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This paper describes a recent development in our school Droichead. “Droichead as outlined by The Teaching Council “is an integrated professional induction framework for newly qualified teachers. Droichead meaning ‘bridge’ refers to bridging the gap between teacher training and induction into the profession of teaching. Drochead is based on a whole school approach to induction and supporting the NQT(s). Droichead includes both school-based and additional professional learning activities, thus laying the foundations for subsequent professional growth and learning for the next phase of their career.
Firstly, I will outline the discussion around the introduction of the Droichead framework in our school and my own interest in the induction of Newly Qualified Teachers. Secondly, I will outline the leadership response across the school to the development of the Droichead process in terms of staff training, policy development and a whole school approach. Thirdly, I will critique the leadership response drawing on concepts such as distributed leadership focusing on the four dimensions of developing leadership, collective engagement, empowerment/bounded empowerment and shared decisions. I will also allude to distributed leaderships use of one-dimensional power. I will also draw on the Organisational Culture of the school in terms of supporting the Newly Qualified Teachers. Lastly, I will refer to the transactional and transformational leadership responses.
The integration of the Droichead process in our school mainly took the form of distributed leadership. In this section I will refer to the four dimensions of distributed leadership: developing leadership, collective engagement, empowerment/bounded empowerment and shared decisions. These four dimensions were highly evident in the integration and the continuing process of Droichead in our school. I will also look at distributed leaderships use of one-dimensional power and organisational commitment.
Appeal of induction
Droichead gained much publicity after being piloted and the implementation of Droichead was discussed in a staff meeting in our school. The school is a post-primary DEIS school that regularly mentors student teachers from WIT, UCC, UL, Maynooth etc in different subject areas within the school. The principal briefly outlined the framework of the induction programme and referred to an email she had sent earlier in the week in regard to Droichead. The Principal discussed the development of the Droichead framework and the prospect of it being introduced in the majority of schools in the near future. She highlighted the importance of it being a whole school approach in the induction of NQTs. The Principal led the conversation in a democratic manner asking for people’s opinions on introducing Droichead in our school. The general conscientious from the staff was that it had positive benefits especially for the NQT’s currently on the staff team. The Principals discussion around the areas was also distributive in nature and alluded to Hairon and Goh (1995) ideas on participative decision making by all school members. The principal concluded, that she would send an email looking for staff members to engage with the Droichead training. The Principals leadership role was distributive in nature and inclusive of all staff members that met the requirement of the 5 years minimum experience as outlined by NIPT. Lumby (2013) draws on the idea of management distributing leadership roles to staff by means of volunteering with no formal responsibility to undertake them.
Personal appeal of induction
I emailed the Principal expressing my interest in the Droichead process as I wanted to give newly qualified teachers the kind of support that I did not receive when I was training and starting out my teaching career. My experience of teacher training was a very isolated environment, I worked in a school three mornings a week and had to return to college for lectures. This left very little time for socialisation and integration into the school environment. I also found my first years out to be challenging in terms of being out in the field as Banks et al (2015) highlights that “The culture of some schools is antithetical to learning and beginning teachers are left to ‘sink or swim’, with little support or opportunity to learn from practice.” Upon volunteering for the Droichead training I didn’t consider it leadership its only upon reflection I can identify the leadership roles as Lumby (2013) alludes to “It seems that anyone can be a leader, although still most teachers don’t see it as leading something”.
Induction as an integrated programme
The first step in the Droichead process was to establish a Professional Support Team (PST). This is a team of experienced and fully registered teachers, including a Principal, who work collaboratively to support the Newly Qualified Teacher during the Droichead process and support his or her entry into both the school and the profession. The Principal confirmed the staff members by approaching the members she had selected personally, including myself to offer us our place. The PST members had been selected and then were identified to all staff. Four members of staff took an active role in the Droichead training for schools after registering for the training. We engaged with the Droichead process in March 2017 with the NIPT as it was due to be rolled out in schools immediately. The vice-principal took an active role in covering our classes with substitute cover provided for the training.
Upon competition of the Droichead training we had to feed back our experience and knowledge of the Droichead process to the staff via a staff meeting. The Principal put Droichead on the staff agenda. I briefed the staff on the Droichead training and focused on the benefits for NQTs in our school. The response was very positive among staff as we had four NQTs present and other staff members that were in the midst of completing the traditional process of gaining 300 hours and completing 10 workshops in the post-primary sector. I informed the staff that the PST team in conjunction with the Principal would be devising a Droichead School Policy.
The PST Team had an initial staff meeting after the training to device a whole school policy to inform the NQTs, teaching staff, BOM of the Droichead Process for the induction and mentoring of NQTs. The meeting was an informal discussion and was based around what to include in the policy and what areas we wanted to focus on in our school. The meeting took the form of distributed leadership as Heiron and Goh (2015) reflected that distributed leadership “requires multiple levels of involvement in decision making; and focuses primarily on improving classroom practice or instruction”.
The PST members took an active role in putting the policy together based on information gathered at the Droichead training and in line with The Teaching Council development of indicators of good practice.. The focus of the policy was to clearly establish criteria for the NQTs and mentors. The policy development was distributive in nature and as Hairon and Goh (2015) outlined the process of distributed leadership as “Interactions of group members and takes place in the interactive web of leaders, followers, and their situation”.
There was a brief follow up meeting with staff where we handed out a copy of the Droichead policy that was to be included in the staff journal for the next academic year. A member of the PST outlined what the Droichead process is, including the Professional Support Team, Expectations for the NQT and mentor(s) and the joint declaration that needs to be fulfilled in order for the probation period to be lifted. The PST member highlighted that the criteria was set out in accordance with the Teaching Council. We reiterated the notion that the Droichead framework needed to be approached as a whole school activity. We outlined the role of the PST members in inducting the NQTs into the school but also referenced to the importance of the continuation of staff mentoring that had been in practice prior to the introduction of Droichead for example NQTs in subject specific departments and the support and guidance they had received from the teachers. The response from staff was very positive and they acknowledged the benefits after what had been a difficult decade of teacher uncertainty as our school had felt the effects of failure to renew contracts, splitting contracts and lack of funding to employ substitute teachers.
The Different Lenses of Leadership
The integration of the Droichead process in our school mainly took the form of distributed leadership. In this section I will refer to the four dimensions of distributed leadership: developing leadership, collective engagement, empowerment/bounded empowerment and shared decisions. These four dimensions were highly evident in the integration and the continuing process of Droichead in our school. I will also look at distributed leaderships use of one-dimensional power.
This dimension of developing leadership was evident in the Principals distribution of the Droichead training and its implementation into the school. Hairon and Goh (2014) highlight the importance of building leadership capacities within schools. The Principals role was to select members of teaching staff to participate in the training and she chose to open up the training opportunity to the whole teaching staff in looking for volunteers which was distributive in nature, but the principal still had the final say on who was selected. Management encouraged the training of the PST team and covered their classes using the substitution cover provided. Management also offered support in terms of policy development and integration into the school. Our Principal is one who constantly strives to engage our school in new developments and is to the forefront in the ‘adaptation of school principals to the changing management and social structure’ as alluded to in Avci (2015). Avci (2015) also highlights the importance of leaders in the success and the sustainability of new developments and the need to build on leadership capacities to keep up with the changing needs of the school environments.
In the initial meeting of the PST members including the Principal, we discussed as a collective group the form of professional guidance that we were going to provide to the inductee. The meeting took the form of distributed leadership and resulted in the interaction for shared decisions. According to Hairon and Goh (2015), “when empowerment takes place, influence is no longer asserted only from the superior but also from the sub-coordinates”. The process was very inclusive and was no longer single directional but engaged others in the shared decision-making process (Hairon and Goh, 2015). The leadership conversation switched between the superior and subordinates and there was an “openness to boundaries of leadership” (Hairon and Goh, 2015). The Principal was very open for the PST team members to take an active role in the process and instilled confidence in us to take on the roles. Hairon and Goh (2015) consider the concept of distributed leadership as building leadership capacity and how it’s “dependent on superiors’ confidence in sub-ordinates competence in enacting the leadership actions such as, influencing others, making decisions and communicating the vision”.
Empowerment/ Bounded Empowerment
This was a great learning opportunity in developing leadership qualities as referenced in Hairon and Goh (2013). The PST members in conjunction with the Principal were given responsibility for implementing the Droichead process in our school in accordance with The Integrated Professional Induction Framework provided by NIPT and The Teaching Council. The process of the PST members devising a Droichead policy allowed members to gain a sense of empowerment and responsibility of development and implementing the Droichead framework in our school. I personally felt that the Principal was empowering us to make the decisions and had confidence in our capabilities and respected us in our shared decision-making process.
The Principal while promoting leadership among the PST team members in her “willingness to relinquish a certain degree of authority to subordinates” (Hairon and Goh, 2015), still retained her authority in overseeing the meetings. The process of decision making, and policy development was mainly worked on by the PST members, but the bounded empowerment was evident as Hairon and Goh (2015) highlighted, “insofar as the person giving the power to make decision to subordinates is kept informed of the decisions made by the subordinates”.
This notion of bounded empowerment is evident more so then ever due to the accountabilities in the Irish education system. Conway and Murphy (2013) discuss the prevalence of the rising tide in teaching and teacher education in Ireland and the fact that “accountability still rests on the shoulders of the school leader”. Hairon and Goh (2015) highlight the importance of “initiatives by staff must be situated within the ambit of the school framework, processes and outcomes”.
One Dimensional Power
Distributed leadership was evident in the collaboration of staff members and the Principal in the shared decision-making process. The distributed leadership lens offered staff an opportunity to be involved in decision making and policy implementation. Lumby (2013) highlights that if staff feel they are being consulted in leadership they are more likely to buy in the process…”. The use of one-dimensional power raises its head in terms of Lumby (2013) “the implications of distributed leadership for power distribution in organisations…”. In the principal’s decision on selecting the PST members it reflects on the use of one-dimensional power in selecting the PST members and as Lumby (2013) outlines that it’s the Principals decision to decide “how the power was going to be distributed”.
School Organisational Culture and the NQT
In this section I will refer to the Organisational Culture of the Droichead process in our school and the leadership response in terms of supporting the NQT. The main areas I will focus on are the professional conversations, observations and feedback and concluding the Droichead process. I will also look at the link between support/induction and the work motivation and work satisfaction of the NQT.
Distributed leadership is paramount in supporting NQTs as Harris (2013) describes distributed leadership in terms of a “means actively brokering, facilitating, and supporting the leadership of others”. This is relevant in supporting the NQTs in their classroom and challenges they may face in their professional journey. Teacher education faces regular challenges of inclusion in terms of ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, membership of the travelling community. In our school behaviour is also a major challenge for NQTs and experienced teaching staff.
The first professional conversation with the NQTs in our school is for the purpose of welcoming the NQT(s) and discussing the Droichead policy and areas of professional learning. The follow up professional conversations are checking on how the NQT is getting on and any issues arising. In our school this takes the form of formal and informal conversations. Each professional conversation is a process which enables the NQT and the members of the PST, either individually or collectively, to share feedback in relation to the teaching and learning and to discuss challenges in the classroom. The role of the PST member(s) is based on the servant leadership model as referenced in Wahyuni, Christiananta and Eliyana (2014), with the focus on the PST members supporting and guiding the NQTs as opposed to directing and controlling. Wahyuni, Christiananta and Eliyana (2014) employs that “servant leadership that transcends self-interest to serve the needs of others by helping them grow professionally and emotionally.” A major aspect of this organisational commitment of the Droichead process is regular meetings with the NQT(s) and the professional conversations that follow. The conversations give the NQTs a chance to discuss any issues arising in their professional learning and practice. The professional conversation allows the PST member to offer guidance in situations that may arise.
Observation and Feedback
As part of the Droichead process in our school we performed classroom observations. As Arlestig and Tornsen (2014) discuss “Classroom observations provide a joint starting point and frame for conversations between the principal and the teacher about the interactions between the teacher and the students”. Observations are an opportunity for NQTs to learn from their fellow professionals and when they themselves are observed it’s a time to focus on areas they find challenging. Following the observations professional feedback s given to the NQTs as Arlestig and Tornsen (2014) outlined the importance of feedback and “stated the importance of structuring feedback and providing forums for teachers to discuss methods (so they could learn from others) as well and forums for one-on-one conversations with teachers”.
This concluding process in our school is very transformational in nature in terms of helping them to complete the final phase of their induction and giving them systematic feedback in areas they found challenging. The aim of the process is in supporting the NQT and takes the form of a professional conversation between the NQT and the PST members. This conversation involves the NQT identifying areas of further professional learning and the signing of the NQTs form as a recommendation for the removal of the Droichead condition following the induction phase.
The PST team were a group representative of the whole school. The Droichead process is rooted in a whole school approach with the aim of benefitting Newly Qualified Teachers and teaching and learning in the school. We are a school that promotes teacher training and have a high number of NQTs and substitute teachers regularly. Droichead in our school is a whole school approach and this evident in observing the staffroom environment where staff will approach new teachers and introduce themselves. The whole school approach is also evident in subject specific areas where a subject department has a NQT working in their department. The staff really go above and beyond in helping them integrate into terms of the classroom and the curriculum. The PST teams and the staff members are proactive in the induction of the NQT(s) into the socialisation process of socialising teachers into the teaching and the profession.
Work Motivation and Satisfaction
The induction process offers help and support to the NQT and the NQT is driven by motivation to do well in their induction phase and lift their probation and to achieve their full teaching council registration. Therefore, supporting NQTs to become confident and reflective in their practice will contribute to positive and engaged staff members. Similar views are expressed by Dawley et al. (2008) “suggesting that where NQTs believe that school leaders and other teachers value their contribution to daily work practices they are more likely to become authentically engaged in the school culture”. Work motivation also played a part in the drive of the PST members in terms of devising a school policy for Droichead and getting the induction programme running efficiently in the school. The PST members were also trying to make a good leadership impression within the context of their teaching colleagues and management. Wahyuni, Christiananta and Eliyana (2014) “Work motivation, work satisfaction, and work performance are all intervening and dependent variables.” Kilburg (2007) similarly claims that a nurturing environment results in staff members being able to meet their daily demands and challenges.
Alternative Leadership Concepts
The leadership response was both transactional and transformational in nature.
The leadership response was transactional in nature in terms of the Principal guiding and motivating staff to get involved in the Droichead process and in confirming their roles and tasks (Robbin and Judge, 2008). It was also transactional in terms of the PST members and the NQTs and our leadership role in motivating the NQTs particularly in challenging areas such as discipline. The PST members through professional conversations were able to identify the needs of the NQTs for example support in terms of discipline and classroom management (Avci, 2015). The nature of the Droichead process is based on transactional leadership in the NQTs contributing to the school environment and in exchange getting their probation lifted. Bass and Avolio in Chiang and Wang (2012) consider the concept “that transactional leadership as understanding employee need, providing for those needs to reward employee contribution and hard work, and committing to giving those reward after employees complete assigned work duties.
The PST Team which included the principal was distributed in nature but also transformational as the principal acted in unity and solidarity with the PST members and NQT’s. The principal took a very active role in the implementation of Droichead and supporting the members of the PST team. Our principal is a very transformative leader and is a leader that “motivates and encourages the followers in line with the organizational goals and objectives.” (Avci, 2015). The leadership roles of the PST members were not formally designed but as MacNeill (2018) addresses how the roles are designed by the members. Neil McNeill (2018) also alludes to the idea of intrinsic rewards and this was the case in the PST members helping the NQT(s).
In conclusion, the Droichead process is an induction programme for New Qualified Teachers and is dependent on a whole school approach. The response from the staff upon the introduction of the Droichead process was overall positive with staff recognising the importance of induction for NQTs. The benefits of the programme were seen as providing a structured support for NQTs. The leadership response from the Principal was distributive in nature with the Principal empowering staff to take on leadership roles in the implementation of the process and the development of the Droichead Policy. The Principal also allowed for a collaborative approach in the shared decision-making. The use of one-dimensional power and bounded empowerment was evident in the Principal’s role in overseeing the process. The importance of the organisational culture in the induction process was paramount in implementing the Droichead process and building relationships between all staff, PST members and NQTs. The organisational culture was evident in the frame and structure of the process form professional conversations, observations and feedback and concluding the Droichead process. The different dimensions of leadership all impact each other and contribute to the work motivation and satisfaction in the school environment. I discussed the transactional and transformational leadership roles that were evident in development of the Droichead process in our school as McNeill (2018) highlights how often these roles overlap, “The best leaders are both transformational and transactional; transformational behaviors augment the effects of transactional behaviors”.
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