This morning I was participating in a Twitter chat on Change at #asiaED. The question that inspired this blog post was "How do you stay focussed and take care of you when working on change projects?". My answer to that was that I have found self review is a good driver of change because it embraces all voices which helps your sanity as a leader remain 'intact-ish'.
I was then asked to elaborate a bit more about self review as it pertains to the change process. I confess I found it a bit of a challenge to try and explain how self review works here in New Zealand within 140 characters! In fact, as much as I am attempting to get better at being succinct, in this case, for me that was mission impossible.
I am quite fascinated with self review, and I am deeply curious about how schools and leaders use self review to monitor practice and programmes, and determine need.
For the purposes of this post Self Review is about self evaluation. It is a deliberate and planned approach to collect and analyse data (of all kinds including stakeholder voice) to find out how well practices/systems and processes in our schools are operating. What might be working well, what might need changing and what is ineffective. From this process a school can then decide what actions need to happen next, determine sustainability of an initiative and as a result, see improved outcomes for students and teachers.
In New Zealand there are three kinds of Self Reviews:
Strategic (these are long term and linked into your schools vision and the goals that come out of that)
Regular (these are best described as 'business as usual', and are focussed and ongoing - these reviews tend to feed data into the strategic reviews)
Emergent (these are in response to something that was unexpected and unplanned and are often one off spontaneous reviews - again, they often fit into the vision).
Successful Self Review is about:
- giving all students the most successful educational opportunities and experiences possible
- Being collaborative and involving constructive critique
- Being mostly planned and deliberate but it can be spontaneous in response to something (an example of this might be a noticing of behaviour management systems not working as expected - applying a self review process would result in finding out what is misfiring and allow for an action plan to address this)
- Goal setting that is strategic, short and long term, ISMART and evidence based.
- Celebrating and sustaining what is working well and improving what is not
- Embracing and being wiling to challenge and change - perhaps the most important outcome
Self Review is an internal process (where you do it in-house) but it can be external (where you can get someone in to complete the review). I have always found that a robust internal process helps your school grow and strengthen, and that getting outside professional experts that have been working with you to come and complete an independent review has the power to add a depth and independent critique that can help you develop deeper. However, this process should be one that is supportive and if your own processes are robust, will simply complement what you are doing. It should be used to help you celebrate your achievements and suggest 'where to next', and never used as a 'stick'. I feel that this topic alone could be a separate blog post!
In addition, in New Zealand we have an external review 'body' that comes in to our schools and completes a review on the education and care of the students. The Education Review Office (ERO) reviews all ECE, Primary/Intermediate (Elementary) and Secondary (Middle/Senior school) schools in New Zealand - they operate in a similar manner to OFSTED in the UK. ERO is a Government department tasked with checking the quality of education in NZ. Reports are written and published on the quality of education you provide in your school and on topics of National Interest. In theory, the self review you complete in your own school should complement what ERO does.
Self Review is a process, and for it to be successful it needs to be tailor made for your own schools situation. I have attached a copy of the process we use for investigating an area we are reviewing. It follows 5 phases, with a check up on progress to date at the end. For me, the sustainability check up is the most important because it can be easy to complete a review of an area, for example a digital innovation, with follow up actions and then not come back to it again. If you schedule in a follow up for 4 - 6 months down the track, you add a depth to what you are doing that would otherwise be lost. It helps to keep teams focussed and lends a collaborative accountability to your practices.
Essentially Self Review is about having a process to determine the effectiveness of what you are doing in your school, and if the changes you are making are making the difference to student outcomes and learning in the way that you expected.
Self Review, as a change agent is powerful, especially when used to determine if change is needed, how effective it has been and what can be adapted/removed or improved as a result.