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Supporting those in the firing line: portraits, personality and privacy. Mike Bottery Professor of Education University of Hull.

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Presentation on theme: "Supporting those in the firing line: portraits, personality and privacy. Mike Bottery Professor of Education University of Hull."— Presentation transcript:

1 Supporting those in the firing line: portraits, personality and privacy. Mike Bottery Professor of Education University of Hull

2 The purpose To describe a research approach which tries to capture how individuals do their job by writing a ‘portrait’ of them To describe the kinds of impact this approach had on those interviewed To reflect on why these portraits seemed to have such impact

3 A very brief background Decades of education systems and policies apparently more interested in results than people A major literature on problems of ‘leadership sustainability’ So how did these individuals feel about their jobs? The contrast between individuals in two different systems…

4 So what is portrait methodology? Three stages: (a) A semi-structured interview, which is then transcribed (b) from this, the creation of a 5,000 word portrait of that individual, their challenges, ambitions… (c) then sending the portrait and the transcript to the interviewee for their thoughts It provides a story of an individual’s hopes, ambitions, and concerns

5 Three essential aspects of portrait methodology It’s PERSONAL – it’s what the interviewee wants to talk about It’s by a PEER – not a hierarchical examination where data is used as evidence in a judgement of performance It’s PRIVATE – its contents aren’t disclosed to anyone unless the interviewee agrees

6 70+ full portraits in the UK and HK so far: similar underpinning values… An overwhelming focus and priority on their students’ well-being: ‘to make a difference to their lives’ Focussing on the personal and local, and sometimes the day to day Taking note and dealing with larger issues when these affected the values and practices of their school However, due to personality and context, there is no simple pattern of principal response to the issues and challenges

7 Understanding each personality and context is critical for understanding the challenges Harriett C. and Ofsted pressures – a new UK principal in a difficult school driven by local authority pressures rather than his own judgements… John L. and thriving on 14 hours a day – an experienced HK principal who embraced the challenge of keeping his school open Michael K. the chess player – an experienced UK principal who used a wider political experience to defend his judgements

8 And systemic comparisons UK principals were much more defensive and worried about external inspection HK principals saw such inspection bodies as much more supportive critical friends But both cohorts felt bogged down by the amount of directives and paperwork: ‘I don’t even have the time to think that I don’t have the time…’

9 The portrait approach as a supportive and developmental tool. It seemed to help individuals know themselves better: It doesn’t matter how many courses you’ve been on, and how much you know intellectually about the processes of being a head. If you don’t develop an appreciation of yourself as a person...and [of] your own emotional will never make a good head. (UK)

10 What kind of impact did the research have? 1: Affective impact. The interview ‘…was a conversation asking me to think about who ‘I’ was; it was quite cathartic…I felt slightly uplifted in that I had the opportunity to talk about how I felt…’ ( UK) ‘…I was not sure what to expect but this [the portrait) is far more soul searching and involved than I believed it could have been.’ ( UK) ‘I just wanted [in the interview] to have some outburst of my frustrations.’ ( HK)

11 2. Third-person impact ‘ It was written in such a way that it was almost in the third person, but I recognised the third person…’ (HK) ‘I gave the portrait to my admin officer and she said ‘yes, that’s absolutely you…’ (UK) The portrait ‘… enables me to look at myself as a third party. Therefore I can get to know my own strengths, weaknesses, and working style better....’ (HK)

12 3. Reflective impact. ‘It gives you time to stand back and think…’ (UK)…. ‘You are stimulating my thinking and give me some thoughts…’ (HK) Affirmative Impact: it ‘…legitimized in my mind the importance of this area of study…’. (UK) “… it is something concerned with strengthening or reaffirmation..’ (HK) Defensively Affirmative impact: [I’m] working in a profession under attack on so many fronts..’ ‘…it’s something I can hold onto, and can say ‘hey, that’s the best I can do, and if that doesn’t fit with the requirements of an agenda, then so be it…’

13 4. Developmental Impact ‘I have to upgrade myself, or update myself…so that I can be a learned person before my teaching fellows and also my students...if they know that their principal is still a learning one, a life-long learner, they can also be learners as well…’ (HK) ‘… but it doesn’t mean that I can’t learn something from that…if you’re just being angry, it is not enough’. (HK) ‘It made me reflect even more deeply about how my own persona influenced my leadership role and how I perceived it…’ (UK)

14 5. Discovered Impact ‘…I was aware of [my emphasis on a values driven approach] but only in the background, and not to the extent to which it drives my leadership..‘…the process of reflection emphasized the importance of this, and I became more overt in my articulation of values in leading.’ (UK).. when I read the portraits again, I think my past experience could be usefully employed to help teachers succeed, …so I decided to stay in the education career…’ (HK). ‘Before the portrait process it [retirement] might have been a throw- away comment, but now it was something I needed to think about.’ (UK)

15 6. Life-changing (REF) impact ‘…the portrait process had a direct and long lasting effect on my leadership role and I am grateful for its contribution to changing my life...’ (UK) ‘…mentioning creativity impacted on me a lot…’ Producing ‘… new musicals for all students in Hong Kong… would not have happened without the impact or without the portrait…’ (HK)

16 The impact of the research suggests that reflection generated by the process might be a highly effective and supportive form of CPD. So why did the approach seem to be so effective? profession alism

17 Deconstructing the 3ps – (1) the value of the Personal The need for the personal and moral commitment to the people in their care – it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation The alienating effect of ignoring the personal, and the dangers of ‘designer leadership’ The danger of emphasising results over people Ultimately research suggests that sustainable results come through good relationships and are seen as meaningful for people and their communities

18 The value of the Peer The need for the non-hierarchical conversation The absence of power differentials in a discussion The dangers of silence or right-answerism (particularly where external objectives and punitive accountability are in place) An essentially element of democracy is equal rights to disagreement – A better context for free and creative exploration of ideas – better both ethically and pragmatically

19 The value of the private The need for individual privacy in one’s working life: Pragmatically – ideas are initially better off being nurtured, and not being exposed to the harsh light of the public view; increased likelihood of the exploration of the creative and the risky Ethically – the need to restrict the expansion of the ‘greedy’ organisation; the tendency to see privacy as a weakness, a failure to commit, almost a crime; not everything should be a public record of achievement – do we need to re-define the boundaries?

20 A Final thought “The moral test of Government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” A moral test of a society is the degree to which it supports the right of the individual not to be known – both in private and public spaces. Portrait methodology may be a small contribution to the support of the individual

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