Wed | Nov 22, 2017

Multilayered model for learning

Published:Sunday | October 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Glenville Ashby
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Leadership for Success: The Jamaican School Experience

Editors: Disraeli M. Hutton and Beverly Johnson

Critic: Dr Glenville Ashby

Publishers: University Press, Mona, Jamaica

Ratings: Essential

Leadership for Success: The Jamaica School Experience offers educators, policymakers, administrators, teacher trainees, and parents a treasure trove of informative material on ways to improve performance at an administrative and pedagogical level. It employs the insight and experience of several principals whose transformational service has created a dynamic, competitive educational culture that transcends the classroom.

Their approach is multidimensional and holistic. Credence is given to leadership skills, that unique ability to effectively relate to academic and ancillary staff, students, parents, and stake holders.

While the literacy rate in Jamaica has soared since 1975, educators concede that in a global environment, students must be given the tools, the resources, to better facilitate the learning experience. Every principal is a proponent of continuing education and overall professional development. Mindful that the education sector and changing job market require a proactive approach to leadership and management, Leadership for Success touts research, assessments, and evaluation.

Key questions are raised: Are innovative and skilled leadership a product of environmental factors, or are leaders so inclined from birth?

According to recent statistics, nature and nurture are contributory to what we call successful leadership. Editor Disraeli M. Hutton cites the work of Avolio (2010) who found that 30 per cent of leadership emergence was heritable, whereas 70 per cent was due to environmental events.

 

LEADERS AND MANAGERS

 

The question on the parameters of leadership is also posed. Are leaders also managers? Here, there is no definitive answer as circumstances often dictate the thrust of leadership. What is certain is that leadership and management coexist. Hutton agrees, noting that "if the challenge facing the organisation is about improving the functions of the organisation such as planning, organising and evaluating, an effective manager should be hired, " while adding that "while this distinction may be recognised, a school ... will seek to recruit principals who are capable of being a good leader and a good manager."

Expectedly, every principal involved in this work concur, that sound leadership requires vision, interpersonal skills, self-confidence, hardiness, integrity, honesty, and resilience. Moreover, the successful principal is influential and dedicated to creating an environment that facilitates academic and professional growth.

One principal commented on the efficacy of time management. "It would seem that principals are the ones who are responsible for all that takes place in the teacher-learning process ... they are the backbone of what goes on in the classroom. Principles should, therefore, practise good time management in order to overcome the challenge of inadequate time."

Respect for staff and being an exemplar are viewed as quintessential to a wholesome working culture. Fostering a collegial rather than a hierarchical atmosphere is said to be advantageous to productive and engaging participants.

Principals highlighted the Herculean challenges they faced when they assumed their position. Some schools were dilapidated, boys lagged behind girls in academic performance, disciplinary problems existed, and there was resistance to change.

This required deliberation and a purposeful plan towards change. It demanded patience, an organisational overhaul in some cases, evaluations and assessments, a merit system, remedial programmes, and a distributive leadership style.

Some ingenious strategies are offered. On gender and performance, one principal attributed the poor performance of boys to a deficit in understanding their learning behaviours. She writes, "[W]e initiated fathers' parent-teacher association once per term, boys' choir and staff development workshops on teaching to the minds of boys. With the recruitment of male teachers, "father and son day"/"mother and daughter day"/ "mother and son day" were included. She adds, "The observation and analyses of data revealed that boys' performance, attendance, general attitude, and behaviour improved tremendously."

Leadership for Success delivers invaluable insights into organisational structure and behaviour. It addresses education in an ever-changing global paradigm. Education cannot be viewed in insular terms. It is part of a gestalt, an integral part of a dynamic social organism.

It is undeniable that growth, economic sustenance, sovereignty, and self-determination are dependent on an education system piloted by visionaries. Leadership for Success proves that much.

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