Evaluation of the Leadership Program for six Heads of Department (HOD)
The leadership program for the Heads of Department (HOD) during 2016 consisted of four workshops in conjunction with one to one visits. Workshops were facilitated at the start of each term, the following topics were covered:
- assessment of phonic knowledge
- why and how to support, mentor and motivate staff
- how to give feedback which recognises achievement and highlights areas for further improvement
- how to plan, prepare and facilitate professional development
- how to support staff when bringing change
During each term every HOD received a support visit from an experienced member of staff. This provided the assistance necessary to apply the content of each workshop to their own context.
During October 2016 an evaluation of the program was completed in order to explore:
- the ways in which the leaders had benefited from being part of the program
- ways in which the program could be improved
This included gathering quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data was collected from 6 HODs by means of a questionnaire. All of the six HODs were female, Black African and their first language was isiZulu. Qualitative data was gained through three semi-structured interviews. The semi-structured interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. Informed consent was obtained from each person which explained the purpose of the research and the possible implications. Through a system of coding similar themes emerged from the data.
Ways in which the leaders had benefited from being part of the leadership program
It was found that leaders had benefitted from the program in two ways during 2016, those being:
- development of knowledge and skills to lead and manage staff
- confidence in ability to lead
Each of these areas will be explained in more detail in the following sections.
Benefit 1: Development of knowledge and skills to lead and manage staff
The Heads of Department identified the key skills they had developed through being part of the leadership program through the questionnaire.
From the graph it is evident that the HODs recognise they have developed a variety of skills in order to lead and manage staff. During the semi-structured interviews the HODs specifically referred to the development of knowledge and skills to support, guide and motivate staff. This will be explored in more detail.
Supporting, guiding and motivating staff
Five of the HODs in the questionnaire stated they had developed a knowledge and understanding of how to support, mentor and motivate staff. During the semi-structured interviews the three HODs, in addition to referring to the knowledge and understanding they had developed (transcript 2, line 12, transcript 2, line 30, transcript 3, line 6) recognised that supporting, guiding and motivating staff was an element of their role (transcript 1, lines 42 – 43, transcript 2, line 25, transcript 2, lines 34 – 36, transcript 3, line 72, transcript 3, line 75). The HODs identified the skills they had developed to support, guide and motivate staff, namely;
- recognising, encouraging / praising staffs achievements (transcript 2, line 13, transcript 2, line 18, transcript 2, lines 20 – 21, transcript 3, lines 49 – 50),
- facilitating professional development (transcript 2, line 48, transcript 3, line 29, transcript 3, line 32)
Furthermore HODs noted the need for follow-up with the staff they support (transcript 2, line 14, line 49, transcript 3, lines 31 – 32, lines 39 – 40) to ensure the necessary improvements. Bush and Middlewood (2005, p.76) highlight how; “The ability and strategies to motivate staff, to develop staff morale and to try to ensure job satisfaction are central to the leader’s role in raising performance.”
The HODs highlighted several benefits of supporting, guiding and motivating staff which included educators enjoying their work (transcript 2, line 19, transcript 3, lines 50 – 51), educators willingness to do their work (transcript 2, line 27, transcript 2, line 32) and improvements in staffs competency (transcript 1, lines 44 – 47, transcript 2, line 26).
Benefit 2: Confidence in ability to lead
Through the development of knowledge and skills to lead and manage staff (see pages 2 and 3 of the report), two of the HODs during the semi-structured interviews identified they were confident in their abilities (transcript 1, line 43, transcript 1, line 50, transcript 2, lines 29 -30). Harlow (2011) outlines that; “Keeping your skills up-to-date can give you the confidence to handle any tasks that your employer expects you to perform”. Due to the knowledge the HODs had developed and the support they were receiving from their HOD, educators were also gaining in confidence (transcript 2, lines 25 – 26, transcript 2, lines 31 -32).
Confidence within the workplace is so important at all levels, as Birmingham Counselling Services (2012) explain: “Confident employees are capable of taking up complex tasks that require commitment and concentration. Confident managers…can often maintain hope and enthusiasm and bring life to the atmosphere of the workplace, inspiring those around them, encouraging people to bring forward their ideas, supporting imaginative suggestions, respecting commitment and helping everyone to keep going when times are hard. Confident people develop a habit of dealing positively with whatever task they focus on.”
Suggested improvements to the leadership program
The questionnaire asked HODs to indicate how the leadership program could be improved.
From the graph it can be seen that the HODs only noted two factors. The suggestion to provide a year plan with dates for workshops will be acted on. The issues that were mentioned in the interviews, namely; large class sizes (transcript 1, lines 55 – 56) and new learners in the school (transcript 3, lines 20 – 22) are concerns that do not directly relate to the leadership program, and of which we have very little control over.
Sustainability of the phonics program
During 2014 and 2015, Grade 2 and Grade 3 educators from six schools were trained and mentored to teach phonic skills using a multi-sensory approach to aid reading and spelling skills. One of the aims of the leadership program was to empower HODs to ensure the sustainability of the phonics program within these school. From the semi-structured interviews it became evident that the educators are continuing to use the skills they developed to teach phonics (transcript 1, line 20, transcript 1, line 22, transcript 1, line 65, transcript 1, lines 99 -100) and develop reading and spelling skills (transcript 1, lines 21 – 22, transcript 1, line 23, transcript 1, line 53, transcript 1, line 66, transcript 1, lines 103 – 104, transcript 3, line 17). One HOD commented on how the new template for assessment was a positive change as it helped educators to identify where learners needed further support (transcript 3, lines 14 – 18). The same HOD has recognised that the further development of reading skills should be a focus for 2017, she stated (transcript 3, lines 87 – 88); “..we must focus on reading and encouraging learners to read because it is important.”
Educators and HODs are using the knowledge they developed through the program and the learners are benefitting (transcript 1, lines 28 – 29, transcript 1, lines 82 – 83). HOD1 noted (transcript 1, lines 88 – 89); “..Soul Action came to us and we adopted it and we are what we are.”
Thus, through the facilitation of the leadership program, HODs have recognised (i) that supporting, guiding and motivating staff is an important element of their role (transcript 1, lines 42 – 43, transcript 2, line 25, transcript 2, lines 34 – 36, transcript 3, line 72, transcript 3, line 75) and (ii) the importance of follow-up with the staff they support (transcript 2, line 14, line 49, transcript 3, lines 31 – 32, lines 39 – 40) to ensure the necessary improvements in teaching and learning, and the sustainability of the phonics program has been strengthened. One of the HODs explained how she was supporting and providing professional development for new educators at the school (transcript 1, lines 90 – 92) so phonics would be taught to learners appropriately.
From this report it is clear that the Heads of Department have greatly benefitted from the knowledge and skills they have developed in how to support, guide and motivate staff and as a result of this have confidence in their abilities to lead staff. The sustainability of the phonics program has been ensured as HODs have understanding on the importance of supporting staff in order to increase motivation levels, and the benefits it has to both teaching and learning. Studies show that when educators are motivated and love the teaching profession, students are motivated to learn and they learn the content taught by their teachers more effectively (Mkumbo 2011, p.2).
Birmingham Counselling Services (2012) The Benefits of Self-Confidence [online], Available from http://birminghamcounsellingservices.co.uk/the-benefits-of-self-confidence [Accessed 27 October 2016]
Bush, T. and Middlewood, D. (2005) Leading and Managing People in Education, London: Sage.
Harlow, P. (2012) Keeping Your Skills Current at Work [online], Available from https://wmich.edu/sites/default/files/attachments/u91/2014/Keeping%20your%20skills%20current%20at%20work.pdf [Accessed 27 October 2016]
Mkumbo, K. (2011) Are our Teachers Qualified and Motivated to Teach? [online], Available from http://somatanzania.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Are-Our-Teacher-Motivated-and-Qualified-to-Teach.pdf [Accessed 02 September 2013]