New Leadership and the Need to Design for Deep Learning

"Learning should be irresistibly engaging, elegantly efficient, technologically ubiquitous, and steeped in real life problem solving."

Michael Fullan has been a leader in educational innovation for more than two decades. Last term he spent a day working with AISNSW member school leaders and executive on the theme New Leadership and Deep Learning. This work recognises the need for educational change, making use of both old and new effective pedagogical and leadership approaches. It focuses on learning at all levels – students, teachers and leaders – and the leveraging of knowledge and relationships within and between schools to support students to learn in ways that equip them for a fast-changing world. 

Deep Learning

Part of the day focused on Deep Learning – defined by Mr Fullan “as quality learning that sticks with you for the rest of your life”. Deep Learning includes the Six Global Competencies (or 6 Cs): creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, character, and citizenship. He noted that four of these competencies have been around for some time, but it was not until the final two were added and integrated into the set that student learning really took off. Having a clear understanding of each competency and associated learning goals is central to the approach. 

According to Mr Fullan, learning should be irresistibly engaging, elegantly efficient, technologically ubiquitous, and steeped in real life problem solving. These characteristics are scaffolded through precision of pedagogy – the leveraging of effective pedagogical practices (old and new), learning partnerships (vertical and horizontal), engaging learning environments, and the appropriate use of digital technology – and are further supported and fostered through collaborative inquiry.

Of note in this approach is the capacity for Deep Learning to re-engage disconnected learners and impact on inequity within the educational environment and beyond. Belongingness and engaging pedagogy are key to re-engaging disconnected learners, and both of these aspects are embedded within Deep Learning.

New Leadership

The rest of the day focused on New Leadership, an approach that recognises the power of leading from the middle. At the core is the Coherence Framework (see above), which lays out the four key aspects of effective leadership:

  • focusing direction
  • creating collaborative cultures
  • securing accountability
  • deepening learning.

These aspects work synergistically to capitalise on the knowledge resources already in place, align the school community in a systemness mindset, and ensure a shared understanding of the nature of the work.

New Leadership ensures all leaders are engaged in active learning alongside and with their teachers and students, and recognises that effective leaders are both experts and apprentices. Maintaining quality lateral relationships – within schools and with other schools – and creating and maintaining rich cultures of interaction ensures that the work lives beyond the leader.

It was clear that much of what Mr Fullan had to say, and proposed as a way forward, resonated deeply and inspired many. 

Member School Invitation: Designing for Deep Learning

Schools are invited to join the AISNSW Designing for Deep Learning network to engage in learning based on the findings of this important research. 

For further information please email Kelly Borg or Tiffany Roos.