360 Diagnostic Education NPQSL Self Awareness Succeeding in Senior Leadership Understanding Self

Surfing, sinking and swimming

The paper ‘Surfing, sinking and swimming’ outlines the differences between surfing, swimming and sinking.

  • Surfing (Coming Alive), Sinking (Surviving), Swimming (Coping)
    • Surfing is like the flow or possibly arousal state;
    • Swimming is like the control state;
    • Sinking is like the anxiety and/or worry state;

Does this resonate with your own experience?

My response…

“…leadership does not happen evenly or consistently. Leaders will have periods when they feel they are surfing, others when they seem to be sinking and periods when they are swimming along fine. The idea that they can be competent, unfailing and effective all the time is another idealistic and burdensome fantasy. It is normal as a leader to have periods when you think you are sinking and others when you are just getting by; it is an inherent part of leading.”

Binney, G, Wilke, G & Williams, C, 2005, Living Leadership A Practical Guide For Ordinary Heroes, Harlow, Prentice Hall.

Phew! For a moment there I thought I’d better come clean, admit I was a fraud, and quietly exit the NPQSL course. If you’ve had a week like mine then you’ll probably have cycled through all three of these feelings every day and possibly even within one lesson. In fact Wednesday was particularly tough so I’d chalked up all three by break time! And it turns out that this is fine…..result.

There are any number of reasons why we might be finding it difficult to get into that surfing/flow state but let’s just focus on one culprit for a little while. There is simply too much to do! Or to look at it another way we’re trying to do too much….on our own.

360 Diagnostic Education Impact and Influence Modelling Excellence in Leadership of Teaching and Learning NPQSL Self Awareness Strategic Leadership Succeeding in Senior Leadership Understanding Self

Impact, Influence and Self Awareness

We’re always explaining to pupils that  they need to be good listeners but do we always model that good behaviour ourselves? Although we all like to think we’re good at listening to other people it’s interesting how sometimes other people don’t feel as though they’re being listened to. Developing this skill allows us to understand the needs of others, adapt our approach accordingly and so influence others in a more considered manner. Indeed getting better at seeing ourselves as others see us is an essential leadership quality. Accurately gauging the impact you have on other people is essential in forming and developing effective teams whose goal is continuous improvement.

So where to start? Some obvious ways of getting feedback to help become more self aware already include:

  • Whole School Level: whole school Pupil Perception Surveys;
  • Department Level: getting pupils to provide feedback about their attitudes to particular subjects;
  • Personal Level: lesson observations, video analysis and annual Performance Management evaluations;

Of course there are limitations to using these sources exclusively. The school and department feedback is by its nature general and requires you to draw inferences which may or may not be valid to a particular teacher. In the PM process we’re reflecting on our our own performance generally using statistical measures to help us set new targets; there is little in the way of objective qualitative feedback.

A more refined picture (provided you choose the respondents correctly) is produced by a 360º Diagnostic Report. But what about getting your classes to give specific feedback about your teaching?  In his work on visible learning John Hattie devotes some time to student evaluations of teachers (SET) as ‘central to lasting school improvement’. Hattie, J (2012). Visible Learning For Teachers – Maximising Impact on Learning p.159

‘The lesson with the students is completed, but the story continues. So often, the plea now is for reflection – but this is not my message. Reflection quickly turns into post-hoc justification. I have watched so many teachers talk about their lessons or react to videos of their teaching, and they can certainly wax lyrical about what happened, why they did this rather than that – and when asked to consider how to do better, so often they focus on what they should do more in the future. When they watch the same class through the eyes of the student, they are much more silent!’ Hattie (2012) p.155

Hattie discusses the work of Irving whose SET was developed specifically to evaluate maths teaching but it could ‘form a set of prompts for teachers to evaluate their level of inspiration and passion’. Hattie (2012) p.160

So….my plan is to use a version of  Irving’s SET (Irving Student Evaluation) using a Google Form with my teaching groups. I’d like to think that I:

  • challenge my students to think through problems and solve them either on their own or as a group (before asking for help);
  • encourage students to value history as a subject;
  • help students to make sense of the concepts and skills in history;
  • get students to think about the nature and quality of their work;
  • develop students’ abilities to think and reason in a historical manner and to have a historical point of view;
  • encourage students to try different techniques to answer historical questions;
  • show students interesting and useful ways to solve problems;

Will my students see things in the same way I do?




360 Diagnostic Education NPQSL

National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership (NPQSL)

I’ve just started on the NPQSL with Leadership East . The programme is licensed by the National College for Teaching and Leadership and involves a 12-18 month school improvement task based on action research with the central component lasting at least two terms. There are 3 learning areas:

  1. Educational Excellence;
  2. Strategic Leadership;
  3. Operational Management;

and these are further divided into 9 key leadership competencies.

Prior to attending the Introductory Day a ‘360º Diagnostic’ online self-review process was carried out to identify areas of strength and any competency areas requiring development.  After completing the self assessment part of the process I asked a total of 8 colleagues to also answer the same questions independently. The final report was illuminating – a far more useful appraisal than any Performance Management (PM) process I have taken part in since its introduction. For one thing the other respondents don’t see either your own self assessment or each others so you get a ‘real’ set of answers. To gain the maximum benefit from the process you do have to choose your respondents carefully however; its no good just asking people who you think will give a ‘glowing report’. I selected an equal mix of male/female colleagues and made sure that the group had SLT, HoY, HoD, Learning Support and classroom teachers represented. I deliberately didn’t ask anyone from within my own faculty because I wanted as objective a view from outside looking in as I could manage. The respondents I selected were also representative of the colleagues I hope to work with most closely on the school improvement task. The process is a little uncomfortable but well worth it from a self awareness point of view. Completing the very detailed follow up Workbook really concentrated the mind. Of particular interest were:

  1. Known Development Needs (where both the respondents and I agreed on less well developed behaviours);
  2. Blind Spots (where respondents scored me lower than I scored myself);

These really flagged up some pretty important elements that I need to keep in mind and the final Summary Form and Action Plan have provided a very focussed baseline from which to move forward.

Talking to colleagues who have come to teaching after working in other fields, business etc. it seems that the 360º Diagnostic Model is quite a common tool. I think it would be useful to have a similar tool within the PM cycle and wonder if there are already schools who have adopted this model?