My Leadership Inquiry – the New Problem of Practice

In our district, every educational leader pursues a leadership inquiry. It’s a way to investigate an area of leadership where you want to learn more. That said, it’s not just “pick a topic”! The inquiry must be rooted in continuous learning improvement, which means based on educator learning need, which is, in turn, driven by student learning need. This is difficult work, and one of the most challenging aspects is landing on an inquiry that is meaningful and practical.

Our work has been largely informed by Steven Katz‘s research. The tools we use are intentional interruptions to ways of thinking, such as an inquiry template and a learning conversation protocol. They interrupt that thinking so we can do some real learning.

The leadership inquiry also represents a small slice of our work. In other words, it’s not the whole job crammed into a learning template.  The inquiry is a series of small learning moves that help a leader reflect on how they influence others.

In the interests of transparency, you can view my leadership inquiry here. As I often say to the leaders I work with, it’s an example, not an exemplar. But it gives a flavour of the intense thinking and reflection that I go through with small learning moves. Let me know if you have any questions!

Photo Credit: melystu Flickr via Compfight cc

10 comments on “My Leadership Inquiry – the New Problem of Practice

  1. adunsige says:

    Sue, I love how you shared your leadership inquiry here. Not only does it help us better understand this cycle (which, I know for myself, I’m still working to understand), but it clearly shows that we’re all on a learning journey. There’s something incredibly powerful when a Board leader is this transparent, and for that, I thank you. You’re making me contemplate how I can continue to be even more transparent in my learning. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Aviva

    • sjdunlop says:

      Aviva – transparency is important to me. I think we have a tendency to see leaders as the “other” and not as human beings just like us, so pulling back the curtain is important. Thanks for reading.

  2. Zoe says:

    Thank you for sharing. I have realized, upon much reflection as educator that my thinking – especially in busy, demanding times, can get incredibly confused and even lack clarity- and therefor the focus can move away from student learning or school improvement. Your post is organized in a way to help see, while there are different layers, we need to be intentional and thoughtful about our approach. The connections to our personal competences resonates too.

    • sjdunlop says:

      Zoe – yes, so easy to be pulled in all directions in the competing demands of our jobs. Education is complex, and even when we try to focus on that small slice, it can be tempting to go in many directions. The organisation of the template helps me with this too. Thanks for reading!

  3. Brandy says:

    I love that you’ve made your metacognition about your inquiry visible. I can see your transformational process in action, which imho, is where the deep learning happens! Thanks for the opportunity to vicariously peek into your leadership journey. 😀

    • sjdunlop says:

      Brandy – thanks for reading! The journey of reflection is a really important one for me and I’m glad you can see it through my inquiry.

  4. astanfie says:

    This comment intrigues me: “I continue to wrestle with the difference between commitment and compliance”. I know in my own practice, when students complete a task out of compliance, it is often lacking reflection and does not demonstrate deep learning. When they see the task as relevant, engaging and meaningful, they are more committed. Is this similar when working with adults? I know that when I am in PD or a staff meeting, if I know why I’m completing a task, and if I see that there is good reason for it, I dive right in; when I see it as something I “have to do”, I do the least that’s expected. Maybe this is a future blog post for us both?

    I appreciate that you ask questions in your reflections. We may not know the answers yet, but being so vulnerable as to ask the question at all shows that you are really considering your next steps. I’m really interested in this one: “I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable –why?” Does this arise because you are trying to achieve a balance? Nudge people outside of their comfort zone, but not too far?

    I am grateful that you are modelling this transparency. Your audience can gain insight into deep learning, and it is reassuring to see that learning continues no matter where we are on our journey.

    Thanks Sue.

    • sjdunlop says:

      Thanks for commenting, Adele. The compliance vs. commitment conundrum is ongoing. We all have to comply to a certain extent with regulations, legislation etc, but finding the big “why” in even these can make all the difference. Committing to something is an individual decision, so my role is how do I influence that? Difficult work!!

      • astanfie says:

        In the classroom, we try to get beyond compliance by making it meaningful; context is key, having a good reason to do the work. We can also encourage commitment by making it engaging. You are right that committing is an individual decision, and that you can influence this decision, but how? Can this tough work be made more meaningful and engaging? I’m still not sure if your inquiry is parallel to the work we do in the classroom, but it’s a parallel that I’ve drawn in my mind.

        • sjdunlop says:

          My inquiry is essentially about influence, and I agree there is a parallel to the classroom. I find the work super engaging because it is all about my own learning and I want to improve. Thanks so much for continuing the conversation.

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