School Leadership Team Goal- Setting - Steve Barkley

School Leadership Team Goal- Setting

I recently did a Skype facilitation for a school leadership team to set the stage for their goal-setting for next year. I thought you might be able to use some of the elements in your leadership planning.

As a starting point, I suggested they needed a vision of student learning.

A plan for continuous student growth in learning requires agreeing on desired learning outcomes.

We began by exploring these tasks:

  • List student achievement results you are making now that are most rewarding of your efforts.
  • What would you identify as desired areas of advancement in student achievement that extend beyond our current success?

After this initial conversation, I took some time to examine “deep learning.”

The PBS video Teachers Embrace ‘Deep Learning,’ Teaching Practical Skills,   illustrated examples of fourth grade students creating puppets that showed the changes in characters throughout a play, 8th grade students designing energy creating devices and high school math students doing exit polling outside community election sites in order to conduct their statistical analysis of the data.

We identified these element of deeper learning:

  • Mastery of Core Academic Content
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Collaboration
  • Effective Communication
  • Self- Directed Learning
  • An Academic Mindset

Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy writing in A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning  provided the following thoughts for guiding the discussion:

  • The explicit aim is deep learning that goes beyond the mastery of existing content

knowledge. Here, deep learning is defined as ‘creating and using new knowledge in

the world.’ Technology has unleashed learning, and the potential for students to apply

knowledge in the world outside of school; new pedagogies leverage all of this in the

formal learning process.

  • Teaching shifts from focusing on covering all required content to focusing on the learning

process, developing students’ ability to lead their own learning and to do things with

their learning. Teachers are partners with students in deep learning tasks characterized

by exploration, connectedness and broader, real-world purposes.

  • Learning outcomes are measured in terms of students’ 1) capacities to build new

knowledge and to lead their own learning effectively, 2) proactive dispositions and their

abilities to persevere through challenges, and 3) the development of citizens who are

life-long learners.

We then looked to analyze, “How does deep learning align with your vision of learning goals for your school?”

As facilitator, I noticed a tendency for the conversation to take the direction of “but, how could we?” While some members reinforced the barriers, others offered possible strategies. I worked to keep bringing participants back to the desired vision for outcomes before getting into the “how”. A strong consensus on the vision is critical to the process.


The conversation continued as we watched a TEDx presentation, The Surprising Truth About Learning in Schools,  by Will Richardson. He suggests that we really have a pretty common agreement around beliefs for best learning.  The problem he identifies is how often we don’t implement what we believe. “Schools are made for learning.”

Common elements in our beliefs on learning: (Members of the leadership team now considered, “Which of these elements need a greater presence in our school to generate deep learning?”)

 Safe Environment

Personal Investment

Relevant to their lives


Interesting Questions

Positive Environment

Real Audience



Autonomy and Agency


Not Time Consuming

These conversations were then followed by questions to lead the team to consensus and action:

What vision does the leadership team share regarding goals for student learning?

How do students’ experiences in learning and teachers’ roles in designing need to change for the desired learning outcomes to be achieved?

What desired outcomes can we achieve by improvement?

What desired outcomes will require innovation?

As a leadership team, how do we engage the staff in considering our school’s vision for learning?

What commitments do we as a leadership team want to make to creating action plans that move us closer to the vision?

Spending time to explore a desired end future is critical to establishing impactful goals and plans.

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