Conversation can play a significant role in achieving conceptual change in the context of work-based learning (Readman and Rowe, 2016, p.1012). Barber, Whelan and Clarke (2010) assert that emerging leaders need to be ‘supported by other knowledgeable people if they are to become stronger leaders who make a difference to the lives of colleagues and students’ (p. 30). Caldwell, likewise, believes that interaction with fellow professionals can alleviate the challenges of leading in an isolated context in which leaders can often feel alone (Caldwell, 2006). In addition, Fluckiger, Lovett and Dempster (2014) encourage practice-centred and partnerships-powered strategies to enhance individual leaders’ capacity to lead their learning communities well. EDU705 Leadership for Learning Communities in the Master of Education Program at USC attracts aspiring and current leaders from a myriad of learning contexts. The characteristics cited as crucial to effective leadership development have been woven into the design of the course: collegial support; interaction with peers; practice-centred learning activities; and partnerships-powered approaches. The range of experience and level of leadership responsibility of collaborating students may be wide, with some being seasoned school principals with twenty years’ experience and some at the embarkation stage of their leadership journey. Each, however, brings a distinctively unique set of expertise and motivation which enables them to contribute meaningfully to class discussion and collegial activities. Whilst the course is designed to provide theoretical underpinnings, leadership frameworks and opportunities to analyse developing leadership capacity and formulate goals, the application of theory to unique context is essential. The vehicle for application of theory to practice is through the design and launch of a leadership project in situ during the semester of study. Throughout the project and during face-to-face interactions, students of this course ‘lead’ each other by providing, written feedback on the first task, and verbal feedback during a Professional Learning Conversation in the final week. Once feedback has been received, students reflect on their leadership project and their leadership development. They also, most importantly, reflect on the ways in which they have been able to provide feedback to their peers. Students who have given professional support to peers (and received it from their peers) through Professional Learning Conversations, have reported that not only was this beneficial to them in their own leadership development, but that they would be incorporating it as a strategy for others’ leadership development in their own contexts. A ‘Leaders Leading Leaders’ approach is proving to be both pedagogically-sound and professionally relevant for tomorrow’s leaders of learning communities.
2016 Learning & Teaching Week: 2020 Teaching Visions. 2020 - What's Next?, Sunshine Coast, Australia 31 October - 4 November 2016