Leadership for Teacher Learning

Picture of Dylan Wiliam
Dylan Wiliam

Published by Learning Sciences International, 2016

Creating a Culture Where All Teachers Improve so That All Students Succeed

Written by Vlatka Butković

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Why reading this book is a must

Being the result of contributions from hundreds of people with whom Dylan William discussed ideas relating to education and leadership, this book provides answers to a simple argument that “the main job of school leaders is to improve the work performance of those they lead”. Organised through seven chapters, the author allows the reader to skip or skim the chapters that do not bring any new idea to them, or the ones that discuss an idea that the reader has no doubts about. Still, what one becomes aware of pretty quickly, is that the data that support ideas in this book are presented in such a meticulous, interesting and easy-to-follow way that not many readers would want to miss it. If you thought a book about education could not be exciting, you could not have been more wrong. Every statement in it is supported by a presented research, some with surprising results that may make you reevaluate your ideas.

Seven thought-provoking topics:

Chapter 1: Why We Need to Raise Student Achievement, What’s Been Tried, and Why It Hasn’t Worked

Chapter 2: Teacher Quality: Why It Matters, What It Is, and How to Get More of It

Chapter 3: Learning From Research

Chapter 4: Formative Assessment

Chapter 5: Expertise, in Teaching and Elsewhere

Chapter 6: Teacher Learning

Chapter 7: Implementation

Wiliam elaborates a real problem for current models of schooling. While this digital era brings, like never before, opportunities for young people to pursue their passion, the current model of schooling dedicates more time to achieving greater scores in mathematics and reading than in the subjects that nourish critical thinking or build soft skills. What has been tried to overcome this gap and with how much success?

“In the mid-1980s, when my colleagues and I asked a group of business people to identify the skills they really wanted from school-leavers, … they came up with a list. We then looked at the school curriculum and found that only one school subject encompassed it all – drama.The business people had identified communication skills, confidence, collaboration, creativity, self-control, discipline, problem-solving, tolerance, and empathy.” (p.19, 20).

Wiliam argues that the solution to this gap cannot be found in copying other countries. Attention that was on Finland after fantastic results in 2006 shifted to western Pacific Rim – Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai in 2012, when Finnish students’ PISA tests results showed significant decline. The reasons for fluctuation in the results in any country cannot be found. What needs to be improved is understanding the role of the teacher quality – what it is, why it is important and how to increase it, and how to ensure working conditions in which great results can be achieved.

Chapters 5 and 6 are gems that should be read to every teacher and discussed at the beginning of each school year. They are perhaps best illustrated with the following quote:

“I pointed out that teachers typically ask well over 200 questions per day (Levin & Long, 1981) so in her career (20 years), she had probably asked well over half a million questions. When you’ve done something one way half a million times, you’ll be pretty good at it, but doing it a different way is going to be difficult.”

Who is it for?

This may not be a book for a novice teacher, because it does not provide simple steps of classroom management. Formative assessment that Wiliam is famous for is only briefly discussed in chapter 4 (Check Embedded Formative Assessment (Strategies for Classroom Formative Assessment That Drives Student Engagement and Learning – New Art and Science of Teaching, 2nd Edition).This is a book for decision makers, and therefore, regardless of the title that invites school leadership to read it, it is understandable that every person in educational system presents a leading figure on a certain scale, therefore is a decision maker and should be aware of the topics Wiliam discusses in this book. After all, there are students at the end of the processes of adapting school system, and we owe it to them to be able to present the findings Wiliam presents, discuss them and, within each individual classroom, start the change that is necessary.

Additional resources:

Visit Dylan Wiliam’s website for the resources he generously shares.

Subscribe to Dylan Wiliam’s YouTube Channel.

Follow Dylan Wiliam on Twitter.

A recording of a conversation with Professor Dylan Wiliam when he visited the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) as part of the organisation’s Rolling Summit on assessment reform and innovation.

#formativeassessment #dylanwiliam #CEESAbookclub #CEESAconnects

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