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Developing Distributed Leadership

The context:
The GSC ICT cluster is made up of ten schools from the Greater South Canterbury area. During 2010 the cluster concentrated on building capacity in all teachers and the evidence collected showed this worked.

2011 Focus
Now the focus is on building sustainability within and across schools and to achieve this we have embarked on building distributed leadership. The programme that is being especially designed and delivered is built around leaders knowing themselves and building leadership qualities by challenging people to think differently about situations.

This meets the cluster’s goal of enhancing the capability of principals to lead and manage sustainable changes that result in effective ICT integration and distributed leadership within their schools. The expected outcome is that principals are applying distributed leadership practices within their schools to build school-wide capability. Through doing so, principals will be demonstrating a greater level of understanding of effective e-learning integration by leading the implementation of thinking skills, “Teaching as Inquiry” and the application of data to monitor and inform practice.

The cluster has drawn on research from the Herrmann Brain Dominance Model (HBDI™). The world’s leading thinking preferences assessment tool, the HBDI™ was developed in the 1970s by Ned Herrmann, then a manager at General Electric, and more than thirty years of research and innovation stand behind the validity of the HBDI™. The basis of Whole Brain® Thinking teaches people how to communicate with those who think the same and those who think differently. Once an individual understands his or her thinking preferences, the door is open to improved teamwork, leadership, managing change, relationships, creativity, problem solving, and other aspects of personal and interpersonal development.

What we are doing
The principals and lead teachers organised and participated in a two-day workshop in February 2011, followed by another two-day workshop in March 2011. These four days were facilitated by the eTime. (www.etime.co.nz). These days were purposefully scheduled as early in the year as possible, so that all leaders have the opportunity to gain new knowledge, understanding and skills to implement back in their schools.

During the first workshop, after completing the HBDI™ online assessment tool, each principal and lead teacher received a comprehensive HBDI™ Package containing their profile results. Chris Le Cren, eTime, provided leaders with essential background information on the physiological basis of the HBDI™, and in-depth interpretation of their results. Participants gained understanding of their leadership strengths and areas for development through further exploration and highly interactive activities. Links between whole brain thinking, the New Zealand Curriculum and in particular e-learning were made.

Principals and lead teachers also participated in a workshop, facilitated by Danny Bedingfield, eTime, that focused developing better and deeper thinking amongst students with particular emphasis on SOLO Taxonomy as well as a range of thinking tools.

The third workshop enabled principals and lead teachers to develop strategies that increase the online participation of their families and whānau in their children’s learning. They explored specific examples from schools currently using online tools with family and whānau and planned a specific e-learning home/school project to meet the specific needs of their own school and community.

The fourth workshop focused on principals and lead teachers further developing a culture of inquiry and critical reflection - one of the essential conditions associated with a substantive impact on student outcomes . They discussed the benefits of teachers inquiring into and reflecting on the impact of their teaching on student learning, the processes used at each stage of the ‘Teaching as Inquiry’ cycle, so that the school can shift teacher practices in order to raise student achievement, and identified the roles and practices that principals and lead teachers will take in supporting teachers’ understanding that ‘Teaching as Inquiry’.

The next workshop was about using data to monitor and inform practice. Principals and lead teachers developed self-review data-driven processes that incorporated the gathering and analysing of specific and relevant assessment data related to teachers’ teaching, student achievement and the effectiveness of lead teachers.

These workshops culminated in each school developing an action plan for implementation, see 3.b for links to school action plans.


What we learnt
Leading initiatives and embracing change, such as e-learning, requires leaders to understand and appreciate how they and others in their school think, learn and react to change. The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI™) is an ideal tool to use for this. In doing so leaders can anticipate and predict possible reactions and see things from other perspectives.

A principal has a critical role in leading change, but they cannot do it alone. They need to distribute leadership throughout the school. Taking a ‘whole brain’ approach to leading change is necessary.

The effective use of high quality data to monitor and inform practice is a crucial component in raising student achievement. This data should be gathered through a process of inquiry, from a variety of sources using various processes. While inquiry can be carried out independently, it is most effective and results in deeper learning when it is occurs in a learning community, characterised by a “culture of inquiry”. Using a process, such as the Teaching as Inquiry cycle, is a useful tool for teachers to use to guide their inquiries.

Next steps
One of our next steps is to view how other school leaders are using distributed leadership practices to build school-wide capability in ICT and e-learning. Cluster principals and lead teachers are going on a 2.5 day tour (19-21 May) to Christchurch schools, facilitated by eTime.

Where Teachers can lead, Ann Lieberman, Susan Moore Johnson, Hidenori Fujita, Robert Starratt, National College for School Leadership

Herrmann Brain Dominance Model (HBDI™

Teacher Professional Learning and Development: Best Evidence Synthesis Iteratio


  • Stuart Turner

    Thank you for your sharing.  I heard about this a few years ago and started doing some research then.  The management team visited other schools that had started Distributive Leadership.  They were able to discuss what worked well and what needed more work.  What were the benefits of now using this in their schools.  Unfortunately the principal didn't follow through and introduce it into the school.  The school I am at now are looking into it now as there are a lot of changes happening and the timing is near perfect.  I think that it takes trust from the principal in letting go and also that it will go well.  Thanks for the links I will look them up so I can also make notes and take to the principal.  The only question I have is:  do you think there can be too many Chiefs?  

    Thanks again for your sharing.