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Leading Adult Learners


12 Nov

Important conversations - using foundational art of inquiry skills for success

Posted by Joan Dalton

The learning improvements you achieve in your school or workplace are only as good as the quality and focus of the conversations that take place among your team/s. As you look at these four major types of important conversations, you can see they are key to improving learning outcomes for student and adult learners alike:

1. Conversations focused on improving student learning 2. Conversations focused on adult learning and teaching practice

For example:

  • Team planning/evaluation of learning
  • Examining data, assessing learners' progress and learning needs
  • Joint inquiry to improve learners' learning & behaviour
  • Conferencing with parents and learners about their learning

For example:

  • Feedback on practice to improve learning and teaching
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Action inquiries to research/trial new pedagogies and evaluate impact on learners
  • Collegial classroom observations to learn
  • Individual and team reflection
  • Team development planning
3. Conversations to move whole school priorities and work forward 4. Conversations to address required growth

For example:

  • Constructing school vision and common pedagogy understandings
  • Creating coherent approaches to e.g. pedagogy, assessment, behaviour, practice
  • Developing collective responsibility for learning and behaviour
  • Strategic planning, review, and decision-making

For example:

  • Feedback on behaviours and actions that impact on learning, relationships, the welfare and effective functioning of people, a team, the school or workplace
  • Ethical conduct and standards of practicer
  • Lack of adherence to shared agreements, expectations, duty, protocols
  • Individual and team accountability and responsibilities
  • Personal issues outside school that impact on the person or school

Dalton, Joan, 2016 Learning Talk: important conversations at work, p5. 

Learning Talk series 5

Whether you're engaging with a parent who has concerns about their child’s learning, with team members who expect you to solve their problems for them, or holding people accountable for their behaviour, any important learning conversation requires care, self-awareness, rigour and skilful Learning Talk.

These topics were among the common challenges raised by school leaders who regularly meet in an online zoom space to connect, share, and learn together through the New Zealand Leaders’ Connect organisation. They wanted to know how to engage in such important conversations and invited me to share my thinking in a one hour online zoom professional learning session.

Such conversations are complex, and when I thought hard about how I could maximise leaders’ learning in such a short time, I decided to focus on three foundations that underpin every important conversation you have:

Important learning conversations: three key foundations

When you combine…

  1. An open, pro-active mind frame with an understanding of…
  2. The impact words can have – on learning, relationships and collaboration, and…
  3. Actively work on your Art of Inquiry skills… you are in a strong position to engage in important learning conversations for successful outcomes.

During the zoom session with leaders, and with the support of my great colleague Dr Cheryl Doig, we actively modelled for leaders what such conversations might look like, with opportunities for reflection and collegial conversation to stimulate thinking about application to one’s own setting.

The good news is that this session was recorded, and we are delighted to make it available to you (warts and all) for your use:

Leaders Connect recording

While you can use this for your individual learning, it offers a very practical resource for your team as you work to build and strengthen their Learning Talk capabilities. To that end we have included on screen, at the pause points, the questions we used for small group reflection and dialogue at the appropriate break out discussion times.

And since teams need to know what the Learning Talk capabilities are, and have access to practical scaffolds to practise the skills, you are welcome to download the PDF from our blog Practising Learning Talk skills: a practical gift.

Learning Culture for Learning Impact: A Hands on Guide

The Learning Talk series (Books 1-5) and our recently released publication, Learning Culture for Learning Impact, provide additional comprehensive resources to support your work in building capabilities to engage in important conversations for successful outcomes.

Learning Culture for Learning Impact

Testimonials colleagues have recently passed on: reproduced with writers’ permission

Dear David, I found the text in the new book organised in a way that made it super easy to read and go back and forth between concepts depending on what I needed at the time. The examples of scenarios, discussion points, steps and sentence starters reinforced what I was reading, and I loved the parrot of purpose at the beginning of each chapter explaining why the upcoming information was important. In short, this is going to be a text that I will continually refer back to as an aspiring leader.
Tara Morris, Grade Five Teacher, Sandringham PS, Victoria

Heya Mel, I have just read Joan’s new book cover to cover and cannot tell you how much my heart is singing!! OMG – it is amazing! The style that it is written in is fantastic, not too much – not too little and so easy to fit all the concepts together. It is everything that I have been ‘teaching’ over the years when growing leadership potential and developing effective teams (when I was at school, at tertiary and now in my facilitation work)… but so much better – so ‘Joan’ 😊 What a kindred spirit – I absolutely love it! I was bouncing up and down as I kept finding golden nuggets throughout – my poor wee brain was just exploding because everything so hits the mark! 😊 Anyhow, I just had to email you!
Dr Wendy Moore, Educational Consultant, Evaluation Associates, New Zealand

There’s an elephant in the room… coming!
My next blog will feature experienced New Zealand principal and leadership adviser Roz Miller, who showed a group of beginning principals how to use a practical process to address one of the hardest conversations of all to have: ‘the elephant in the room.’

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