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What makes school effective

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 5471 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Since the beginning of mankind, there has been a passion for education. People have been seeking high quality education since it is a fundamental human right. Therefore, the seventh principle of the United Nation Declaration of the Rights of the Child which proclaimed by The General Assembly is that:

Every child, without any exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgment, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society (online). [1] 

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Over the historical sixteen years of teaching in schools, it was found that Egyptian school faces many challenges that hinder achieving its primary task effectively. Some schools lack unity, others are run randomly. Accordingly, school performance and low level of academic attainment among students has become a big problem. Moreover, the school climate is not appropriate for learning in most of schools. Due to the appearance of a lot of weaknesses and threats in schools, Egyptian school reform has become an urgent matter. In Egypt, for example, every school has to respond to various and enormous challenges. This might be seen as indicating at least that the principals who lead schools need to have the personal and professional qualities such as knowledge and leadership skills to meet these challenges. To bring about effectiveness in schools, teachers and parents should have an active role in supporting schooling system.

Recently, there has been an interest in the idea of the ‘good school’. Research into areas of school effectiveness has developed rapidly and school improvement is now discussed more fully. Researchers have expressed views about how schools might be made more effective. It was found that there is a range of factors that lead to high- performing school. While leadership staff such as the school principal, heads of department and teachers will probably play the most important part in enhancing school, there are many factors that contribute to high-performing school. This essay will examine the key factors to school effectiveness and if success is possible in every school. It will illustrate the questions of the school climate and creating a fit educational environment in schools, what effective education is. It will discuss the significant and need for continuing professional development (CPD) to improve school staff. It will cover parents’ involvement, support, influence and training. Much of this essay will be about how schools help to deliver high-quality learning and the impact of leadership and management on the school success.

Schools should be places where everyone of its community tastes the confidence that comes with success in some forms of other (Brighouse and Woods, 2008: p.xii).

School to my knowledge, is the place where we educate the heart of the student so that he can be a good member of the school and ultimately a good member of the society. This indicates that preparing good citizens depends largely on all those who work in schools and their level of effectiveness. It would seem reasonable to argue that if the schools are to improve, we need our teachers, principals, parents and all those who concern to contribute to achieve that goal. This can be taken to mean that leadership inside schools must be taken to new level of making sure that school will meet the needs of every student in terms of learning, attainment and general success. School must demonstrate some key criteria of what makes school effective such as the school climate, how students are learning, parent’s involvement, teachers’ relationship and the quality of teaching and learning. The school must become a place that is a heaven for children, a place that helps to shape a society, a place where every child can achieve success. Eventually, good school has the belief that all children can learn.

Effective education

“Young people grasp that the purpose of school is not to provide an education but to stimulate a thirst for learning, and to give it life beyond the school gate” John MacBeath 1998: p. 5). [2] 

Researchers indicate that effective education is not just a matter of reading a book or only a mean to fill up minds with information with the aim of passing an examination, but its basic objective is the growth of the student’s personality and understanding. It is the kind of education that respects the whole child and encourages him to be independent thinker, and become a productive member of the community. Plutarch the creek essayist said “a child’s mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” Therefore, education is a process to prepare a responsible and good citizen. This indicates that the school should provide such environment that enhances students’ growth. The school should be a learning community in which students can safely expand and augment themselves as human beings. Furthermore, students should be responsible for their own education and actively engaged in cooperative learning activities that lead them to understand how to achieve higher outcomes. This suggests that teachers should be equipped with skills and vary their methods of teaching so they can reach as many students as possible in the classroom.

Effective education leads to required and planned change and contributes to create a balanced personality of students. The curriculums, therefore, should be developed towards achieving educational aims both cognitive and emotional, and also to develop trends, skills and values. It is difficult to achieve these goals without providing or building a vision of what we hope school to be. Working without vision leads to random practice.

The concepts of excellence and vision guide the content and processes of the desired future state of a school in its mission as a learning institution, imaging the best possible conditions for students to learn and for teachers to teach (Wallace, Jr., 1996: p.4)

Taylor and Ryan (2005) see that the vision is the most crucial factor in the school success and focuses on ‘achievement and success.’ and guides everyone in the school to accomplish the mission on the right way. School vision: “can be defined as” an image of the school performance that we wish to create. It is determined by school leaders or school principals with the co-operation and participation of school community. In this respect, the school principal shares this vision with the school staff and parents aiming at developing a plan or a particular strategy outlining what the school will be like now and in the future. The school principal role is to create a positive climate and appropriate circumstances for students, teachers, parents and community to put this vision into practice. Brighouse and Woods (2008) state that not only do we need a vision but the school staff should also be motivated to build their own vision and think of how they could share this vision and put it into practice. For example, teachers should have their own vision which guides them to improve students and achieve educational goals. In other words, the mission of the school must be made applicable through vision statement that describes goals and strategies.

Effective education is mainly interrelated to a vision. Wallace, Jr. (1996) states that the vision is the starting point for an action plan to develop and apply an agenda to put the vision into practice. School vision reflects the long-term goals for the school and identifies expected outcomes of performance. Accordingly, school vision should be written in clear language and understood by the people of concern in school. Therefore, building a vision requires a leader who has the ability to bring together people of different views and agendas and facilitate the process of collaboration for the co-creation of shared vision that owned and practiced by everyone involved. In other words, for the shared vision to become a reality in school, it is fundamental to have such kind of principal who can inspire, plan, facilitate, guide and manage.

Leadership and management

Most people would agree with the proposition that the school leader must have the leadership and management skills and qualities to lead the staff, parents and the community effectively to put the school vision in practice. It might be argue that if you want to be a leader, you should be respected by your team or staff as a leader. The successful school principal therefore, is one who models for school team the style of behaviour he or she expects of them. Because the head teacher alone cannot achieve success, he or she must be backed up with a supportive team. Teamwork is the key to success. Furthermore, he decides on the creating of a supportive environment for the professional growth of the teachers and administrators. Concerning this point, Wallace, Jr.(1996) states that the school principal’s role includes combining and arranging the elements of leadership to achieve the highest positive outcomes for students. Besides setting the tone of the whole school by modeling the interpersonal regard what is expected of all, school principal assists classroom teachers to see the relationship between what they are doing and what is planned. For school head, planning, organizing, maintaining, monitoring and evaluating are key factors to reach excellence and success inside school.

Leadership plays a significant role in developing educational institutions and society. It has been said by many researchers that leadership gets things changed. This indicates that if there is no leadership in a society or institution, nothing will be properly changed and done on the right ways. Although there are many critical arguments about the relation between leadership and management, there is an increasing need in all educational institutions, particularly in developing societies for leaders and managers, who are able to orgnise, manage and plan for institutions to upgrade their performance to the ranks of those in more developed societies. As it is stated by many researchers educational institutions are in need for an effective leader who inspires workers and sets directions for the school and enables school to cope with change. This part will examine the important role of leadership and management within school success.

Effective leadership can contribute the development of people’s capacities by giving them opportunities to practice and to stretch their limits. Skilled operational management can then channel this capacity into appropriate technical capabilities. Management is to ensure that people’s capabilities do not stagnate but remain aligned to changing organizational need….. Effective leadership enhances people’s adaptive capacities. (Beerel, 2009: p.90)

When the head teacher manages the educational process of its various components successfully and effectively, this reflects a successful leadership process. Therefore, the essential task of head teachers has something to do with both management and leadership. Kotter (1990) suggests that “Management is about control complexity Leadership by contrast, is about copying with change” (p.4). [3] Kotter makes a clear mark between the two, management is concerned with transactional complexity, while leadership focuses on change and transformational. In other words, effective leadership concerns with producing useful change through planning and building a vision while management does care of running the organization through organizing and provision. It can be clearly seen that both leadership and management skills are indispensible demand to reach effectiveness. For example, school heads who can lead but not manage, or who can manage but offer poor leadership, risk losing success in schools. Leadership, therefore, complements management, it does not replace it. Furthermore, Brighouse and Woods (2008) emphasize the need for both leadership and management to reach success inside our schools because management systems support leadership.

It is agreed that successful school leadership is one that includes a wide range of cultures and practices, so leadership styles vary to suit various situations. There are many styles of leadership which entail a certain social climate.

Autocratic leadership is a style of leadership which takes a tendency of despotism or autocracy. It would be seen in the relationship between both leader and followers and the social environment. To my personal experience, I have experienced working under this style of leadership. The school head was the only one who himself determined work policy and also determined the type of work that everyone did. Moreover, he gave many orders or took decisions against the desire of his staff. His only concern was to ensure and gain obedience of school members. This reduced contact among our school members. The school staff under that style of leadership just carried out what the school head saw and found it difficult to see the complete plan. This led to a corrupted school community. Furthermore, this created a school climate full of aggressiveness and passiveness. We as a staff lost self-confidence and depended mainly on him. We didn’t trust each other and even we hated and didn’t trust the head teacher himself. This led some of the school members to be hypocrite to this head teacher. Actually, there are a lot of altercations between school members. In such climate you cannot work properly and the school performance was poor.

Democratic leadership is another style which based mainly on encouraging individuals to cooperate, share opinions. Once I worked with such leader who was democratic by nature. He left the decision of distributing work to us as school members. He was practical in his criticism and praise. We were able to choose the work we like to do. We had the chance to express our opinion. However, the school seemed to be run randomly. The autocratic style is common in the Egyptian schools and we miss the democratic style due to the traditional educational system which depends mainly on centralization.

Situational leadership is the most common and uncomplicated style in which the leader must use a combination of leadership styles depending on the situation. On dealing with people this style allows the leader to consider the situation he or she faces and then adopt the most proper leadership style. Situational leadership style relies on flexibility and easy to understand. [4] 

The qualities of leadership, particularly head teachers, and how they deploy their competencies are widely acknowledged to be the key ingredients to school success. Without the right combination of them, they have never come across a truly successful school (Brighouse and Woods, 2008: p.1).

However, it might be argued that whatever style of leadership is adopted; it is important for the head teacher to have the characteristics which enable him to lead school towards success. There is an idea that emanated recently talking about the characteristics of successful educational leader. Moreover, Brighouse, and Woods (2008) clarify that school head should have energy, enthusiasm, hope and the ability to great energy and build capacity by having a programme for staff development that considers the better future of individual. Successful school head makes sure that the school staff speaks the same language and they are members of the orchestra who sing from the same song-sheet. Successful head teacher should good communicator who connects with staff, parents and students to invent the future of the students. These qualities should be practiced within all stages of headship, from the class teacher with students up to the leader (ibid).

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Taylor and Ryan (2005) mention that the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) study which looked at a group of twenty successful head teachers whom they studied shared certain characteristics; they believed in their ability to lead their school to success, focused on their goals and committed to bring out success in their school, prepared to take risks in trying new ways to encourage learning, were open-minded and permitting new ideas, were ready to challenge regulations and do their thing when this appear to be important for children success. Wallace (1996) simply defines the school principal and how he affirms the educational leadership role to achieve effective learning. Wallace’s statement on educational leader is one who visualizes the role and places primary emphasis on effective student learning and the creating of supportive environment for the professional growth of teachers and administrators. Eventually school principal should combine the leadership and management skills to create a climate for the school to flourish.

School climate

There are a variety of factors associated with school and contribute to its success or failure to achieve its goal. On the top of the list come leadership and management and the next will be the school climate. Wallace, Jr. (1996) stresses on the importance of providing a caring environment in which respect, support and fairness exist. School climate contributes in realizing the vision of the institution and its message effectively. The quality of school climate requires establishing or practicing democratic principles and ethical values. The consolidation of social relations in a framework of cooperation, respect and a sense of security will definitely resulted in a high quality education.

Furthermore, creating positive relationships between teachers and students and can positively influence student behavior and contribute towards increasing their academic qualifications. For instance, educational research indicate that when students experience that their teachers support and care about them, they have higher motivation to succeed. Also health researches show that youth who feel connected (feel like they are part of the school; that their teachers treat them fairly) are less likely to engage in negative risk behaviors. These behaviors interfere with attendance, attention in school, and work completion. Brighouse, and Woods, (2008) state that positive learning climate develops and strengthens positive relationships between everyone in the school. One of the best definitions of school climate which reflects its importance is the following

School climate is the heart and soul of a school. It is about that essence of a school that leads a child, a teacher, an administrator, a staff member to love the school and to look forward to being there each school day. School Climate is about that quality of a school that helps each individual feel personal worth, dignity and importance, while simultaneously helping create a sense of belonging to something beyond ourselves. The climate of a school can foster resilience or become a risk factor in the lives of people who work and learn in a place call school” (Freiberg, and Stein, 1999: p. 11).

With attention to, school should be understood as a social system includes the complex interaction between individuals. Each school has a climate affects all employees, constitute behaviour and determines the levels of performance. School healthy climate relies heavily on personal characteristics of the teachers, especially those who have broad powers and are able to influence the decision-making process of the school. The head teachers and Deputy definitely have the greater impact in determining the nature of the school climate. Brighouse and Wood (2008) point out that “language can make or break a school.” This reflects the importance of having harmony inside school.

School physical environment influences the behaviour and attitudes of both students and staff towards learning and towards school itself. For instance, if the school is poor in physical appearance which attracts student as well as all staff to do their work, this will lead students and staff to hate the school and affect their performance. On the other hand, if the school is rich physically, school will definitely be a place where student like to be. It will be a happy and beautiful place. I have experienced working in such atmosphere. I spent two years teaching in a rural school which was rich in colour and gaiety. The school building was new and well designed. The surrounding area was almost green in colour. The most important thing I admired is that the community inside and outside school is supportive and the students had the motivation to learn. It was a great opportunity to experience working in such supportive environment that gave me the opportunity to continually develop my skills as a teacher.

Kerry and Wilding (2004) recommend some dimensions which should be looked after in creating a school environment. Firstly, attention should not just be given to school facilities, but also to plants, whether they are inside or outside school, they should be in good order, tidy, maintained and looked after. This will encourage student to behave well and have a sense of discipline. Secondly, school environment, away from physical psychological elements, should be the kind of place where children feel free to express their view, ask questions and make errors from which they learn. Thirdly, staff and support staff relations, there must be the attitudes of respect and professional trust among them. Fourthly, staff-students relation, this refers to the quality of conversation between peers, students and staff because good behaviour provides a context in which good relations can be sustained. Finally, home-school relations, this refers to creating such climate where good relations and communication exist between home and school.

Regardless of the school design, children need a healthy and inspiring environment in which to learn. Schools should be comfortable visually, they should have excellent indoor air quality; and they should be safe and secure. (Brighouse and Woods 2008P P.107). School facilities have a strong influence on teaching and learning. Children are stimulated by light, colour, and the surroundings. Children can also react negatively to unfavorable conditions. For instance, if the classroom are not planned to encourage the child to learn, there will be no appropriate environment for teacher to teach or student to learn. Classrooms walls should tell about students’ achievements, activities and participation by displaying students’ contributions or work. What I like most during my school visits is that the school location is chosen to be fit for learning. I mean the green area inside and outside school which provides quietness and adds beauty to the school. Another admirable thing we miss in most of our schools is the sports hall and swimming pool. Hence, Successful schools should be a place in which talents are to be discovered and practiced. Beard and Corkery (2010) state ageing school buildings that are in poor condition cannot meet modern teaching or learning methods. Schools with new building and well equipped witness improvement in students’ achievement and attainment.

Teaching, learning and assessment

The quality of learning and teaching is the fundamental role of the school. This takes us to say that school is the place where children learn to read and write to understand the world around them, to make use of their intelligence and imagination, to live and work in harmony with others. Therefore, schools are required to provide high quality education through retaining effective teachers who believe that ‘all children can learn successfully and they can teach any one to succeed’ (Brighouse and Woods 2008: p.61). Hence, the school’s responsibility is to attract teachers who can contribute to the teaching and learning process and think of how to improve the standard of achievement. The school vision which includes the school philosophy should cover these issues of teaching and learning. Brighouse and Woods (2008) suggest that every school should have a policy for teaching and learning which can be constructed to emphasize; creating and maintaining learning environment, monitoring and evaluating teaching and learning, the use of assessment for learning and the use of learning resources.

To my knowledge, students are increasingly bored with the traditional passive learning process simply because it does not fit their learning style. Learning style is a unique way in which every child studies and learns. For example, some pupils need quiet room to study, others like to study while listening to music. This requires teacher to recognize and support different styles inside classroom. Teacher, who insists on the same routine for all students, will not be able to develop every child’s potentials. We live in the world of modern technology such as computer, telephone cell and the internet. Therefore, good school should pave the way to more engaging in an active learning process by making good use of modern technology resources. Through technology, teachers can make learning something exciting and fun. For example, using the smart board inside our classes makes student more active to engage in the lesson. Modern technology resources help teacher to manage learning not present information. “The use and the management of learning technologies are fundamental to effective learning and achievement” (Brighouse and Woods, 2008: P.69).

Arguably, good school enhances creativity and extends active learning opportunities by paying attention to personalizing learning, learning styles and using technology. Student should be responsible for their own learning (learn to learn). The teacher is just a facilitator or a manager. (Brighouse and Woods 2008) state that personalizing learning is to help each student to do better by tailoring education to his or her needs, interests and aptitudes. This will help students to be independent and lifelong learners. For example, children learn in various ways. Some children learn most from looking, some prefer to listen, and others like to do (“visual, auditory and kinaesthetic”) (p.67). To elaborate further, another example is that in schools we have fast learners and slow learners. The fast learners learn quickly while the slow learners will learn but they need more time and tasks. This leads us to the importance of encouraging teachers to provide different kinds of activities which meet their students’ needs, and abilities.

It is truly important for school to apply good assessment techniques in teaching. The traditional kind of summative assessment and grading procedures is not effective enough to help student to succeed. Brighouse and Woods (2008) put emphasis on the need for ‘assessment for learning’ rather than ‘assessment of learning’ to let students work on their achievement and progress (p.68). Assessment for learning is a helpful technique which brings excellence to teaching and learning. Through formative assessment ‘assessment for learning’ students know their target from the beginning. They know where they are and where they are going. It provides a continuous feedback either it is written or aural. Not only does it help students to revise their work but it also teaches students self-reflection to track growth through having a portfolio. Assessment for learning brings students inside the process of assessment to be responsible and in control of their academic learning, achievement and success.

Nevertheless, teachers can make a difference in the child life because they have the greater impact on the students. To my understanding, good teachers are those who listen to their students. They are accessible, available, approachable, enthusiastic, energetic and excited. Good teacher is one who gives students confidence in their ability to achieve high performance. Teachers should be firm but fair, show care, make lesson fun and interesting. This indicates that teachers must think about their practices, discover new methods to inspire their learners, make use of different learning styles, and make teaching exciting and effective. Moreover, teachers must consider how to shape the type of knowledge that students get to maximize their success. It would be reasonable to argue that every teacher should do a self evaluation to be their own reflection of their work. It is the teacher’s document that tells him how he is doing in his profession. Self evaluation makes teachers understand their skills and work on improving these skills through continuing professional development (CPD).

Continuing professional development

Due to the increasing demands for high standards and calls for improving quality inside schools, teachers need to update and develop their skills through continuing professional development. The term ‘professional development’ is used to describe moving teachers forward in knowledge or skills and all types of professional learning undertaken by teachers beyond the point of initial training. Horsley (1996) defines teacher professional development as “opportunities offered to educators to develop knowledge, skills, and approaches to improve their effectiveness in their classrooms and organizations.” In my belief, continuing professional development (CPD) is one of the key issues in the development of education and school reform. Obviously, it is insufficient to talk about education and learning outcomes or bringing about changes in practice without mentioning teacher continuing professional development. Earley and Bobb (2004) state that a teacher’s success in professional development enhances the results of students’ learning. Moreover, effective CPD adds something to the school’s capacity to improve. In other words, the core of CPD process is to improve teacher, teaching, management and leadership skills and qualities.

Therefore, the reasons for undertaking such professional development are to improve the job performance skills of the whole staff and individual teacher and enable them to prepare for change. Brighouse and Woods (2008) show that providing opportunities for the staff to learn together will make the performance better and more consistent throughout the school. Brighouse and Woods (2008) see that well organized coaching and mentoring involving pairs or small groups of staff working together is essential for best continuous professional development. Craft (2000) points out a wide range of methods of professional learning include action research, using distance-learning materials and using information technology such as e-mail discussion group, or self-study using multi-media resources.

Good schools do grow their own teachers but they also grow their own leaders (Brighouse and Woods, 2008: P.95).

But how CPD becomes a reality in school? Brighouse and Woods, (2008) state that one of outstanding schools’ roles is to model, promote and support professional development by providing opportunities for learning within the school itself. For example, skills workshop, subject development sessions, participating in action research projects could be forms of professional development within the school. A sense of personal responsibility for professionals should be also encouraged and supported by the school head. Kerry and wilding (2004) emphasis the need for professional development as a fundamental issue whether it is done by the teachers themselves or done to them. Certainly, to teach effectively teachers must keep up with the changes as a part of their professional development.

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