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Study highlights key elements in creating an 'outstanding' school - 11/11/2015

Dianne Marshall and Professor David Lynch A five-year pilot study by a team of Southern Cross University researchers has identified four elements critical to creating an ‘outstanding’ school.

The results of the study have been published in a book titled ‘Creating the Outstanding School’, published by Oxford Global Press and authored by Professor David Lynch, Jake Madden and Tina Doe.

Professor Lynch said governments across the globe were calling on schools to improve the teaching and learning performance of their schools.

“Socio-economic success in a technologically based global world is requiring all citizens to have high standards of education,” Professor Lynch said.

“The challenge for school principals, who are charged with implementing such school reform agendas, is making pragmatic sense of the enormous volumes of largely disparate education research being conducted around the world.”
The pilot study, conducted under the leadership of Professor Lynch, was undertaken at a Coffs Harbour primary school. The first challenge for the research team was to define what was meant by ‘outstanding’ school.

“We determined that an outstanding school (and hence the goals for this project) is one that can sustainably achieve defined learning outcomes – curriculum elements – in every student. With this definition, researchers worked with a local Coffs Harbour school to see if they could achieve these ends,” Professor Lynch said.

The team focused on English as this was perceived as a key curriculum area for students to excel in and which was then regarded as ‘patchy’ throughout the pilot school.

In the study, and after five years of intensive work by the school and its teachers, the ‘outstanding’ school status in English was achieved.

The researchers concluded that four key elements were at the heart of creating and sustaining the ‘outstanding’ school:

  1. A principal who had the drive, determination and personal leadership capacity to ‘sell the idea’ and then provide the required and ongoing direction for staff for the duration of the project. In the early stages, to be able to ‘cop the flack’ that yet another change program was more workload for the busy classroom teacher.
  2. Distributed team based leadership: an arrangement that enabled teachers to work together in teaching teams to be able to deal with the vast range and scope of students and their individual learning needs in each classroom. Further, this arrangement appeared to focus teachers to key classroom matters and away from the various distractions that traditional top-down school leadership tended to manifest.
  3. Data driven decision-making: each teaching team was provided with regular data on their teaching and learning progress and this was presented in ways that enabled teachers to make informed teaching decisions for each student. Performance benchmarks for every student were set and teachers worked as a team to achieve them. This arrangement creating an environment where teachers began to become educational researchers themselves, posing questions and then researching answers to further their work in classrooms.
  4. An intensive and ongoing coaching, mentoring and feedback regime: each teacher regularly underwent teaching observations and was then coached and mentored by accomplished teachers. Poor teaching performance was identified, and through coaching and mentoring it was improved.

Professor Lynch said the results of the study were brought together in the book ‘Creating the Outstanding School’, which provided an easy to read text that was all about ensuring every student gets a quality education.
He said each chapter explained a set of ideas and research-based strategies that schools and their teachers could employ to reform their school.

“We have identified and explained the key research-based elements that lie at the heart of creating the outstanding school. The book features the Collaborative Teacher Learning Model and the elements of ‘teaching', ‘leadership’, ‘coaching’, ‘mentoring’, ‘feedback’, ‘data driven decision-making’, ‘high impact instruction’ and the idea of ‘teachers as researchers’ as the embodiment of a school-based strategy for creating the outstanding school,” he said.

Creating the Outstanding School is available through Amazon.

Photo: Dianne Marshall, director of the Coffs Harbour Senior College, discusses the new book Creating the Outstanding School, with author Professor David Lynch.

Media contact: Brigid Veale, head of Communications and Publications Southern Cross University, 66593006 or 0439 680 748.

For further information, please contact:
Communications and Publications
Southern Cross University
PO Box 157 • Lismore NSW 2480 • Australia
T +61 2 6659 3006 or +61 2 66203508 • e