While the development and implementation of an induction programme may involve costs in terms of time and resources, the investments made in an effective programme will have beneficial longer term effects on school functionality and, ultimately, learner development and academic performance.
Each of the components is described below:
The training component comprises four off-site workshops spread over 18 months. The induction programme starts with the training, which lays out the design, expectations, content, and activities of the programme. The training covers topics that include (amongst others) the connection of policy to practice; leadership theory; planning; supervision; personal mastery; organizational change; data use; action research, etc. The training includes a toolbox that contains technical and adaptive tools that can facilitate the work of the newly appointed principal.
The teaching methodologies used during the training sessions include presentations on recent and relevant research relating to effective school leadership, facilitated group work and discussions, training in the use of leadership and management tools, case studies, videos, café conversations and reflective journaling sessions. At the end of the first training workshop, the participants will identify an Action Learning Project (or change initiative) that will be implemented in their schools. This project will be located in the instructional (teaching and learning) core of the school and focus on critical elements like improving curriculum supervision or support in the school; strengthening teaching practice; curriculum coverage; learner academic performance in a subject etc. The focus of the Action Learning Project is deliberative – it is designed to embed the primary focus of leadership on the instructional core from the onset of leadership practice.
Implementing and reflecting on the Action Learning Project
After the first round of training, the principal returns to the school and continues to refine the project. The Circuit Manager (CM) assumes the role of lead mentor and is assisted by a SEED mentor. Together the CM, the mentor and the SMT (the instructional leadership team of the school), play a crucial role in helping the principal refine the project. The principal also has to work with the other stakeholder (teachers, SGB members, learners, and parents) to obtain buy-in and support across the school for the project before implementation. This will involve the processes of project planning and management; action research; and using the soft skills of collaboration and team building.
The principals are required to write up their reflections on the Action Learning Project in the first 3 semesters and submit these as part of the assessment process using the prescribed template. The assessments are marked by the faculty and if necessary are returned to the principals for further work if this is needed. The fourth and final assessment takes place in the 4th semester and takes the form of a presentation to faculty and peers.
Whilst the CM remains the lead mentor, it is not realistic to expect them to provide specialized attention to newly appointed principals in addition to their mentoring and managing role with all the principals in their circuits. To this end SEED will appoint 2 retired principals or circuit managers in the District to work alongside the CMs to ensure that effective mentoring takes place. All mentors and CMs must have completed or be enrolled in the School Coaching and Mentoring Programme (SCM) that is run by SEED and accredited by the University of Stellenbosch Business School – Executive Development (USB-ED).
It is envisaged that principals will have mentoring sessions of 2-3 hours every 3 weeks so that dependency is avoided and so that they have time to implement learning gained in the mentoring session. Mentoring sessions can take the form of one-on-one meetings with the principal or meetings with a small cohort of principals. These sessions focus on supporting the principal to reflect and share her/his learning in relation to the action research project at the school. The mentor provides guidance and support during the implementation of the project (especially in the 8 areas of the principal standards) and assists the principal in addressing problems of practice. The important point to remember here is that the mentor does not solve the problem for the mentee, but through questioning and giving feedback, unlocks the mentee’s potential and develops his/her capacity to address the problem. The mentee principal keeps a journal that reflects the learning (both organizational and professional) during the implementation of the project.
Peer learning networks
These networks deepen the learning and supports further development as they allow the principals on the programme to have peer/collegial conversations about their Action Learning Projects and share their learning, good practices, further insights, and alternative ideas. The network is run by the principals on the programme, and they take turns to chair the network sessions. Activities of the network may include “learning visits” to individual schools that are rotated throughout the two year period. The visit is chaired by the principal of the host school, who shares a problem of practice related to the Action Learning Project. This follows a protocol that allows for clarification; questioning for further information; and then the sharing of perspectives, ideas, and advice. The network sessions also contain reflective writing exercises that form part of a written portfolio that documents the journey of change at both the organizational and personal levels. These sessions are interspersed between the mentoring and training sessions of the induction programme and are sequenced to complement each other as the principal moves through the programme.
The induction programme concludes after the second year, with the newly appointed principals presenting their Action Learning Projects to a panel that comprises the faculty, mentors and some of their peers. The presentation is based on a portfolio of evidence accumulated over the two years that documents the implementation of the organizational change; its effects on the school; and the reflections from the principals on their learning and leadership development. The panel give feedback and make suggestions or recommendations for how the learning and work of change can be sustained once the programme ends.