Book Review: Dylan Wiliam’s Leadership for Teacher Learning: Creating a Culture Where All Teachers Improve so That All Students Succeed
This book is compulsory reading for all school leaders. Research studies have consistently revealed that it is quality teaching that has the greatest impact on student learning outcomes.
Most teachers would accept this reality, evident in their willingness to attend professional learning and, if the conditions are right, make adjustments to their classroom practice. Leaders, on the other hand, have the second greatest impact on student learning, and their greatest responsibility is to provide the right conditions – time and support – for all teachers to become even better.
Given the moral imperative to improve learning proficiency for all young people, Wiliam proposes that school leaders must strive to ensure that the kinds of changes teachers are making to improve their practice are those most likely to benefit student learning outcomes. Wiliam’s book Leadership for Teacher Learning provides leaders with an exhaustive summary of educational research, describing in detail the practices that do grow teacher quality and directly benefit student learning. Based on the evidence presented, Wiliam outlines a compelling case for school leaders to seriously consider formative assessment as the most cost-effective way to exponentially increase student learning and engage teachers in continuous professional improvement.
Wisely, Wiliam explains in detail what formative assessment is and what it is not! In brief, it is not teachers administering more assessments to students during class time to find out if the intended learning has taken place. Rather, Wiliam defines formative assessment as all those activities undertaken by both teachers and students to assess themselves that provide information to be used as feedback to modify teaching and learning activities. “Such assessment becomes formative when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching to meet student needs” (p. 103).
If leaders could change one thing in their schools to positively affect student learning, the evidence strongly suggests it would be giving teachers time to work in structured learning teams. Wiliam proposes that teachers need time to learn together, permission to take risks and trial new classroom practices, and time to collaboratively reflect on what they have learned. School-based studies demonstrate that Professional Learning Communities support all teachers, regardless of their years of experience, to continuously learn and hone their practice.
As leaders, it is our moral responsibility to be wary of the next “big thing” in education. We need to make research-informed decisions to ensure all students learn to proficient levels and all teachers have the time and support to become even better than they already are!
Bern Nicholls Bern Nicholls is an authentic and passionate learner who over the span of her career in education has consistently kept students at the centre of all her thinking and research. Read more articles by Bern Nicholls