High Performing Education: Nine Characteristics
This discussion focuses on the most important attributes that define quality education. The first part of the discussion identifies the four most important attributes of high performing schools. The second part of the discussion focuses on teaching activities and leadership style of the specific institution studied.
ACADEMIC EDUCATION - PART 1
The nine characteristics of high performing schools are:
- A clear and shared focus.
- High standards and expectations for all students.
- Effective school leadership.
- High levels of collaboration and communication.
- Curriculum, instruction and assignments aligned with state standards.
- Frequent monitoring of learning and teaching.
- Focused professional development.
- A supportive learning environment.
- High levels of family and community involvement.
Among these nine characteristics listed above, four characteristics are chosen for elaboration and these characteristics would above all define high performing education. These four characteristics that are most important in schools are:
1. A clear and shared focus with properly directed educational objectives.
2. High levels of collaboration and communication which would facilitate superior teacher-student interaction.
3. Effective school leadership that will enable the schools to develop and implement clear teaching and learning strategies.
4. A supportive learning environment that will encourage students to learn.
Research has found that reaching a level of performance success in schools could take years of sustained school commitment, along with change in values, attitudes, beliefs, and instructional practices.
A clear and shared focus of a school defines and shapes educational goals and objectives and is thus the most important characteristic of a school. A focus serves as the foundation or structure on which a school's agenda would be based.
High levels of collaboration in a learning environment is also significant for educational performance as students feel motivated when they work collaboratively with teachers and when interaction between students and teachers is easy and smooth. The third important attribute is effective school leadership, as only a school with leadership provides the right direction for student achievement. The fourth most important characteristic chosen to define quality education is a supportive learning environment as students need encouragement and motivation which they receive only in an environment that is supportive and show adequate concern for student learning outcomes.
Clear and Shared Focus
Schools are expected to have a clear focus in educational goals and high performing schools need a clear vision, goals and educational objectives for its teachers and students. Schools should focus on student learning and strive to attain high standards in education. Schools also need shared vision of change and clear goals with clear operational directives for student learning. All schools must know in which direction they are going and why. Schools should have clear focus about the educational objectives and set up goals in terms of student learning outcomes and performance.
The focus of schools must be on achieving a shared vision, and schools play a unique role in achieving this vision. The vision and clear objectives are developed from common beliefs and values, creating a consistent direction for teachers, students and school managers involved.
A school with a clear focus and shared goals and learning or teaching objectives signifies quality education as a high performing institution should have a clear direction and goals guided by values and student-teacher involvement.
Clear and shared focus in schools is usually measured with interviews and surveys. The school management is interviewed or provided survey questionnaires and they provide information on the focus and educational objectives as followed according to school's vision.
High Levels of Collaboration and Communication
Collaborative learning and communication helps students and teachers to develop mutual trust, respect and shared responsibility. School communities should aim at continuous learning of adults and develop as professional learning organizations and communities. Collaboration is the key to multidisciplinary actions in learning environments.
Teamwork is essential among teachers and students across all grades and with other school staff. In a collaborative learning and teaching environment, everyone is connected and involved with each other and even parents and members of the community participate in identifying learning or teaching problems and working on solutions when teachers, students and parents work collaboratively to achieve a specific goal.
High level of collaboration and communication is a mark of a dynamic environment with good deal of cooperation among students and staff and this sort of continued interaction indicates productivity and high performance in a learning situation.
Communication and/or collaboration levels in schools and learning institutions are measured with surveys and observational methods. Using technical tools such as cameras and other monitoring devices, it is possible to study the level of collaboration and communication among staff, teachers, students and management.
Effective School Leadership
Effective school leadership is defined as dynamic leadership in schools that is united in purpose and focused on superior instruction. Effective school leadership provides moral leadership that ensures from talking to doing, ensuring students to learn. Effective instructional and administrative leadership is required to implement change processes. Effective leaders implement programs, plan strategies and seek help. Any instructional program nurtured in schools help enhance school culture and such programs are conducive to learning and professional growth. Effective leadership helps determine programs and strategies for implementation. Effective leaders also have different styles and roles. Supervisors, managers, teachers and other staff, are all part of an effective leadership and they often have a leadership role.
Quality education is often guided by effective school leadership as dynamic and distributed leadership would implement clear goals and programs and thus help create a stimulating and productive learning environment.
Effective school leadership is measured with the help of interviews and school reports or press releases. School annual reports are performance indicators to show whether the school strategies have been effectively implemented.
Supportive Learning Environment
The school should have a stimulating and encouraging learning environment so students feel encouraged to excel in their learning and are eager to learn. Creating an interest or eagerness to learn is an essential step in the learning process. The school must have a safe, civil, healthy and intellectually stimulating learning environment. Students would then feel respected and connected with the teachers and are actively engaged in the learning process. In a supportive learning situation, school instruction is usually personalized and small learning environments tend to increase student contact with teachers.
A supportive learning environment is essential for high quality education and high performance and productivity. Students, both young learners and adults need encouragement and motivation to successfully reach all learning outcomes. A supportive environment is an environment based on positive feedback that encourages students to do better despite failure. Students are encouraged to excel and tend to put in their own extra efforts when they are motivated to learn and receive psychological, social and educational support in schools. This is especially conducive to high quality education and better student performance.
A supportive learning environment is measured with the help of surveys and interviews with students. Students could be asked to answer questions about the learning environment and whether they feel encouraged or discouraged to learn in their schools and a supportive school environment is considered as one that focuses on developing student motivation.
ACADEMIC EDUCATION - PART 2
High performing education in schools builds human capital necessary for a growing or developed economy. Teacher and leader effectiveness is one of the top educational policy objectives. High performing educational systems around the world are well developed for recruiting, preparing, developing and retaining highly effective educators and teachers.
Some researchers have examined highly effective lessons from education systems that help in developing and supporting teachers and leaders from Finland, Ontario and Singapore. Children's education, health and wellbeing outcomes are positive in countries with high-performing education systems. High performing education systems develop supportive programs for teachers, students and school management leaders.
Educational indicators of high performance are attainment and participation and these indicators are useful in schools as also in education training and employment. Social and emotional development and environmental indicators are also important in educational training.
Considering that my selected organization's culture has changed from a homogeneous population of students or employees to a very diverse population. At the same time, the teachers or trainers have remained the same. Recently, there has been a growing number of reports of potentially discriminatory treatment within the school following increasing diversity of students. The administrative team has created an outline for a training program to address these issues. This discussion is on if I were to create a plan to investigate this problem what would be the key components of this type of plan and why? The components of the discussion are as follows:
- A general description of the real or hypothetical organization.
- A mission statement for the school or training department.
- A description of the changes in the learner population.
- How cultural diversity training may affect learning outcomes.
- The impact that training may have on addressing these problems.
- What learning outcomes would expect to find in each of the key components of the training program?
- If you were to develop a list of learning outcomes related to the training program developed for trainers/teachers to address the organizational changes in the culture of your school what would be the core elements to this type of training program?
Description of the current situation including challenges
The current situation and context is about an educational organization and school where students are young and most were below 20 years of age. I worked with these school students and aided them in their cognitive development. Some of the major challenges that has been evaluated through reflection is time management and diversity management. To address organizational changes in the school including increased diversity, new training and teaching programs will have to be implemented.
Firstly, teachers need to be specific about the time they were providing to teaching and what time management strategy they would take, so that they could use their time most effectively. Secondly, localized accountability at the school level is important to improve the school system as a whole. The school has also grown from a small local school to a large school with diverse backgrounds of students. Preventing discrimination of students is a major challenge as well and teachers and school management has to ensure that all students are treated fairly with no discrimination.
The school comprised of more than a thousand students who are young learners under the age of 20 years. Since they are young students, the educational directions are focused on teaching them skills based on learning outcomes as specified in the school curricula. Managing diversity of students and cultural changes within the school is a major challenge. Very young students below 5 years of age are taught reading, writing, comprehension and as teachers we used creative learning methods and audio visual techniques with pictures, videos and presentations to help students to learn. Older students studied complex subjects and developed their cognitive skills even further, the challenge was to find the balance in age, backgrounds and diversity of students.
Statement of the vision and mission for the organization
The school that is being discussed here is a private school that is focused on learning and development of a diverse age range and background of students between 3 and 20 years of age.
The mission of the organization is to:
- Provide appropriate learning and development opportunities for the learners of the school.
- Ensure that students are provided with quality education within the implemented framework.
The vision of the school is to:
- Provide high quality education to enable a high performing system.
- Facilitate student learning and teacher training that is effective for the school and its objectives.
- Enable students to learn and perform without discrimination.
- Manage cultural diversity of the school and effectively address differences in age, backgrounds and abilities of students.
Statement of Training Needs
Training needs have been focused on identifying the learner outcomes and challenges related to teacher perceptions. Training programs have been developed for teachers so that they can effectively address organizational changes in the school, including issues like higher student intake, greater diversity and meeting varied student needs and learning outcomes. Teachers need to develop diversity management skills and use reflection to understand various student perspectives. Attitudes towards training largely affected collaboration and cooperation among teachers. Learner profiles were also an important aspect of training needs and student profiles were communicated by teachers in the training program to develop better understanding of students. The student profiles were determined and training was provided according to student profiles and specific student needs considering issues of background, learning, diversity. Training was followed by reflection and the school objectives have been communicated in the form of directions as given by teachers.
Student needs were determined in accordance with individual personalities, student backgrounds and cultural needs and student abilities. Teacher training has been primarily focused on determining these specific needs of students according to student backgrounds.
The key components of the training program for teachers would address:
- Managing diverse needs of students from different backgrounds and age range.
- Improving teacher student interaction to help report any incidence of discriminatory practice.
- Addressing issues of transparency and accountability to help promote better interaction and management.
- Specifying learning outcomes considering individual student needs.
List of Training Objectives
Some of the training objectives have focused on overall management of diversity challenges within the school as the school expanded with a higher intake of students from different backgrounds. The training objectives have sought to study:
- Not only are learning activities led by teachers important, the different learning outcomes according to specific student needs are equally important as it helps drive the daily objectives.
- How to encourage teachers to address organizational problems and manage student diversity effectively.
- One of the objectives of the teachers training program was to develop teaching skills that would cater to specific student backgrounds and abilities.
- Teachers are trained to develop cultural sensitivity and address diversity challenges by being aware of student needs from different cultural backgrounds.
- Events that happened during the training period should be noted and recorded as part of training objectives to monitor progress of education.
- Reflection on what the students learned, how they learned and how they developed their cognitive and creative skills is important.
- Addressing cultural diversity issues is important and teachers could note the challenges they faced during their classroom interaction with students and what steps could be taken to address sensitive issues such as discrimination of students within the school situation.
Timeline for implementing the training plan
- The training plan could be implemented within a period of six months as teachers need to focus on various issues and challenges related to diversity management.
- The training plan included developing different learning outcomes, addressing learning needs of students and directives to maintain high performance of students.
- The training plan aimed at developing the student skills and addressing discrimination and diversity issues within the school context.
Factors that will indicate that you have been "successful"
Successful training objectives and their implementation would necessitate factors such as performance measures, high student and parent satisfaction, high output and positive outcomes. Factors that determine success are student support and interest, student participation, teacher satisfaction and goals or focused leadership of the school.
In this case, student teacher interaction would be a major factor in determining learning and teaching outcomes. If training programs help address diversity challenges in organizations such as a large school, teachers will be more effective in such situations and training programs will also be considered successful in addressing the organizational challenges.
Select two styles from among situational, bureaucratic, transactional, charismatic, task-oriented, relation-oriented, or the servant-leadership styles, and compare and contrast how they are manifested in educational institutions and in your institution.
The Situational leadership model could be used in schools and enables leaders to diagnose a given situation and adapt management styles according to individuals, groups or contexts. Situational leadership is meant to provide a framework for assessing individual behavioral needs.
The situational leadership model helps to measure individual performance level. Situational leadership is successful based on a model's fluidity allowing leaders to continually adapt their leadership styles according to needs of students within a school situation. In this case, managing diversity challenges require situational leadership as diversity and discrimination issues will have to be addressed according to specific school and student needs.
The situational leadership model addresses leadership behaviors based on telling people what to do and how they can do it. Situational leaders could be managers or teachers in a school who would ask students or staff to perform tasks in a certain way and measure performance levels. Situational leadership improves high performing systems and high performing education requires situational leadership as this type of leadership focuses on task performance and measures levels of performance to indicate whether students are learning effectively.
Leaders provide information and direction on selling their message to the team members. Leaders focus more on relationship and shares decision making responsibilities through encouraging participation. Leaders pass on responsibilities to followers and groups and within a school situation supervisors pass on the responsibility to other staff. Delegating is one of the important aspects of leadership and leaders monitor progress of tasks assigned. In a school situation, teachers monitor the progress of students after delegating tasks to them. Telling, directing, selling, coaching, participating, supporting, and delegating are some of the activities of situational leadership. Teachers are trained to address varied student needs from different backgrounds and cultural diversity is a challenge in large schools, teachers and school managers become leaders in the school context.
Within a school situation, situational leadership helps in delegating or assigning tasks to school students and to teachers and staff members. Students are also encouraged to participate in group tasks, although tasks could be related to directing and coaching as teachers direct and coach students on the particular tasks they need to perform. This aids in improving student teacher interaction and can address issues of discrimination as greater interaction among students will decrease discrimination and issues related to diversity. Directing, delegating, coaching and supporting are the most important elements of situational leadership and this is especially effective in large organizations and in schools with a large number of students. Teacher training programs focused on managing diversity are most effective with the situational leadership approach as the school context is the most important factor.
Task Oriented Leadership
Task oriented leadership is based on a behavioral approach and the leader focuses on tasks that need to be performed to achieve certain performance standards or reach certain goals. Leaders in a school situation may be managers, supervisors or teachers who focus on satisfaction, motivation and general well-being of team members or students. Task oriented leaders focus on getting the task done and achieving goals or teaching objectives. Leaders are more concerned about meeting specific goals so in a learning situation, teachers strive to meet specific learning goals and objectives and also plan, organize and monitor progress of students, especially when they are young and are below 18 or 20 years of age as in this case study.
Task oriented leadership includes task management and coordinating work activities and this is also important in case of teaching students in school situations and management of schools in general. For management of school situations, setting short term and long term strategic goals for school management and employees help them to perform assigned tasks. In this case, the short term goals were related to address diversity issues considering higher intake of students from different backgrounds. The task oriented leadership can thus be studied on two levels, on the level of students who are assigned tasks that they master and on the level of management that perform tasks related to maintaining school strategic objectives.
In general educational institutions, students and staff tend to follow the directions of leaders or teachers, and are focused on getting the task performed and completed. Thus situation leadership is based on context as the kind of leadership fit for schools and task oriented leadership is based on task performance of students or school staff.
In my institution, the task oriented leadership seems most applicable as young learners are given directions on how to improve their learning skills and meet learning outcomes by performing specific activities. Task oriented leadership also helps address issues related to diversity management as teachers perform tasks that are focused on improving diversity and decreasing discrimination. This could include greater group discussion sessions and higher levels of student teacher interaction. The tasks that students perform form the basis of learning, however learning outcomes also determine teacher training programs. Task orientation is improved following some monitoring of the tasks performed and my institution uses task orientation as students need to rapidly learn through the tasks given to them. In teacher or staff training situations, teachers can address specific problems such as issues of diversity or discrimination by focusing on specific tasks such as improving student performance through focused learning, or improving student outcomes by developing facilitative learning environments.
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