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The Two Solitudes

Policy Makers and Policy Implementers: Implications for Leaders

A paper presented at the Annual conference of the British Educational Management and Administration Society Bristol September 2000

A version of this paper will be published in:
Fink, D. (in press). Two Solitudes: Policy Makers and policy implementers In Michael Fielding (ed.) Taking Education Really Seriously: Three years of Hard labour. London: Routledge/Falmer.

Dr. Dean Fink
International Centre for Educational Change
OISE/University of Toronto

I often ask the groups of educators I work with to identify paradoxes, ironies, or oxymorons in their educational contexts. They have few problems developing long lists. They particularly like oxymorons like 'fair funding', 'head teacher' and 'local authority'. In virtually every country I've visited, these paradoxes, ironies and oxymorons reflect a deep disconnect between policy makers and the people who have to implement them, teachers and school heads - we have in many countries, 'a dialogue of the deaf' between these two groups. In Canada, some years ago, a book was written which described the relationship between French and English speaking Canadians as Two Solitudes. I would submit that there are two solitudes in education in most countries which endanger the longevity of important changes and threaten to undermine the very essence of state supported education.

Sources of Change

When 'the wall' came down in 1989, the international order of things changed profoundly. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war, virtually all international and national policies pertained in some way to the confrontation between the 'West' and the 'East'. As Friedman (1999) points out, these power Blocs were like two sumo wrestlers -pushing each other around amidst much grunting, groaning, and ritualistic posturing. Now as the result of information technology and the disappearance of the 'old rules' of international engagement, nations and states, to continue Friedman's sporting metaphor, are in 100 metre races against each other, but no sooner is one completed than another begins. Just as our economies, cultures, and politics, for better or for worse, are becoming increasingly globalised, so is education. Policy makers, aware of this shifting international terrain must focus on policies that help their nation, province or state to participate and survive in a strange and somewhat chaotic game in which the rules keep changing. Much of the rhetoric I hear about education is that 'we' (and you can fill in the 'we') must improve our educational system so that 'our' nation, province, state or district can compete in this changing economic world. Most policy makers, however, speak in the language of failure - that is, our (and you can fill in the 'our') educational system has failed our young people and us. I think a better argument and a more realistic one is that our system has delivered what we historically wanted it to deliver, but now it is obsolete and must change. Not only is this a more accurate reflection of the global situation, but also would encourage a more enthusiastic and supportive response from the people who have to implement change - teachers and heads.

Unlike policy initiators who often see children as mere statistics, policy implementers face the reality of promoting the learning of a specific group of children, with all their diversity and complexity. Moreover each context creates a set of variable with which policy implementers must contend, and policy initiators are often unaware or unimpressed. Poverty, for example, does affect children's learning. Efforts by some policy makers to obfuscate this reality are unhelpful at best and downright dishonest at worst. One need only read Nick Davis' (1999) description of Sheffield in the Guardian a few months ago to understand the significance of context to pupils' learning. Pupils do not come in the neat little categories that policy makers and academics like to create. Teachers not only face issues of class, but also issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. Moreover, each child comes equipped with his or her own set of needs, interests, and abilities. While policy makers ask how are we going to improve our system to compete in the emerging economy, teachers ask how am I going to get this particular reluctant child to read and write. The goals may be similar but the understanding of each other's reality appears to be lacking.

To policy makers and many academics, teachers are usually viewed as technicians.

Central to this notion of teaching is the belief that if procedures are correctly defined, clearly detailed and correctly monitored, most major teaching decisions can and should be prescribed through policy mandates that alter school schedules, programs, assessment, and teaching responsibilities. . . . When a technical view of teaching is influential, reformers assume that educators have the capacity and ability to teach in different and more effective ways but are either lazy, unknowledgeable, unfocused or resistant to change (Bascia & Hargreaves, in press, p. 5).

Such technical approaches may work when the purpose is to teach a narrow band of low level skills, but to teach each child a rich, intellectually challenging curriculum, however, requires teachers who are able to:

  • deal with the complexity of continually updating their knowledge of subject matter, child development, and assessment strategies,

  • work collaboratively with colleagues, and engage in positive ways with the social-emotional lives of each child in their care (Hargreaves and Fink, 2000),

  • create meaning for themselves and their pupils in the learning process.

In comparison to other professions, there is clear evidence that teaching ranks highly in task complexity (Rowan, 1994).

Orientation to Change

Policy makers removed from this day-to-day reality tend to espouse broad philosophies based on their own experience, ideological inclinations or educational background. I was forcefully struck by Kenneth Baker's admission that major policy initiatives in England that have influenced countless pupils and teachers were based on personal whim and prejudice (Davis, 1999). Whether it is blind adherence to the wisdom of the market as the solution to all problems, or the unwavering adherence to progressive approaches to curriculum and teaching, the clear evidence is that 'one size does not fit all'. Nonetheless, policies that are often based on political theories are pursued with zealous certitude with little real thought as to the consequences for real pupils in real schools with real teachers. The law of unintended consequences can be cruel. I'm sure, for example, that the government of Ontario when it initiated its reform agenda by blaming its teachers for most of the educational ills of society did not intend to unify its teachers into a broad coalition which staged a two week strike. I'm sure successive British governments did not want to create a teacher and leadership shortage or to precipitate a serious morale issue among teachers.

Policy implementers have a different orientation to the change process from policy initiators. Teachers in particular, and heads tend to operate based on the 'practicality ethic' - does it work for my pupils in my classroom, or for my pupils in my school (Doyle & Ponder, 1977). In my work with colleagues at the International Centre for Educational Change at OISE/U of T., we have succeeded in our change efforts where teachers have considered the innovations we have introduced make a difference to them and their pupils in their classrooms. Our experience in working through recent dramatic changes to Ontario secondary schools, however, indicates that teachers tend to retreat to their departments and classrooms in the face of multiple changes and have difficulty looking at change on a school-wide basis, let alone systemic change. Indeed we are seeing teachers withdraw from school-wide committees, extra-curricular activities and adopting a siege mentality as they experience one change after another. Similarly, many of our very best leaders are retiring early because of their profound disenchantment with the directions of the Ontario government's so called 'common sense' revolution. The loss of experience and wisdom is showing up daily as inexperienced and unprepared leaders learn by trial and error. There is a growing leadership crisis in Ontario and many American states because good people are either leaving the profession or choosing alternative career paths. This is, I am told, an issue in this country. In addition, schools have jettisoned school development plans and other school improvement strategies to manage the onslaught of often ill-conceived government changes. Interestingly, outside mandates does appear to energise those few schools that had a very limited history of school improvement (Hargreaves et al., 2000). It would appear that mandated 'top-down reform' is inversely related to a school's prior record of school improvement (Hargreaves et al., 2000).

Intellectual paradigm

Policy makers operate from a very rational linear intellectual paradigm. They look on education as a technical exercise that can be improved by a mandate here, a new policy there, or an plethora of accountability procedure. They define 'what' the pupils are to learn, divide the learning into convenient chunks, establish time frames, develop a testing regimen, organise suitable materials, and tell teachers how to achieve predetermined targets. Oblige teachers to enrol in in-service sessions to learn the correct way to do what is required and initiate plenty of measures to check that they faithfully carry out the policy makers' designs. This strategy is all rather straightforward, logical, linear and quite consistent with western intellectual thought for the past 400 years. Ren' Descartes said, "I think therefore I exist" and set in motion an intellectual revolution that underpins all of our major institutions, especially schools. Reason and rationality have become the only acceptable ways of knowing. Since he didn't say I feel, I sense, I intuit, I believe - feelings, intuition, memory, ethics, and common sense have been largely cast out of intellectual discourse (Saul, 1993). When combined with the Newtonian mechanical school of physics that suggested that we live in an orderly universe that was knowable through rational scientific methods, we have the basis for much of western thought. Within this intellectual paradigm, the world is knowable through logical, linear, cause-effect techniques. If we can just take things apart and then put them together again the object of study, be it the universe, the human body, or a child's learning needs, is knowable. Faith in science, progress and technology underpin this way of thinking. This kind of reductionism has brought us untold scientific and technological triumphs, from the unlocking of the genetic code to the splitting of the atom.

Our businesses, schools and other social organisations reflect this way of thinking. For example, a pupil who attends virtually any secondary school is looked upon not as a whole living, breathing, feeling person but in terms of his or her parts - the history part, the science part, the math part and so on. The pupil proceeds in a perfectly linear, logical way from class to class, each of which is organised into a period of equal length regardless of the learning programme. The pupil then progresses in assembly-line fashion from year to year until he or she leaves school. This has proven to be a very efficient way to educate large numbers of pupils. Its effectiveness, however, is another matter. Similarly, 'Fordist' approaches to manufacturing have provided efficient ways to mass-produce consumer goods. In both examples, however, this reductionism has focused attention on the parts of the process and not on the entire process.

Since the early 1970s, the newer sciences such as quantum physics, molecular biology, Gestalt psychology and ecology have challenged the conventional rational-linear paradigm. Their proponents have argued that rationality must be balanced by an ecological approach which looks at human and natural systems holistically, and rather than just knowing them through their parts attempting to understand their interrelationship and connections within larger systems. For example, the universe is now recognised as chaotic and only knowable through the patterns of relationships and connections among components of the universe. Unlike the mechanical watch-like universe of Newton, the universe of the systems-thinker is like a 'bubbling bowl of porridge' that is chaotic but produces patterns of activity that are knowable. Within this paradigm, pupils are seen as whole persons who operate in particular contexts and are only knowable and therefore teachable if one is conversant with the patterns which affect the individual's life. Implementers face a non-rational, non-linear, complex and some would even suggest chaotic reality. Unless policy makers are prepared to understand the policy implementers reality - the influence of context, micro-politics, school culture, the emotions of teaching and learning and leadership styles on educational change ' school systems are, in the words of Michael Fullan, 'doomed to tinkering' (Fullan, 1991). Policy makers need to understand more than just the content of the changes they mandate, they must grasp the complexities and subtleties of the change process (Tyack & Tobin, 1994; Tyack & Cuban, 1995; Stoll & Fink, 1996). To bridge the 'two solitudes', policy makers need to address both the content and processes of change simultaneously (Sergiovanni, 2000).

Change Strategy

The prevailing change strategy, as mentioned, emanating from government offices has been a top down- compliance model. The pattern in North America has been fairly consistent - first manufacture an educational crisis by naming, blaming and shaming educators for real and alleged failures of the system; design a curriculum with more content and 'higher' standards; change structures of governance to reduce local political control, and reduce funding in the name of efficiency. Since teachers and other educators are perceived to be the source of most problems, they must be obliged to comply with mandates by elaborate and usually expensive accountability measures. Simply stated, change is not something done 'with' educators it is done 'to' them. More recently the failure of such policies is gradually being replaced by policies which are no less controlling but at least recognise the complexity of the change process. I applaud, for example, the British government's intent if not the method to improve programmes for inner cities and to reduce social exclusion by improving access to good education for all. There does seem to be an honest attempt to provide teachers with good materials and appropriate assistance as they adjust to new ways of doing things. Early evidence suggests that there tends to be more of a doing 'with' approach than similar change projects in the past. Many questions remain, however. One that interests me is how testing and other accountability measures will affect the intent of the strategy. When senior policy officials use North Carolina and particularly Texas as exemplary models, there is reason for profound concern in this country. The evidence in some of the U.S. states that appear to have influenced British policy suggests that the 'testing tail will wag the teaching and learning dog' (Jones et al., 1999: McNeil, 2000), and further discriminate against minorities and the less advantaged. The ultimate test for the literacy and numeracy strategies of course will come when the accountability pressure is reduced and the funds begin to dwindle, as they inevitably will. Will the strategies become institutionalised as "part of the way we do things around here", or will they disappear as so many large-scale change efforts have over time? Will the traditional 'grammar of schooling' reassert itself? (Tyack & Tobin, 1994). How adaptable is the strategy to changing national and international contexts? It will be interesting to see if this change initiative is able to balance pressure and support. More significantly, will the initiative promote genuine learning or merely test taking skills? There is considerable evidence that technicist approaches to change raise test scores but contribute little to pupils' desire to imagine, create, and think critically (Orfield, & Kurlaender, forthcoming, Earl & LeMahieu, 1997).

There is unfortunately, not a great deal of room in most of the reform agendas internationally for creativity, imagination, flexibility and innovation. Clearly, knowledge workers must possess these qualities to function effectively in a changing economic climate. This raises an interesting paradox. On one hand schools must prepare its charges for a world of complexity, and indeterminacy. The pupils in our schools today must be more creative, imaginative, resilient and persistent than pupils in the past. Paradoxically, the people who must prepare pupils in this way are treated like skilled trades people by being required to deliver pre-packaged programmes designed to assist pupils to achieve on tests which in most cases assess relatively low level skills and knowledges. I saw a recent report, which stated that the GCSEs were in large measure a test of memory. If this were true, this finding would be consistent with testing internationally. A major challenge for policy makers then, is to develop accountability procedures that assure the public of the value of its investment in education, without turning our teachers and heads into rather dull-witted robots.

Purposes of Change

At the root of the 'two solitudes' between policy makers and policy implementers is that they focus on different and in some cases conflicting purposes for education and educational change. Brouilette (1996) has summarised the four most common ways of viewing the purposes of education as humanist, social efficiency, developmentalist, and social meliorist. To the humanist the purpose of education is to prepare pupils for citizenship so that they understand the values, and traditions embodied in their societies' institutions. To this end, pupils must be sufficiently literate to communicate with their fellow citizens and have the knowledge necessary to comprehend current issues and cast their vote appropriately. In practice this has tended to be interpreted as an emphasis on the teaching of the liberal arts with an focus on the "basics" - grammar, spelling, and an understanding of western, Eurocentric values and traditions.

To those who advocate social efficiency, the purpose of schools is to prepare students for jobs, and to contribute to the economic well being of society as a whole. The concept of students as "human capital" evolves from this point of view. Business oriented politicians tend to focus on the non-college bound students and inquire into their employability. While this view places an emphasis on the basics and sees education as a very linear "input-output" process, it does stress the need for vocational education and education to prepare pupils to make a living.

The developmentalist position holds that education should help individual students to develop their personal potential, "so that they are prepared to be creative, self-motivated lifelong learners who are effective problem-solvers, able to communicate and collaborate with others, and to meet the varied challenges they will encounter in their adult lives" (p. 224). While humanists and developmentalists have similar aspirations for students, they diverge on where to put the emphasis in curricula. The humanist is much more concerned with forms and precision than the developmentalist. The developmentalist would entertain invented writing and focus more on the content and ideas of a student's work than on the syntax and spelling. To focus too early on what they might see are cosmetics, they would argue, inhibits a student's creativity and imagination.

The purpose of education to the social meliorist is to bring about a more just society, "through using the schools to help those children whose background puts them at risk, to get the resources they need to succeed, and through teaching all students about diverse cultures and ethnic heritages, thus helping them to grow into open-minded, tolerant adults" (p. 224). Those who advocate this view would see the humanist approach to be narrow, traditional, elitist, overly Eurocentic, and perpetuating the tyranny of the majority. In a similar vein they would view the social efficiency perspective as exploitive and "unthinking replication of social injustice". The developmentalist view with its focus on individual growth and development, from a social meliorist point of view, tends to ignore the social context and social ills that prevent students from taking advantage of opportunities. The developmentalist emphasis on co-operation can easily mean co-optation with forces that should be confronted. These positions help to explain the challenge of developing shared meaning in a community, a school, or among governors where all four purpose positions often co-exist somewhat uneasily. In general, people in schools who must implement polices tend to emphasise developmentalist and social meliorist goals whereas policy makers, who are more in tune with international and national trends and less directly involved with schools and pupils, tend to emphasise humanist and particularly social efficiency goals.

Success criteria and change

The 'two solitudes are also inclined to assess the results of reform in quite different way. The policy maker will want clear measurable evidence that change has occurred. Standardised testing and/or inspections provide evidence of change. Interestingly, scores on standardised tests almost invariably go up on the second administration of a test. Policy makers will often use this as evidence of the correctness of their policies. Similarly, results of inspections the second and third time around usually show improvement. This pattern begs the question - are these gains the result of the policy initiatives or the fact that teachers and pupils have become better at handling the accountability procedures? A second criterion for success from a policy maker's perspective is the fidelity with which the reforms are carried through in the classroom. Are the implementers implementing in the ways in which the change was intended? Surely this is what OFSTED is all about. The third criterion for policy makers is popularity (Cuban, 1998). Are the changes politically popular? Often the pressured climate created by policy makers is to provide tangible results before another election. In Ontario, the government has done such an effective job of demeaning the teaching profession that its solution of teacher testing proved politically very popular in the last election. The fact that there are few if any examples of teacher tests that contribute to quality makes little difference when political advantage is to be gained. Similarly, the mania for standardised pupil testing has swept the world because it is efficient, popular, inexpensive, supported by powerful vested interests, and can be carried out with fidelity. There is an impressive body of evidence that suggests that all that pupils are learning is how to write tests as opposed to learnings that will prepare them for the information society (McNeil, 2000). To the teacher in the classroom, success is not an array of disembodied statistics on tests of questionable utility; they judge the efficacy of a change initiative on whether it can be adapted to their individual context. Similarly, heads find change that they can adapt to their unique communities more useful. Kindergarten as a concept has spread throughout the world because it could be adapted to many different contexts (Tyack & Cuban, 1995). Many teachers use a version of co-operative group learning, but its use differs widely from the original literature on the topic. They also like changes with some staying power. In Ontario where one change has followed another in rapid succession, policy implementers have become very cynical and are just hoping that like a kidney stone ' changes they find painful will pass. They do what they have to do and little more. For most secondary teachers, they find little meaning in the changes.

Conceptions of Time

Another source of the 'two solitudes' is based on differing concepts of time. Policy makers tend to operate within a monochronic time frame. Monochronic time is concerned with doing one thing at a time in discrete segments, in an organised and scheduled manner. Most of us in this room if you look at your daily diary operate on monochronic time. Your focus and mine for many years was and is on the completion of schedules, perhaps to the exclusion of context and the building of relationships with people. Most western organisations operate on monchronic time because this is the traditional way to get business done, and achieve results (Hargreaves, 1994).

Teachers, particularly primary teachers operate on polychronic time. As anyone who has spent time in a primary classroom will know, there are many things going on at once to which the teacher must attend within the immediate context. According to Andy Hargreaves (1994) "it is a world deeply grounded in intense, sustained, and subtly shifting interpersonal relationships among large groups of children and between these children and their teacher"(p.104). Heads in many primary schools in particular also tend to operate on polychronic time. Days are often a series of unrelated events, crises and occasionally planned activity. Misunderstanding and poor policy implementation can occur when policy makers who tend to operate on monochronic time fail to consider the polychronic concepts of time of the people who have to implement changes.

Building Bridges

While the preceding discussion has tended to dichotomise the world of the 'policy maker' and the world of the 'policy implementer', the challenge for the people in between is to create and maintain bridges of understanding between the two realities as the way to build a 'state of the art' educational system. There is an old Indian proverb " You think because you understand one you must understand two, because one and one makes two. But you must also understand and." I would suggest in a rapidly changing world in which the rules of living are changing daily that we go back to first principles and define the 'and' around learning - pupils' learning, teachers' learning, and organisational learning. Elsewhere, my colleagues and I have addressed these levels of learning (Stoll, Fink &Earl, forthcoming), for purposes of this paper I will address leaders' learning.

Implications for Leaders

At a time when schools require exemplary leadership, as suggested earlier, there is a growing feeling among many quality educators in many jurisdictions, that life is too short to put up with the government initiated agenda, and it is best to retreat to the classroom, find another way to make a living, or just retire early. Certainly this is a very clear pattern in Ontario at the moment. Judging by the plethora of advertisements in the TES, there has been a similar response in England as well. Ironically at a time when schools need to attract imaginative, energetic and innovative people, jurisdictions, internationally are busy cranking out lists of 'competencies', 'targets', and 'expectations' that leaders are supposed to accomplish. There is certainly no consensus in the business or educational literature on what makes a 'good' leader. It is, therefore, difficult to reduce the roles leaders play in schools or systems to a simple laundry list of technical competencies. As Day (2000) concluded from a study conducted by the University of Nottingham on effective school heads, "rational models that focus on the development of only behavioural skills and competencies are insufficient to meet the needs of those new and aspiring heads who wish to become and remain successful in the changing times" (p.59). Leadership is not a destination with fixed coordinates on a compass, but a journey with plenty of detours and dead ends. Effective educational leaders are continuously open to new learning because their journey keeps changing. Their maps are complex and confusing. What leaders require for this journey is a set of 'learnings' that can be deepened, elaborated, nurtured, abandoned and connected over time and related to other 'learnings' as the journey progresses.

Invitational leadership

Elsewhere, Louise Stoll and I have tried to capture what we think these learnings should be when we described the concept of invitational leadership (Stoll & Fink, 1996). We suggested that leadership that will contribute to positive change requires a different face - an alternative to prevailing models. In our work we have suggested an approach, invitational leadership, that reflects the rational and non-rational, the predictable and unpredictable aspects of leadership in schools, and recognises the multiple roles school leaders are required to fulfil (Stoll & Fink, 1996). Moreover, invitational leadership is a 'doing with' people as opposed to 'doing to'. It is a view that captures both the personal and professional aspects of school leadership. Invitations are messages which communicate to others that they are able, responsible and worthwhile (Purkey & Novak, 1984). Leadership, therefore, is about communicating invitational messages to individuals and groups with whom leaders interact in order to build and act on a shared and evolving vision of enhanced educational experiences for pupils (Stoll & Fink, 1996, p.109). The unique challenge for the people caught between policy makers and policy implementers, like LEA officials and heads and deputies, is to develop with colleagues this shared sense of direction which recognises the legitimate requirements and needs of both policy makers and policy implementers. What follows then are nine suggestions as to the type of learning the people 'in-the-middle' will need in order to rationalise the two quite divergent world views to the benefit of all the pupils.

Knowing thy context

Oakes and her colleagues (2000) conclude from their studies of school reform in California that "reform is far less logical and technically rational" than reformers would like to think. " It is idiosyncratic ' dependent on the context of local relationships, histories and opportunities" (Oakes, et al., p. 574). Context may be defined as "the whole situation, background, or environment relevant to some happening" (Grossman, & Stodolsky, 1994, p.181). Internal context includes the pupils, subjects and departments, and the school itself; external context encompass, among other influences, the district or local education authority of which the school is a part, the school's parent and neighbouring community, the teachers' unions and the government of the day. Elsewhere we have suggested five different contexts - moving, cruising, struggling, strolling and sinking schools (Stoll & Fink, 1996). Much has been written about leadership in 'sinking' and 'struggling' schools (Stoll & Myers, 1998), but keeping a moving school moving (Fink, 2000) or 'jump-starting' a 'cruising' school (Stoll & Fink, 1998) are different matters because of different contexts. The idea of 'one-size-fits- all' whether we are talking about curriculum, pedagogy, assessment or leadership is nonsense, because it fails to account for the uniqueness of individuals and contexts. Leaders must have in their arsenal of strategies ways to analyse their contexts. In addition to knowing about pupil achievement in total, they need to know how various sub-groups in the school are doing. How do boys compare to girls for example? Context-aware leaders know how the pupils, parents, and teachers are feeling about the school. They understand the deeper social context in which their school resides. Through effective classroom appraisal they know and can support the learning programme of each classroom (Fink & Stoll, 1997). One of my mentors used to say I do "people things during the day and paper things at night". It was not unusual to see him sitting with a group of pupils doing a science experiment or contributing to a group discussion in English. He truly "managed by walking around". Another colleague in a primary school gave each teacher three vouchers per term that the teacher could use to have the head cover his or her class for a few hours. This head had a very clear picture of the quality of teaching and learning in his school. John Macbeth's book Schools Must Speak for Themselves: The case for school self-evaluation provides many useful strategies to 'know thy context'

Attending to details

Have you ever got in your car, driven to work and arrived at you classroom or office and can't remember the trip? I suspect that if you are like the many people to whom I have directed this question the situation will sound familiar. It is almost like your car is on 'cruise-control' and operates itself. While change is a significant part of life in schools, many things are quite predictable. There will be new pupils, new teachers and new parents so procedures for induction should be planned and activated. Bullying occurs on most playgrounds, always has and always will. Procedures should exist which all staff members are required to enforce. Reporting to parents, parent conferences, governors meeting and the many other predictable events can be planned, scheduled and routinely managed. In effect, there are a myriad of predictable procedures and practices that must be put on 'cruise control'. People must not only be able to trust the leadership; they must also be able to trust the policies, practices, and routines that are established. Louise Stoll and I have used the term 'sweat the small stuff' elsewhere (Stoll & Fink, 1996), and what we meant was attend to the small details or they will become large issues that get in the way of pupils' and teachers' learning. Chris James (personal communication) describes this as "the engineering (operations, systems maintenance) side of leadership". It is no accident that when new leader turned around failing schools, they 'sweated the small stuff' first (National Commission on Education, 1996; Stoll and Myers. 1998) ' they attended to the 'engineering side of leadership'. Most of the educational books focus on change, continuity is equally important.

Equating leadership with change is an idea that finds its way deep into the educational policy and administration literature. In today's world it is the leader as change agent who gets the glory and the praise. But leadership should be regarded as a force that not only changes but protects and intensifies a school's present idea structure in a way that enhances meaning and significance for students, parents, and teachers, and other locals in the school community (Sergiovanni, p. 60)

In a culture of constant change and unceasing improvement efforts, teachers become stressed and burned out. The history of innovative schools is replete with evidence of 'overreaching' and never taking the time and 'shifting gears' to concentrate on consolidating change through effective policies and procedures. Continuity is not only important for the emotional health of teachers (Hargreaves, 1998) but also vital for on going change efforts. Exhausted teachers make very poor change agents. Unfortunately, government policy makers are often oblivious to this notion. Conversely, continuity can easily become immobility and stagnation. "Habit is a labour saving device" (Tyack & Tobin, 1994). The leadership challenge is to maintain a school's momentum in creative and exciting ways ' what I like to call 'creative continuity'. Perhaps, a school could streamline its parents evenings, or develop a week-long electives programme for pupils that uses staff and community expertise, or a community picnic, or a spelling contest ' anything to keep peoples' creative juices flowing.

Holding everyone to a higher standard

Ted Sizer's (1984) famous book Horace's Compromise is about a teacher who agrees not to challenge certain pupils if they tacitly agree not to disrupt the class and bother him. Invitational leaders hold high standards for both pupil and teacher performance, and most importantly for themselves. Not only are practices such as Horace's which prevent learning and are dehumanising for pupils challenged, the invitational leader requires pupils to adhere to reasonable standards of behaviour. The effective schools literature is very clear, effective schools are well managed. Not only do they promote positive pupil behaviours, they use time wisely and they hold high expectations for all children. Leaders hold themselves and their followers accountable. They make sure the rules that are agreed on are enforced, that government regulations are enforced, that the national curriculum is in place and that the school is prepared for inspections.

Building political bridges

Invitational leaders must represent the interests of their school in the LEA, with the school governors, the community, the inspectors and the Department. Politics is about power and influence and to ignore it or to consider that political activity is unworthy of a leader is to leave the school its staff, students and parent vulnerable to competing social forces. Politics can be seen as largely conflictual and to be avoided (Ball, 1987; Mintzberg, et al 1998). Blase (1998) discriminate between 'power over' and 'power with' and suggest that leaders who are prepared to share power and influence 'with' other groups and agencies can create positive politics.

In education, as in most other endeavours, leaders must have well oiled, well tuned 'crap detectors'. 'Necessity', 'efficiency', and 'urgency' are the tools of technocrats. 'Inquiry', 'memory', 'ethics' and 'common sense' and a healthy scepticism, are the guardians of the public good. There are plenty of people with answers, but few with the courage to ask the right questions. "Knowing and remembering to ask the right questions requires wisdom and judgement" (Secretan, 1996, p.4). A significant part of the leaders job is to act as a gate keeper, to ask the right questions, to know what initiatives to support, what to oppose, and what to subvert. A learning organisation (Senge, 1990; Mulford, 1998), therefore, asks questions. There are more than enough answers floating around, what leaders must learn is to ask better questions so that they and their colleagues can arrive at better answers for their context. This questions-asking facility then is a prerequisite 'learning' to building capacity to deal with change.

Making connections

There is an old story of four blind men encountering an elephant and trying to determine what it is. One blind man, feeling a leg, declares the unknown object to be a tree. A second feeling a tusk declares the object to be a spear and a third man holding onto a squirming trunk decides it must be a snake. The fourth blind man touching an ear indicates that they have found a fan. Development of improvement strategies in a school can often take on this kind of scenario. Participants identify the school's needs and directions from their unique perceptions. It is the leader's role to see the entire organisation and help stakeholders to view the school in a holistic, ecological way. Leaders provide coherence and make connections so that school staff's can see the inter-relationships and interconnections of the many things happening in a school. The development of a school-wide perspective, particularly in large departmentalised schools is an important 'learning' to promote positive change.

Traditionally, educational change has tended to mean altering the use of time, space, roles and responsibilities and decision-making patterns. School days have been lengthened, the school year altered, middle schools created or eliminated, super teacher roles introduced and responsibility over school governance decentralised, all in the name of school reform. There is little credible evidence that changes in structure improve pupils' learning. These structural changes may be important and provide a setting for improvements but on their own do little. Policy makers love to alter structures because changes tend to be visible and simpler than adjustments to the essential 'grammar of schooling' (Tyack & Tobin, 1994). To promote the holistic view we have suggested, leaders must learn how to look at change in a multi-dimensional ways 'to look at change through multiple frames or lenses (Bolman & Deal, 1997; Louis, Toole, & Hargreaves, 1999; Fink, 2000). Various authors use different frames or images to examine change (Morgan, 1997; Mintzberg, et al, 1998). In my work with the Change Frames project of the International Centre for Educational Change at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/ University of Toronto we use seven frames (Hargreaves et al., 2000):

  • The purpose frame is concerned with the moral purposes of change. Does the change have a clear moral purpose? Is the change demonstrably connected to purposes of teaching, learning, and caring in classrooms in ways that matter for teachers?

  • The emotion frame is concerned with the feelings and emotions of educational change. How does reform impact upon teachers' caring relationships with their students and their colleagues? How do schools as workplaces and our attempts to change them promote 'positive' emotions like exhilaration and enjoyment, or negative ones like guilt, shame or frustration?

  • The political frame is concerned with changes of power, as well as with how one creates the power to bring about change. How can teachers apply positive politics to benefit their students? How do school leaders identify what interests will benefit and which ones will be threatened by change efforts and identify how positive politics can be used to promote high performance learning communities?

  • The Cultural Frame requires schools to address such questions as, does the school staff and community have a shared sense of direction? Do the staff members collectively assume responsibility for school success? Do people work together to achieve school goals?

  • The structural frame raises such questions as - how do we create time for collaboration? How might we alter present spatial relationships to improve our chances of working together? To what extent do roles and relationships divide as opposed to unify our staff?

  • The organisational and professional learning frame is concerned with how teachers and others learn to cope with the particular changes that are being implemented as well as about how to cope with change in general. Organisational and professional learning deal with how well organisations like schools can develop teachers' knowledge, skills; engage in collective problem-solving, and embrace conflict as an opportunity not a constraint.

  • The leadership frame therefore is concerned with both the formal and informal leaders who must foster organisational development and learning, and also foster and preserve the kind of relationships within a school which promote organisational learning. Without effective leadership the goal of high performance learning communities is a difficult if not impossible goal.

Taken together these frames help leaders to open up issues and develop strategies based on multiple perspectives as opposed to defining issues in narrow, simplistic and task- oriented ways. Implementation and more importantly institutionalisation of change require attention to the various frames we have identified in the foregoing discussion.

Building a critical mass

Some years ago, one of my mentors was asked by a politician, "why do you always promote good teachers?" In his gruff way, he growled, "would you prefer the alternative?" Successful schools build a critical mass of formal and informal leaders who influence more reluctant colleagues to move forward on agreed upon changes (Fink, 2000). Innovative and successful schools, however, tend to produce leaders who are often promoted to other settings. Leaders who intend to perpetuate the best of a school's culture have a plan to replace these key people. An important learning for leaders then is to recruit, induct and ultimately replace, through succession planning, key personnel in the organisation. Many innovative settings have lost momentum because of the failure of its leaders to plan for the succession of key staff members. Moreover, the invitational leader has a plan to assist the school governors to find appropriate replacements to lead the school through the next stages of its organisations life cycle.

Building collaborative cultures

The field of school improvement is strewn with the failures of past change initiatives. School effectiveness, school improvement, restructuring, reform, regardless of the title have made little significant impact on pupils' learning. While each has powerful ideas to contribute to the creation of a learning organisation, there appears to be a missing ingredient. As we have suggested elsewhere (Fink & Stoll, 1998) that missing ingredient may very well be a need to reculture schools and their larger systems. As indicated in the introduction, schools as we know them are not failures necessarily but perhaps they are obsolete. Traditional school cultures may well be inimical to the kind of learning necessary to prepare our pupils for a very different world than the one in which we grew up.

Reculturing is "the process of developing new values, beliefs and norms. For systematic reform it involves building new conceptions about instruction . . . and new forms of professionalism for teachers" (Fullan, 1996). Schools are complex networks of interrelated and interconnected forces that help to define each school's uniqueness. These forces are often unseen and intangible but are knowable by their results. You often only learn the unwritten rules of a school's culture when you break one. It is as stated earlier "the way we do things around here" (Deal and Kennedy, 1983). Schools do not have cultures - they are cultures. Improving schools are characterised by a teaching staff which has shared goals, collegiality as defined by joint work, continuous improvement and learning, risk-taking and mutual support, among other cultural norms (Stoll and Fink, 1996).

If schools are to be effective in the future for all students and build structures which promote interrelationships and interconnections, then cultures must be developed which simultaneously promote collegiality and individuality (Hargreaves, 1994). As paradoxical as it sounds, not only must the school's culture promote group learning to enhance the knowledge and skills of teachers but it also must honour the individual, the 'maverick', because creativity and novelty will be required to deal with an unknowable future and prevent 'groupthink' (Janis, 1972). In effect, cultures and counter-cultures must interact to find innovative solutions to complex and unpredictable circumstances. Reculturing goes beyond redefining the content and forms of teacher cultures. It must include pupil, community and policy makers' cultures as well. Students collectively can be a conservative force when teachers attempt to change their practise (Rudduck, 1991; McLaughlin and Talbert, 1993) because they find change from usual practises threatening. Similarly, as many studies reveal, communities are also often resistant to educational change (Fletcher, Caron, and Williams, 1985; Smith Dwyer, Prunty, & Kleine, 1989). To build bridges between our two solitudes requires policy implementers to understand the pressures and culture of policy initiators. It isn't just a one way street.

Keeping the school under review

Organisations tend to move between continuity and change, stability and chaos, creativity and consolidation, conflict and cohesion, reinforcing and limiting processes, 'clock time' and the ebb and flow of natural time. In a sense, a dialectic emerges in schools between these paradoxical forces. A school which leans too far towards continuity, cohesion, and consolidation can become what we have described as a 'cruising' school - a school which appears effective but does not have a capacity for change and will in time become ineffective (Stoll and Fink, 1996; 1998). Conversely some schools can literally 'overdose' on change and innovation and 'overreach' to the point that they experience 'entropy' and in some cases death, or at least closure (Fletcher et al, 1985; Riley, 1999; Fink 1999). The challenge for invitational leaders is to promote a synthesis among the paradoxical forces that affect schools through the continual rethinking of purposes, reflection on policies and practices, by reinforcing best practices and encouraging staff to grow professionally (MacBeth, 1999). Review and introspection should not occur only when OFSTED knocks on the door. It should be a daily, weekly, monthly activity that eliminates the great panic that many school experience when an inspection is in the offing.

Making wise judgements

What differentiates between effective leaders and ineffective leaders is the quality of their judgements. Do their decisions work for the pupils of the school in the long term? The greatest challenge for educators, of course, is 'to prove' that their judgements 'are wise' because the results may not show up for years. Education is for a lifetime, yet policy makers want demonstrations of success in the short term. Leithwood (1999) refers to this area of learning as leaders "problem-solving processes" ' "how leaders respond to the unique and organizational circumstances or problems that they face" (p.15) ' contingency theory. There is a large body of valuable research that examines successful leaders thinking processes (See Leithwood, 1999 for an excellent summary). In spite of a plethora of research, however, my experience with innumerable school leaders tells me that good judgement cannot be taught ' you either have it or you don't. Sad to say, but all the courses, exhortations, competency lists in the world cannot help a person who does not have an intuitive sense of what is the right or wrong course of action in a particular situation. This relates to another intangible that cannot be taught ' I call it 'presence'. Some people exude confidence, control, conviction in a course of action, and the courage to act even 'against the odds'. We have all met such people ' in a group we somehow naturally turn to these people for leadership. I can't prove this ' I haven't got a list of references to support this notion, and I'm not quite sure how to research it. Call it an article of faith.

In this last paragraph, I have used some words that by-in-large have been cast out of contemporary intellectual discourse - intuition, experience, and faith. I would add a few more such as trust, hope, collaboration, and passion ' equally 'unsexy' words in our present educational debate. They are, however, the words that can lead us out of 'the 'two' solitudes'. Policy makers and policy implementers want the same things ' the best possible educational experience for pupils. I have met very few policy makers, even those at the highest levels, who were not passionately committed to the goal of improved educational experiences for pupils. Similarly, I have, in my forty years of experience as an educator, met few teachers or heads who did not possess a burning desire to do the best they can for their pupils. The ultimate goal is the same, the dedication is the same, but the rhetoric, attributions and misunderstanding between these 'two solitudes' makes genuine change a chimera. A 'world class educational system requires more than just attending to rational policy making: it also entails attending to the non-rationality of schools and classrooms, and the recognition of uncertainty. It is upon a 'bridge' of 'trust', 'hope', 'collaboration' and 'passion' for excellence in its broadest definition that the 'two solitudes' can finally meet.


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