Support Network Projects
A key project focus which evolved through the use of the Design Process at our residential planning conference revolved around the concept of creating genuine professional support networks for Principals and aspiring leaders.
The discussion led to two strategies being developed to provide collegial support in a meaningful and practical way to Principals across the various school settings, Protocols and ‘Hot Topics’ meetings.
Protocols are not a new process and there are a number available for use in various settings and for various purposes. Protocols were used very successfully by our Partner Schools Project team. This team initiated this support network and used video conferencing facilities to meet regularly and conduct structured discussion on specific problems or issues nominated by team members. The team rotated through so that each member had an opportunity to have a problem or issue “workshopped” through the protocol process.
The use of protocols in this particular situation had multiple benefits:
- Enabled structured professional conversation on specific problems or issues.
- Allowed leaders from diverse school settings to better understand each other’s context, particularly across the urban/rural divide.
- Allowed a small group of leaders who were already established or establishing school partnerships, to provide professional leadership support to each other and build a sense of collegiality.
- Allowed team members to feel less ‘isolated’ in their leadership role, particularly as a Principal.
- Allowed aspiring leaders/newly appointed Principals to learn valuable skills and gain knowledge about the Principal role.
- Allowed a focus on wellbeing by creating a meaningful support network.
Copies of some more protocols can be found on the Protocol section of our website.
The concept of a ‘Hot Topics’ online meeting using Adobe Connect or video conferencing was developed. The idea was to run a fortnightly online meeting, open initially to members of the Alliance team to discuss issues that were relevant or of interest to all. The topics would be nominated by members of the group. Some nominated by our Alliance team included: “How to cater for 21st Century Learners”, “How to implement an effective EARs and TARs process”, amongst others.
Download Hot Topics suggested by our Learning Alliance (PDF).
The meeting structure and timing was carefully planned to ensure:
- The meeting was only half an hour in duration
- The meeting facilitator began by presenting some information, resources or thoughts on the topic to initiate discussion
- There was opportunity for all to participate and benefit from the discussion
Download Hot Topics meeting structure (PDF)
Planning documents such as the one below were used to give all participants an opportunity to nominate a topic which they wanted to discuss and to share the leadership opportunities for each session. It also allowed us to set up a program of topics for upcoming Hot Topics meetings.
Download Hot Topics Planning Guide (PDF)
The reality of this process is that it is dependent upon a coordinator to initiate and drive the planning and ensure communication of meeting times, topics and leadership responsibilities. Initially in our Alliance team we were lucky to have a team member who did this, however she was unable to continue the role. The resources on Hot Topics found in this site were created by Danielle Machuca from Lindfield Public School. We did run a successful Hot Topics meeting on “How to Cater for 21st Century Learners” however, the project has not been sustainable due to the personnel factor.