Portrait methodology – the beginnings and the general findings

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Portrait methodology – the beginnings and the general findings Powered By Docstoc
					    Professor Mike Bottery,
University of Hull, England.
If you could only keep two of the
following, which would they be?
 Your non-writing hand
 The company of the person who loves you the
 250,000 Euros
 The company of the person you trust the most
 The company of the most logical person in the
 The company of the person you love the most.
What is a portrait approach?
 First used by Lawrence-Lightfoot and The Good High
  School (1983);
 A desire to capture the person and their concerns;
 The use of standard qualitative tools to listen to a story
  and then create a picture of them
 Listening for a story as much as listening to a story.
 It’s about their perceptions of their reality.
The background to using the approach
 A general increase in : Government direction; Accountability and
  testing; Use and influence of markets;

 A focus on results and achievement rather than people.

 Much pressure on English Headteachers; were they doing what
  they felt they ought to be doing?

 Some academic literature indicated they were (e.g. Gold, Day);
  some argued that they were not (Ball, Wright);

 But what was the job really like?

 Were the same things to be found with Hong Kong Principals?
Three samples
 (a) 12 UK Primary Headteachers and 12 HK Principals

 (b) Then 12 UK Secondary Heads and 12 HK Principals.

 Both samples contained
    Experienced and inexperienced;
    Males and females
    Comfortable and difficult schools
    Denominational and non-denominational

 (c) Then 5   UK ‘Troubleshooter’ Headteachers.
The question areas (for the ‘normal’ heads )
 Describing themselves and their schools
 Their satisfactions and dissatisfactions
 Attitudes to legislation
 Relationships with governing body
 Attitude to external inspection
 Market issues
 Questions of time and energy
 Prioritising these for frequency and seriousness
 Any other issues they feel are problematic
The methodology
 Questions drawn up, and piloted in England and Hong Kong; strong similarity
  of areas of concern

 Questions posted/emailed before the interview; confidentiality and
  anonymity guaranteed;

 Semi-structured interviews conducted; in Hong-Kong with both English and
  Cantonese interviewers;

 From the transcripts of the interviews, a ‘portrait’ of each Principal was

 The portrait plus the full transcript was sent to the Principal for any changes:
  very few made.
Results 1: The effects of legislation
 Both sets had similar legislative architectures –– privatisation,
  managerialism, markets, inspections, accountability – policy

 A much greater adversarial English approach – a perceived lack of trust
  and embattlement;

 A more favourably disposed if still critically aware HK approach

 Evidence was seen in England as ‘defence’; in HK more as confirmation;
Comparing England and Hong Kong
           All kinds of systems and procedures that make sure it works, and lots of
  record keeping systems, because that is my evidence to OFsted…
          I am not going to implement it simply because somebody says this is the
  latest thing…

       It is very difficult for me to find…
      I agree with the guidelines and also the ordinances…
Results 2: The effects of inspection
 English embattlement seen again; at best an ever-present threat, at
  worst the enemy;

 Being able to do the unusual a function of personal values, length of
  tenure, personal courage;

 HK approach much more relaxed – largely seen as fellow professionals
  with whom they would share.

 At best a friend, at worst a neutral observer.
Comparing England and Hong Kong
        People feel that careers are made or broken on the strength of a group of
  people for a few days in your school looking round…

        Whatever we’re discussing, it always got the Ofsted element there…’we
  can show this to Ofsted’ always comes up, no matter what you’re doing

      They have good intentions, not pick our faults…

         It is a good means for the school to do something after listening to their
  expertise and ideas…
Results 3: The effects of
 The same for both contexts:
    Where there were declining numbers this was taken very

   A realisation that market forces don’t always mean good

   A feeling of unfairness – we haven’t done anything
    wrong, but…
Comparing England and Hong Kong
          It’s not that we have done anything in particular that has upset people,
      It’s just that the area is drifting away…

         We have to be realistic and maintain numbers, purely for the fact that
          children have a price tag on them…

       I do my best to keep my school open, and I will try anything to do that,
        provided it is in the interests of my students…

             Now we do not have the luxury to choose [who applies]
Results 4: Time and Energy
 In both situations, personality and local contexts were
 key factors;

 But both sets exhibited stress over the accumulation of
 tasks and paperwork generated by legislative reforms;
Comparing England and Hong Kong

    We haven’t even got time to think about the fact that we haven’t got time…
    Countless, countless, countless initiatives…

    I can do things very quick, very fast, but you see coming a lot of papers,
    Time and effort are the main issues…even when I’m not working, you have to
     think all the time…
    It’s a tough job for a head, so no one wants to take up this position…
The personal issues
 Essential to understand personality and context to
  understand responses:

   Harry C. and his Ofsted pressures

   Michael K. the chess player

   Mary N. and her religious convictions

   John L. and thriving on 14 hours a day.

   Katie and her Jurassic Park.
The Troubleshooters - the question areas
 How did your career take you to this job?
 Why did you want it?
 What makes it right for you?
 What have been the changes in the job and the team?
 What are the major satisfactions and dissatisfactions
  of the job?
 What are the most frequent/most serious challenges in
  the job?
 What is the future – for you, and for the team?
Some early troubleshooter findings
 There seems to be a suited personality – lacks tolerance of routine, an
  ‘adrenaline junkie’, can tolerate disorder, is not a dominating leader –
  needs to listen a lot; enjoys and feels they need autonomy to do the job;

 The first job, they feel, is one of ‘healing’ the school rather than raising
  standards and achievement;

 External pressure seems increasingly interventionist – we want
  standards raised now (and Robinson, 2009);

 Will external pressure kill the geese that lay the golden eggs?
Unanticipated benefits from the approach:
(1)   It focuses on the person, rather than standards and achievement;

(2)   It provides discussion without accountability;

(3)   It provides feedback by another party to a public figure;

(4)    It provides space for private reflection before going public, and may
      therefore boost standards;

(5)   By being private and non-hierarchical, it may reduces personal
As a supportive and developmental tool
 As a private confidential conversation with a trusted and
  knowledgeable peer..

 Another’s view of you every two years....

 Knowing yourself 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.
    Former Headteacher, In Pascal and Ribbins(1998)
Key features
 It’s personal ; It’s private ; It’s peer-based.

 The Question: Is this a model for supporting senior
  leaders at a time of problems in recruitment and
  retention worldwide?

 Currently the model is being piloted in both the UK
  and Hong Kong.
 Any questions?

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