Learner-Centered Leadership

How does your personal mission become a beacon for your school?

The following blog post comes from ideas that are in my forthcoming book, School Leadership: Learner-Centered Leadership in Times of Crisis which will be published in December.

Becoming a learner-centered school leader is easy in concept and difficult in practice. believe me, I have experienced the difficulties involved in making this transition. I believe there are three key mantras you can use to start your thinking about becoming a learner-centered school leader.

Stay True To Yourself

The foundation of being learner-centered is knowing your own moral compass. In the words of author Bill George, what is your true north? Some simple questions you can ask yourself to start the journey toward your true north are:

  1. Why did you become an educator?
  2. What were the reasons that drew you into the profession?
  3. Have those reasons changed over the course of your career?

Think of a story of a learner that impacted you in some way. There is a nugget of your true north and purpose in that story. Connecting, or reconnecting, to your purpose brings clarity to decisions that you face every day. If you are connected to your own personal purpose, you are more focused on what you believe is important for education. Distractions do not take as much of your time as you now see them for what they are…time sucks!

Stay True To Students

Let’s face it, the reason that schools exist is for learners…period. They are the reason for everything we do. A question to guide this work is:

  1. What is in the best interest of the learner?

If you view your job as school leaders through the lens of that question, then you are starting to become learner-centered.

You must also have a framework for what you believe about how to become learner-centered. I will offer you my framework. I call it The New Learning Ecosystem.

In The New Learning Ecosystem, the learner is at the center of everything the school does. The first thing we consider is how does the learner receive instruction? In today’s world, the answer is one of three ways: 100% virtually, 100% fae to face, or a blend of the two. Our experience over the past seven months tells us that the best instructional modality is the blended format.

Once we understand that a blended format is the best instructional delivery model, barriers of traditional schooling fall away. There becomes no barriers of time or space. Learners can learn anywhere at their own pace.

the outermost ring is an example of who contributes to the learner’s ecosystem. Notice that school districts are one of many organizations that contribute. This framework is radically learner-centered. It implies that the school’s entire purpose is for each individual learner. Adult convenience has no place here!

Stay True To Staff

Learner-centered leadership requires a dedicated staff that is empowered, engaged, and has the resources necessary to do their job. The idea of a lone leader being the hero and creating a learner-centered school by themselves is a myth.

All staff members must contribute to a learner-centered environment. Empower your staff to contribute their great ideas to help with a learner-centered vision. Engage your staff meaningfully in creating a mission and purpose for the school. Once these are created, make sure they know they can determine the “how” of reaching your school’s mission and vision.

Finally, do not short-change your staff by not giving them the resources they need to get the job done. This includes making sure their professional learning is robust and reflects the skills they need to acquire to reach your school’s mission and vision.

Becoming learner-centered is not a hard metal lift to conceptualize. The hard work will be in implementation, but that is also where the magic happens! Have fun with your journey!

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
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