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Learning Leadership: Through the Learner's Lens

AISH OASIS Day 2016, Atlanta, GA, USA
Tiffani Razavi
Learning Leadership: Through the Learner's Lens

School heads attending their biannual professional development OASIS Day line up "Speed-dating style" to question each other's ideas on leadership.
Some 120 participants gathered today for AISH’s 9th Annual OASIS Day at Atlanta International School. Kevin Glass, Head of School, welcomed guests and described some recent student-led innovations at the school. AISH CEO Deb Welch opened the program intended to provide an opportunity for professional development, focused this year on the theme of “Learning Leadership”. A highlight was the involvement of a number of high school students, who joined school heads in full participation in the events of the day and guided tours of the school campus.
Keynote speaker Kevin Bartlett explored themes of learning and leadership. After an appeal for an honest conversation, Bartlett emphasized the importance of operating according to learning principles, rather than rules. He then set the room buzzing with conversation, prompting participants to encapsulate the way they make their living in a single sentence (without using a job title). “Talking differently,” he said, “Forces us to think differently.”
Bartlett challenged the audience to generate a common understanding of learning, starting with drawing and recounting personal learning stories, then using stories to generate learning principles, such as “If you can teach something, you have learned it”, “Students will become self-directed learners if you find the thing that motivates them”, and “Constructive feedback is one of the most powerful tools to impact student learning”.
Getting to “the real nuts and bolts”, what actually happens when people learn? Bartlett reviewed three types of learning. Building capacity for conceptual learning involves connecting, constructing and testing. Competency learning happens through deconstructing, identifying and, crucially, practicing with good coaching. Character learning takes place when people consider, act and reflect. Character learning is critical in international education, if this process is to build a generation of graduates who are happy, successful and ethical, and care about the world.
What about leadership? Speed-dating style, participants held quick-fire conversations to feed into reflection on the nature and purpose of leadership, and on to what it means for students to lead their own learning. Some of the deeper understandings included the need to create safe spaces and processes designed to encourage students to learn from making mistakes without penalty. If students are to lead their own learning, thought needs to be given to the roles and responsibilities of students, teachers, and others in the school community.
With energy and enthusiasm, and reflective input from heads and students, the OASIS program thoughtfully enhanced the ongoing conversation about learning leadership in international schools.

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