a ‘think aloud’ for instructional leaders

It was nice to see my blog post / reflection on staff development garner a few comments.  The conversation is what it is all about for me.  I decided to post my reflections for my PQP2 course on my blog in order to make my learning more open, as I mentioned in a previous post.  Earlier today, Will Richardson posted about the importance of leaders making their learning transparent:

So here is the money question: What two things (and only two) would you tell educational leaders are the most important steps they can take to lead change today? I got that one from a professor at Oakland University last week, and after pausing for what seemed like an excruciatingly long time, I answered “build a learning network online, and make your learning as transparent as possible for those around you.” And while I really think the first part of that answer would make sense to most leaders out there, I think the second would have them running for the hills.

A timely coincidence!  I agree whole-heartedly with Will’s response.  This is one of my goals as I move into a leadership role within my own district.  I don’t want to adopt a preachy stance on it, but I will choose to model transparency in my own learning, partially through this blog.  

be the change

I know that everytime I model, there will likely be at least one early adaptor in the group who will ask questions and, possibly, join in the conversation and begin to think about and try out some open learning.  There are already at least 4 Principals and Vice-Principals within my district using Twitter.  My aim is to ‘be the change’ that I would like to see happen around me.  

I recently found this video on YouTube and, without commenting on the product being advertised, found that it really resonated with my thoughts on leading learning and changing to a higher degree of transparency within my learning.  I would never expect anything to change without jumping in and making the change within myself and my own instructional and learning practices first.

not a big shift

Something else that Will mentioned in his discussion on the value of transparent learning struck a chord with one of the strategies that we use every day with our students:

Transparency can support all of the ways in which my kids must be able to acquire expertise, act ethically, display creativity, respect diversity, and synthesize and make sense of information.

Reading this I was reminded of an instructional strategy that we use every day to help students acquire solid high-order thinking skills: the think aloud.  When teachers use the think aloud strategy, they model their own thinking and questioning of a text.  In other words, they make explicit – transparent – the cognitive processes that go into making sense of the text by inferring meaning, asking questions, finding important details, etc….  Teachers and students use the think aloud to talk through the text.  Learning becomes more conversational and more social.  

Asking instructional leaders to do the same is, in that sense, not a big shift at all –  What it asks us to do is to replicate that which we want to see in our classrooms across the curriculum.  Using a PLN to extend professional learning through online tools such as Twitter and blogging is, really, not that different from thinking aloud.  Be the change.