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Archimedean Leadership: How might leverage observations transform teaching?

Give me but one firm spot on which to stand, and I will move the earth.”
Archimedes, on the action of a lever


Ordinary observations often don’t help teachers improve as we might hope; leverage coaching, developed by Uncommon Schools, promises powerful results from slight tweaks to the format.  This series of posts explained why and how we tried to introducing them at Greenwich Free School in Autumn 2014, and considers their effects.

Part I – problems with lesson observations

A number of problems limit the effectiveness of lesson observations, including infrequency, judgments and unhelpful feedback; Part I examines them in detail.

Part II – how do leverage coaches offer feedback?

This is how Yo-Yo Ma offers feedback:

Leverage coaching aims to create something more like a Yo-Yo Ma masterclass than a conventional observation: in-the-moment, specific about how to change and causing immediate improvement.  Part II explains the process, step-by-step.

Part III – what makes leverage observations powerful?

This format is the first time I feel observations have been used as a positive tool for my teaching and not as a judgmental tool and ‘confidence knocking’ exercise.”

This reflection from an anonymous colleague exemplifies the power of the approach: Part III examines how and why the format works.

Part IV – how do leverage observations change staff culture?

The medium is the message.”
Marshall McLuhan

New routines may cause deeper changes to teachers’ roles and practices; Part IV considers the more profound changes brought about by leverage coaching.

Part V – how we observe better?

Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
Leonardo da Vinci

Likewise, any teaching strategy must either undergo continual revision or be jettisoned.  Part V wraps up the series by:

  • discussing how the school may better implement leverage coaching,
  • considering how observers in other schools could use similar ideas; and
  • sharing resources to learn more about leverage observations.

The key link is the book: Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools; Part V has other suggestions as to how to learn more.

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