, because it has key aspects that stimulate you to make sure it happens. The discipline of writing good objectives can be used in many contexts beyond PDP. A very popular acronym used to describe the key aspects of a good objective is ‘SMART’, meaning:
Objectives set out what you as a school leader are trying to achieve. This does not necessarily mean that you will have to undertake all the tasks associated with the objective(s). It is important that they are clear and understood by everyone associated with the processes; if they are, this will lead to their successful implementation.
It is important that you have clear and measurable indicators, because they provide a definition of the success of the initiative. Achievable and realistic objectives engage and motivate individuals. When your objectives look unrealistic, you put yourself and others under immense pressure. This can have a knock-on effect on people’s level of commitment or ability to meet them. It is important to have clear time indicators so that everyone knows by when an objective has to be achieved – or, if it is not likely to be achieved, whether to put in place measures to address any mitigating issues.
Now look at some key action verbs that can help in constructing SMART objectives.
To be specific, an objective should have a description of a precise or specific behaviour, achievement or outcome. It is also helpful if it can be related to a percentage, frequency, rate or number. To increase specificity, use verbs that are action-orientated to describe those actions that need to be taken to fulfill the objective(s).
Action verbs include ‘create’, ‘develop’, ‘design’, ‘analyse’, ‘execute’, ‘change’, ‘modify’, ‘identify’ and ‘prepare’.
Ensuring that your objective is measureable is hugely important because it tells you whether you have achieved your objective or not. You will gather evidence through a data collection instrument (observing, tracking and recording behaviours, asking questions, etc.) or using a predefined system or procedure in your school as required by the state authority. The tool you use to measure your objective should help you to generate the required evidence to support your claims of success. You should consider the following questions:
An objective is achievable if:
It is not worth setting an objective that relies heavily on resources that are not readily available or may be difficult to obtain in the future. It is a risk that has to be carefully managed if the target is to be achieved.
The realistic aspect of your objective is closely linked to whether it is achievable or not. While objectives should be realistic, this does not mean that they need to be easy. Objectives can be set that are demanding, but not to the extent that the chance of success is small. Realistic objectives take into account the available resources, such as skills required, financial resources, equipment, technology and so on. You should consider whether:
Allocating a deadline to an objective is closely linked to ensuring that it is measurable. Because you will be collecting evidence at a specified time to ascertain whether you have met the objective, it is imperative that you specify when you expect the objective to be achieved. A deadline also helps to create the necessary urgency, prompts action and focuses the minds of those who are accountable.
The objective-setting process can seem daunting, but it does not necessarily have to be. It can be as simple as sitting down with your broad development goals and using SMART to reconstruct the statement. At school level, you can do this by going through a departmental or school year plan and considering how it can be met. Doing so is the foundation for setting the objectives. Everyone within the school should have a clear understanding of the objectives, as well as an awareness of their own roles and responsibilities in achieving them.
Now go back to Activity 4 and rewrite your PDP objectives so that they are SMART. Consider when you hope to complete these objectives, how you will undertake them and the resources you will require.
When you have finished, try out your SMART technique by addressing a wider organisational goal rather than a personal one. Use a template based on Resource 2 to write a SMART objective for your school at an operational or strategic level. (The resource includes an example of establishing a homework policy to show you how a SMART goal can be defined.) You can refer to the action words discussed earlier. You can have more than one objective for a goal that is expressed in broad terms like the one used in this example.
In your notes, you should have identified some of your strengths and weaknesses, and maybe some problems that have become apparent in your practice. Are there any areas where you need to develop or adjust your skills in order to better support your teachers, students or the wider community?
Consider what you need to work on and make notes in your Learning Diary about how you will find support and guidance to develop your knowledge or skills. Try to think beyond courses or training events; include self-study or connecting with experienced colleagues to share knowledge or skills. You can use the Resource 3 template as a tool for planning your PDP for the forthcoming year.
You will probably list the training provided by your DIET, which may have a specific focus such as time-management; or you may choose to be proactive and seek out your own development opportunities such as mentoring from a master trainer. You may already know of online resources, such as TESS-India materials, that may be helpful. There are also books, conferences and networks that can provide you with useful input.
Remember that any plan needs to be monitored and evaluated to check on progress and recognise when actions need to be taken to get your plan back on track. You could give yourself updates at periodic intervals over the year to check on your own progress and a final date to evaluate your achievements.
In this unit you have looked at how to make productive and effective use of your time as a school leader, which has maybe prompted you to take action in terms of managing your own time or delegating to others. Personal and professional development is very important for everyone and should be carefully planned and put into action. You looked at how to use PDP and SMART objectives as part of your process. As a school leader, you should continuously seek to update and improve your practice; this in turn will encourage your staff to actively pursue their own development – building a school where updating and renewal is a continual process.
|Objective/activity||To be completed by||How I will know I have been successful|
|Goal (expressed in broad terms)|
A school homework policy (in collaboration with the SMC).
I will create a homework policy.
By the end of the April term.
Working with staff, students and parents.
Time will be needed to hold meetings and draft the policy.
|Area to be addressed||Activities I will undertake to address this||When I will complete these activities||How I will know I have been successful||When (at what intervals) I will review the progress I am making|
|Identifying and agreeing your plan|
|When and where I will agree my development needs and the plan with my line manager||How I will do this|
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