Leadership is an intentional process of influencing others to guide, structure and facilitate activities in an organisation. When that process is applied to the theory and practice of teaching, a pedagogical leader emerges.
While the term is often associated with the administrative head or principal of a school, the truth is that many teachers can take on the role of pedagogical leader. It’s a role that’s built on the effective performance of all aspects of teaching.
However, to be a pedagogical leader requires much more than a deep understanding of the teaching discipline – it involves a number of behaviours that can be learned. Here are five habits of pedagogical leadership that you can make part of your daily routine.
In the same way that it takes a village to raise a child, it requires a strong and diverse network of peers and mentors to become a pedagogical leader. These people may be part of your current teaching organisation, or they may come from your alumni of former studies and jobs. But whether you have a strong network or not, you’ll always benefit and learn from continually building new relationships.
Social Media offers the opportunity of connecting with likeminded teachers as well as pedagogical leaders that you’d like to emulate. LinkedIn is a more professional environment than other platforms, where you can find people based on their roles and employers. A good way to reach out or start a conversation is to ask someone for their perspective or advice, based on what they’ve posted in the past.
The real key to successfully building relationships is to engage in platforms where people share your interests – such as the teacher who was able to successfully connect with pedagogical leaders on Pinterest. It’s worth trying different social media platforms, as well as a variety of face-to-face activities such as training, conferences and other professional learning communities to find your tribe.
What does it really mean to innovate? It’s become a bit of a buzzword, but in its simplest form, it just means to try something new for a positive change. The real power in innovation is how you try something new – the process of researching, testing, observing and reviewing.
Pedagogical leaders have two great strengths in applying a process of innovation. First, they have a deep understanding of educational practices with the first-hand experience of what’s possible and what works. Secondly, they have built relationships with other pedagogical leaders who can provide invaluable feedback on each step in the process of innovation.
Ideas for innovative learning strategies can also be found online, as well as in journals and periodicals. By simply absorbing the innovative practices of others, you can apply new thinking to your educational practices. The secret to successful innovation is to introduce them one at a time, then review each one individually before moving on to the next.
One of the most important skills for the leadership of any kind is self-reflection, which provides a valuable guide to our strengths, weaknesses and our individual uniqueness. And unlike other forms of feedback such as performance reviews, self-reflection avoids a negative focus on ‘areas for improvement’. Instead, it provides a plan of action to heighten your personal talents.
Self-reflection methods like the Reflected Best Self exercise start with a global view of you, before turning your focus internally. With this method, you invite feedback from your network on your strengths and weaknesses – which can prompt responses that may surprise you. From this feedback, you look for common themes of strengths, competencies, weaknesses, and uniqueness. Then you can write a description of yourself as you are now and compare it to a description of a pedagogical leader.
Use the differences between the two descriptions to create an action plan that will capitalise on your strengths and personal talents.
The first challenge in goal-setting is working out what you want, but pedagogical leadership is a pretty big target to aim for. The second challenge is working out what you need to do to get there – and then doing it!
When it comes to how you set goals, there’s a variety of methods you can use, including SMART, HARD and WOOP. Whichever tactic you use, research shows that the one consistent factor in accomplishing goals is writing them down.
Think of your goals in the same way as providing scaffolding in the classroom by writing things on the board. You might have a list of activities that would take place during a lesson, marking each one off as you progress, enabling all to know what’s happening now and what’s happening next. Use your pedagogical prowess to scaffold your own goals as you build your way to pedagogical leadership.
Do you prefer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret? In hindsight, it often appears that the former doesn’t hurt nearly as much as the latter! Discipline is nothing more than an orderly pattern of behaviour, but when combined with self-reflection and goal-setting, it gets things done.
For pedagogical leaders, discipline provides more than a path to successful leadership.
Discipline enables them to model the behaviour, the change and the innovation that they want to inspire in their educational team. They bring innovative pedagogy into staff training, meetings and even personal interactions.
The best thing about discipline is that regular behaviours become habits that require almost no additional effort. For the best results with new or changed behaviours, introduce them one at a time and repeat for 90 days until they become habit.
The road to pedagogical leadership becomes a superhighway when you embark on further education. ECU’s Master of Education – which can be completed online, while you continue to work full time – puts the leadership practices of self-reflection, goal-setting and discipline into a pedagogical context. This course also gives you access to a network of like-minded peers so you can build relationships that will enhance your pedagogical leadership for years to come.
Find out more about learning these skills and more by studying a Master of Education with ECU Online.