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Presented and Produced by Seán Delaney

Theme tune by David Vesey

This week my guest on the programme is Leadership expert Professor Andy Hargreaves. Andy Hargreaves is Research Professor at Boston College, Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa, Distinguished Visiting Professor at Hong Kong University, Professor at the University of Stavanger, and Honorary Professor at Swansea University. 

Over the course of our 42-minute conversation, we covered a wide range of topics, including the following:

  • The effect of wealth inequality on people in many countries and the implications for education
  • Negative effects the international test PISA has had on education systems and why the focus on such results is changing in some countries
  • How the focus has now moved to matters such as identity and belonging
  • Three things have happened which have led to a revised agenda for schools to respond to:
    • Existing methods and strategies have become exhausted in seeking additional marginal gains on international tests
    • People start to sense that something is amiss (backlash against testing from middle-class parents – “coasting schools” in the UK and mental health issues among children and problems of teacher recruitment and retention)
    • Changes in society as an impetus for change: People are asking how do refugees and immigrants affect our curriculum and sense of community? How do we respond to school shootings and violence in North America? Anxiety among adolescent girls associated with social media
  • (Irish primary) teachers’ preparedness to respond to matters such as equity, identity and wellbeing.
  • Why identity is more important than achievement (with reference to Franco-Ontarian community)
  • Responding to conflicting identities
    • Welcome all children and every aspect of their identity
    • Recognising that many reasons may underlie why students struggle with their learning other than being unable to master a concept
    • Understanding that most identities are flawed and that societies have values which people are expected to subscribe to
  • How anxiety, narcissism and hopelessness are impacting on young people’s wellbeing.
    • May be related to lack of mobility/lack of opportunity. Public services (library, education, health service and housing) may not be as strong as in the past. The need to reinvest in public life, including teaching to promote mobility
    • Ideas of success have become skewed. The need to see success in ways other than monetary value and having a sense of fulfilment.
    • He refers to the work of Jean Twenge: With advent of smart phones adolescents (especially girls) are less prone to experience violence, to drugs, to alcohol and to early pregnancy but much more prone to anxiety, depression, self-harming and suicidal thoughts, mainly because they’re not going out. Instead they’re getting less sleep, digitally enhancing pictures of themselves and comparing themselves to others, and responding to postings from others (including mean ones)
  • Why he disagrees with schools banning mobile phones.
  • He would like to see more outdoor education, more adventure, more working in the community, more connection to the environment and more face-to-face interactions.
  • What is wrong with wellbeing? (Seeing it as an individual solution to a huge systemic problem; schools creating wellbeing in one part of their work and creating “ill”-being in another part; wellbeing can be interpreted differently across cultures e.g. happiness, fulfilment, duty to parents, respect for elders, loyalty to the group, attention to your family, delayed gratification, etc. Being calm, which is often prioritised by schools, is only one way to be well – exuberance, physical engagement, and happiness are others.)
  • What is wrong with growth mindset? It can detract attention from other factors that affect learning (poverty, disadvantage, prejudice) but growth mindset is still a powerful idea.
  • How teacher collaboration can help schools respond to the problems outlined.
  • Teachers who collaborate with colleagues do better, on average, than those who do not. Children learn more, teachers are more motivated and engaged, it’s better for implementing change
  • Professional Learning Communities – tended to be liked by administrators but considered to be contrived and constraining by teachers in some countries.
  • A question Professor Hargreaves asked in his research: “If collaboration is good sometimes, but not always, how should collaboration be designed?” Build trust and relationships and establish helpful procedures and protocols around collaboration.
  • Sometimes collaboration is most important where it is most difficult – in difficult to serve areas or in areas experiencing rural poverty.


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