Sunday, October 28, 2012

Leading Learning from Within

A few days have now passed since the Association of Delta School Administrators (ADSA) Annual Conference so it's time for some reflecting. As an organizing committee we have long since heard from our colleagues that they value the networking component to our conference, desire for more opportunities to talk about what is going on in their respective schools, share ideas and learn with each other. From these comments evolved our question of inquiry, "Will a focussed effort on collaborative inquiry around administrators' interests and unique capabilities accelerate leadership performance and commitment to professional development?"

In an effort to follow our inquiry, this year we opted for a new conference model, one without a keynote, without a 'guru', without any 'sit and get' presentations. This year, there would be no chance that an external expert would come in and push his or her ideas on us without being aware of our context. Instead, we asked our colleagues to volunteer to facilitate conversations on topics they are passionate about. We knew we were taking a bit of a risk. What if our colleagues didn't volunteer to lead sessions? What if it turned out that we were less connected with each other because we weren't all sitting in the same room listening to the same presenter?

Well, taking the risk paid off! The theme of the conference could very well have been 'Leading Learning from Within'! We offered a total of nine sessions, with three sessions running concurrently at any one time. In fact, because almost 1/3 of our ADSA colleagues volunteered to lead conversations, we actually chose to host only the most popular sessions. Session topics included Demystifying Human Resources, Student and Educator BloggingEmpowering Students Through LeadershipEasy to Use Technologies that can Change EducationSupporting Teacher InquiryRelationship-Based MentoringCreating a Culture for Inquiry-Based LearningTechnology to Help Us With our Jobs and Assessment for Learning

Conversations were rich and engaging because they were led from within. Colleagues shared their experiences, knowledge, successes and failures. It was a great chance to ask questions, benefit from each others' learning and share strategies for overcoming challenges.  As you can tell by the google docs from some of the sessions, colleagues were very much engaged in sharing and building a collection of ideas and resources.  New connections  were established and previous connections between colleagues were strengthened, largely because people had the opportunity to discuss topics they are interested in and passionate about. The tone to the conference was comfortable, friendly and supportive. People felt safe in putting their ideas, challenges and mistakes forward because they knew that others were there to help! View a short clip of conference reflections from colleagues.

Our experience is another encouraging step toward creating a collaborative culture amongst ourselves, where we go beyond sharing to truly collaborating on projects with each other. As excited as I am about the steps we took at the conference, I'm also enthused about Delta School Disrict's commitment to collaboration and learning through inquiry. With teacher collaboration time built into the schedules of many schools, Coordinators of Inquiry heading up teacher-directed inquiries and the sharing of stories and ideas taking place through the 180 Days of Learning Blog and the new Delta Learns Portal, I feel we are in an exciting time as we build a culture of collaboration throughout the district.

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