Research evidences that exemplary school leadership is linked to student learning outcomes, teaching efficacy and whole school improvement. As we enter into the design phase for the Australian Principal Certification Program, we will work with our National Principal Design Team to design a way in which principals will clearly evidence the Australian Professional Standard for Principals in action, and by doing so, draw connection between contemporary research and evidence http://www.pai.edu.au/certification/
Part of this challenge requires us to call on all our resources, contemporary research and the skills, knowledge and expertise of exemplary principals with whom we have the good fortune to work. We must also explore the nature of professional learning and the way it informs principal leadership.
As leading learners, principals should be recognised as knowledge creators, rather than knowledge consumers. This means that in order to lead and manage the complex nature of schools and schooling, they seek transformative learning experiences that shift them along the learning trajectory, allowing them to make meaning by connecting or applying their learning to practical experience. This implies that leaders must spend time on themselves, allowing time to digest a new experience and internalise their thinking, in order to make meaning from the learning, so as to be in a position to apply knowledge to practice. “Meaning making is then enhanced as perspectives are challenged.” (Robertson, J, 2013, p58) It is when our opinions and beliefs are challenged by others – respected peers and researchers in the field to name a few, that real growth occurs. Exemplary principals are therefore prepared to confront their opinions, beliefs and thinking processes in order to learn more and lead better. In the design of the Australian Principal Certification experience, we are exploring how we might endeavour to recognise learning as a communal experience.
Principals don’t necessarily become better at their craft by accumulating years on the job, although the years do bring invaluable experience. Authentic leadership must be about learning, not just knowing. And learning is about one’s openness to new and different ways of thinking. It is about the desire and thirst to know and understand, in order to do. And great leaders strive to do better. They don’t pretend to know everything, but they can operate effectively to guide the implementation of a vision, through times of uncertainly and in the “realm of the unknown for transformative change. Leaders do not have the answers in this new realm – or it would not be leadership, but managing the status quo, the known.” (Robertson, J, 2013, p56)