Aspiring leaders understanding their ‘selves’ and/in social contexts

This blog post follows up my initial thoughts concerning opportunities for change in August 2015 ( At that time, the opportunities in question related to the forthcoming review of National Professional Qualification programmes for Middle Leadership (NPQML), Senior Leadership (NPQSL) and Headship (NPQH) in England.  I was looking forward to the chance to weaken existing social structures relating to teachers’ professional learning.

Empirical literature on the theme of National Professional Qualifications for school leadership serves mainly to evaluate the programmes themselves in relation to the concept of leadership. I have not uncovered any existing accounts of how to prepare NPQ participants for final assessment in the English context.  A search of national leadership development programmes in Scotland suggested findings from Jenny Reeves and Christine Forde concerning complexities involving concepts of space, identity and agency.  Empirical work by these authors identifies a ‘third space’ which combines leadership development programme assessment when addressed within the school context.  This can become foggy when expectations of school conflict with experiences from face-to-face days on the leadership development programme.

Teachers’ negative identities of themselves as learners can impede their agency in relation to engaging with professional learning programmes

This empirical evidence would certainly validate accounts from NPQ programme administrators regarding the content and nature of questions from participant e-mails about aspects of the final assessment process. Indeed, my own observations as a facilitator on face-to-face days would suggest that ordinarily highly competent individuals in their own school contexts are reduced to uncertain novices where writing up and submitting accounts of their in-school leadership initiatives are concerned.  Teachers’ negative identities of themselves as learners can impede their agency in relation to engaging with professional learning programmes and writing up final assessment submissions.

We are living in an environment now where some teachers quite like being done to: tell me what to do, tell me what I have to do next. This may be the consequence of a need for self-preservation in a workplace of ever increasing demand. I have become increasingly frustrated with this when it translates into how aspiring leaders approach their professional development.  As a lead facilitator on leadership development programmes, I sometimes find myself thinking, “You are preparing yourself for senior school leadership, yet you are still asking me what you need to do!”  Individual contexts and expectations play a key role in enabling or blocking their teachers’ perceptions of their capable selves, which in turn help or hinder their willingness to engage in the final assessment stages of their programmes.

If we take Biesta and Tedder’s concept of ecological agency seriously, some people find the school very conducive to preparing their final assessment, and it fits, but for other people, if the school context is not conducive, the space is much more conflicted and difficult for them. This not only reflects the competence of the aspiring leader, it concerns the degree of ecological agency that is available within the school, which spiritually encourages or discourages, and materially encourages and discourages. A lot of teachers’ competency is shown by their ability to reflect on the context, the assessment and the task rather than just the first order, do the task.

It isn’t just about teachers’ own agency, however. It is also about spiritual, emotional and physical conditions because agency also resides in the context.  This concerns an aspect of Hermans’ dialogical self theory (DST), which involves having a helicopter view of a particular context and asking, ‘What sense do I make of this?’  In this way, teachers are able to comment on not just themselves but themselves in that social context.  It requires teachers to read the context, which can be very difficult if they have only ever taught in one place.  It also requires for them to discuss amongst themselves so that they get more of a sense of what it’s like in other places.

So what does it all mean? For me, it’s about trying to support a shift in perspective, presenting a pedagogical approach which allows participants to understand their ecological context earlier on in their NPQ programme.  For participants, it’s about realising the role and power of their contexts as well as their personal capacity to act within and beyond them.

Taken from the BERA blogs.

Dr Anna Reid is a Lecturer in Educational Leadership, Deputy Director of the North Leadership Centre and Programme Director for the North East Teaching Schools Partnership (NETSP) within the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University.

Twitter: @AjrReid

You can find more information at

Developing educational practices in Kazakhstan – learning from a study visit


During December 2015 a fourth cohort of academic colleagues from universities across Kazakhstan undertook a study visit to Newcastle University.  The visit was hosted and facilitated by staff from ECLS and managed through the North Leadership Centre.  Our visitors had a busy schedule of taught sessions and workshops during which they were offered insights into a wide range of academic practices.  At the same time the visitors experienced British life – both in Newcastle and further afield.  Every day was an opportunity for learning, but what have they learned and what difference will it make in their own work and in development of Higher Education in Kazakhstan? Here in their own words (italics) are reflections on their experiences with a focus on how their visit will help them to develop their practices in their own contexts.  As one group wrote in their reflection the educational systems in Kazakhstan and UK have their strong and weak sides. We should take the best of the both systems.


Professional development

Contributions from Darya Pashkanyan, Latipa Issembaeva, Yelena Dubinina, Bakytgul Ibraimova, Saule Mamytova.

Following the session on professional development our visitors wrote that an important factor in formation of professional development is critical reflection. We believe that critical reflection is the use of important experiences to identify assumptions and extract learning to move forward.  They went on to recognise the importance of their autobiographies as learners and teachers, students’ eyes, colleagues’ experience and theoretical literature to support critical reflection.  Extending beyond reflection they also articulated the value of

  • studying our teaching for professional improvement,
  • systematically evaluating our teaching through classroom research procedures,
  • linking theory with own practice,
  • questioning our personal theories and beliefs,
  • considering alternative perspectives and possibilities
  • trying out new strategies and ideas.

Their aim is to maximise the learning potential of all our students and enhance the quality of our teaching.   It is important to them to ensure that professional development will allow us to be competitive on the educational market.  It seems that staff in universities across the world share the same concerns.  During the study visit significant time was given to microteaching as a professional development activity.  This is considered in the next section.



Written by Mariyash Jumagulova, Raushan Zhexembayeva, Dinmukhamed Kelesbayev, Galina Karimova, Karlygash Shetieva.

During our visit to Newcastle University Microteaching session was conducted as one of the main program course for the purpose of using peer observation in teacher development. Microteaching sessions 1 and 2 were delivered to us. During the lesson 1 various activities were done. In small groups we compared and discussed our experiences and approaches to peer observation.  The aims of Microteaching 1 were the following: to consider the role of feedback in professional practice, skills and attitudes needed for successful learning from practice, discuss and identify ways to become involved in peer review or to enhance existing peer review processes.  Three modules of peer observation were referred: Evaluation Module, Development Module and Collaborative Module and principles of attuned interaction were introduced. At the end of session 1 preparation homework tasks for Microteaching 2 were given.

Session 2 was very unusual and interesting. Each learner led and managed a seven minute Microteaching or discussion activity on the definite topic which was discussed. The plans of the activities were covered by metacognitive approaches of learning (Map from memory, Odd One Out). After the activity each participant was asked how they think it went and had a short reflective discussions with the group for 5 minutes. Post-observation discussion was initiated by the members of the group. Each learner was drawn her or his attention to what happened and was invited to reflect. The learners tried to comment on every aspect of teaching session. Each learner answered any further comments and accepted offered suggestions positively.

We think we gained effective and useful information having been provided, participated in and observed interactive microteaching episodes. So we came to conclusion that a microteaching session is much more comfortable than real classroom situations, because it eliminates pressure resulting from the length of the lecture, the scope and content of the matter to be conveyed, and the need to face large numbers of students, some of whom may be inattentive or even hostile. Another advantage of microteaching is that it provides skilled supervisors who can give support, lead the session in a proper direction and share some insights from the pedagogic sciences. In conclusion we must say that we will extend our microteaching episode practices. If it’s possible we will try to experiment with using the principles of attuned interaction in our future teaching activities and in development of Higher Education in Kazakhstan.


Group work

Contributions from Gulmira Adilbektegi, Lyazzat Zhunussova, Zhanar Talaspayeva, Bauyrzhan Nurimov.

Some of our visitors indicated relatively little experience of creating teaching situations in which students work in groups, and so they selected this as a key theme for teaching development on their return to their universities.  In particular they were interested in the way that student group work could contribute to acquiring skills necessary for effective collaboration such as students listening and respecting each-others’ contributions.  They also noted that group work can support the self-realization of the student and the development of active leaders through the formulation of cumulative reasoning and creation of productive solution to questions related to their subject.  They recognised that this needed teachers in HE to think about their roles differently, although they were reassured that groupwork can be planned and structured and teachers can use techniques to facilitate group and individual learning, including strategies for preventing difficult situations in groups.

Online learning tools

Contributions from Orynbassar Joldasbayev, Akmaral Shokanova, Raushan Torgayeva, Boris Rabinovich, Inkar Kulenova.

Another area for productive development in teaching and learning is online learning. The visitors recognised that online learning is getting more popular all over the world, a lot of Universities and Higher Institutions use it for teaching and learning because young generation like new IT-technologies.  They were introduced to online platforms such as Moodle, WordPress, OneNote, and Twitter and discussed how they can be successfully used in education and training because they fit not only for communication with one student (as e-mail) but with the group of students at the same time. They suggested that potential benefits of online learning include

  • On-line platforms increase students’ motivation.
  • They are good for giving and receiving feedback.
  • Any teacher can create his or her own blog if needed.   


ConclusionWhat experience will we go back to Kazakhstan?”

Contributions from Kairat Tlebayev, Zhanara Kultanova, Arailym Omarova.

We are the members of LTHE sessions held in Newcastle University, UK. The Republican Institute of Increasing of Qualification of Teachers “Orleu” Republic of Kazakhstan every year send group of teachers from different universities of republic for conducting teaching training. The idea of Leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev is to raise the teachers’ level on the level of the world. To realise this purpose it is necessary to prepare high-qualified teaching any disciplines in English. This programme provides the opportunities. One of the best reasons for this programme is increasing of teachers’ professional development to gain more teaching experience from UK colleagues on the sessions.

Several key aspects were highlighted in the transition back to their home universities;

  • The difference in UK is teaching in groups;
  • The role of team teaching (more than two teachers share their ideas in one session);
  • The lecturer makes his or her sessions have a good and more comfortable atmosphere;
  • The lecturer teacher provides directions for students and they actively discuss the given problem.
  • The lecturer can use online teaching lectures.

As we welcome, work with and bid farewell to each cohort of Higher Education colleagues from Kazakhstan we learn about their culture and education practices, just as they learn from ours.  What is perhaps as significant is the opportunity that this visit gives them to learn from each other – across the universities in Kazakhstan itself.  As our conclusion authors wrote, this programme provides the ways to communicate and collaborate between teachers.  Teachers in all settings are very busy and often work in relative isolation.  We are pleased to provide a space and a programme in which teachers can learn from and with each other.


Going beyond the information given


During November 2015, twenty-five academic colleagues from universities across Kazakhstan undertook a study visit to Newcastle University.  The visit was hosted and facilitated by staff from ECLS and managed through the North Leadership Centre.  Our visitors had a busy schedule of taught sessions and workshops during which they were offered insights in to a wide range of academic practices.  At the same time, the visitors experienced British life – both in Newcastle and further afield.  Every day was an opportunity for learning, but what have they learned and what difference will it make in their own work and in development of Higher Education in Kazakhstan?  One session was about blogging for academic development and communication.  Here in their own words is a blog post written collaboratively in that session. Writing in English they reflected on their experiences and possible outcomes, helping us make sense of how they are “going beyond the information given”.

Professional development


Meiramgul Mukhambetova, Aizhan Mamyrbekova, Gulsara Turguntayeva, Saltanat Nyshanova, Gulsim Tulepova

In education the term professional development can be used in reference to a wide variety of specialized training. To be professionally developed teachers should improve their professional knowledge, skills, competence and creative activity. In practice professional development for educators encompasses an extremely broad range of topics and formats. It would be helpful, for example, to work with colleagues in professional learning communities to develop teaching skills. This might help us to develop collaborative courses that are taught by teams of two or more teachers. We would like opportunities to be professionally developed to increase our teaching skills by using different types of learning technologies. All of the aspects which we learned about in Newcastle, such as constructivism, critical thinking, working in small groups, microteaching and online learning are priorities for our professional development. Our learning will have an impact on our own students’ learning and future success. To succeed we should improve our professional development step by step.


Microteaching 3 Nov 15 - 2

Dana Jantemirova, Bibenur Baidalinova, Galiya Suleimenova, Laura Butabayeva

Today I want to tell you about my microteaching experience at Newcastle University. It was amazing!  Many thanks to our tutors: Anna Reid and Alina Schartner

And what is microteaching you ask me?

Microteaching required us to present to our colleagues a short episode of a lesson of our choice.

We discovered that it is an excellent way to understand your teaching techniques not only “inside” but more important “outside”. Microteaching pushed us to leave our comfort zone because our everyday practice means the interaction with our students a lot and we cannot observe ourselves. In this case it is possible to improve our teaching practical skills.


How does it work?

Colleagues gather in one small group and one of them presents the short episode of his lecture or seminar (or something else) and during the lesson colleagues behave as students.  The group then all evaluate his style of lesson, his techniques of teaching. In this way we improve our interactive skills.

How can it be used in our future?

We should share the experience for improving the teaching quality of our colleagues.

At the end, we understood that using microteaching experience will be useful for our colleagues to improve their interactive practical skills, interpersonal relationships and making their lessons more effective.


Gulshat Abugaliyeva, Laura Oilybayeva, Marianna Dyachuk, Aliya Seraliyeva

Assessment is used to know what the student’s skill level is in the subject. It also helps the teacher decide how to explain the material more efficiently.

There are many aims of assessment:

  • selection
  • motivation
  • improvement the process of education
  • feedback
  • control

We believe that assessment must be clear and give understanding for all students.

Summative and formative assessment are often referred to in a learning context as assessment of learning and assessment for learning respectively. Assessment of learning is generally summative in nature and intended to measure learning outcomes and report those outcomes to students, parents and administrators. Assessment of learning generally occurs at the conclusion of a class, course, semester or academic year. Assessment for learning is generally formative in nature and is used by teachers to consider approaches to teaching and next steps for individual learners and the class.


Formative assessment is generally carried out throughout a course or project. In an educational setting, formative assessment might be by a teacher or the learner, providing feedback on a student’s work and would not necessarily be used for grading purposes. The formative assessments aim to see if the students understand the instruction before doing a summative assessment. A common form of formative assessment is diagnostic assessment. Diagnostic assessment measures a student’s current knowledge and skills for the purpose of identifying a suitable program of learning. Self-assessment is a form of diagnostic assessment which involves students assessing themselves.

Summative assessment is generally carried out at the end of a course or project. In an educational setting, summative assessments are typically used to assign students a course grade. The summative assessments are made to summarize what the students have learned, to know if they understand well. This type of assessment is graded and often counts, it can be in form of tests, final exams, projects, etc. Assessments are important because they decide if the student passed or failed the class. If teachers only do summative assessments, the learners will know how well they have done too late. The importance of pre-assessment is to know what the skill levels of a student are before giving further instructions. Giving a lot of feedback and encouraging are other practices.

When we come back to Kazakhstan we will use all of information which we learned in Newcastle University. We are interested an assessment and mainly formative assessment. Before doing any work (task) with students we give them criteria of assessment. Formative assessment will helps us to improve motivation for learning the subject and to use it in future.

Online learning: taking the borders away make learning everlasting


Aidar Aitkulov, Khamit Sarsenbayev, Beibyt Temirbekov, Murajan Aslanov, Zukhra Abdrakhmanova, Tatyana Kim

The session was devoted to online learning which was presented by “Queen of Moodle” in Newcastle University – Eleanor Gordon. The first thing she asked us to do was to name the online tools we work with. The point is that most of the participants are not acquainted with online tools which may be used for both learning and teaching. Then we were given the challenge to find the information about different online tools we are not familiar with. They were chosen by Eleanor and also it was her initiative to form the groups we were going to work in.  For example: Onenote, Mind42, Twitter, Wikispace, WordPress, Moodle. We found it interesting that we were allowed to use GOOGLE.


Having discovered the information we were able to share it and discuss in special chats which are still in our online profiles. And also we took part in an online forum.  We came to conclusion that different online tools are used for different aims: either you use it for communicating with your peers or students. The discussion occurred about the advantages and disadvantages of online learning.

One part of the participants spoke about the following advantages:

  • It may saves time to get to your teacher or students
  • It helps to cover the wider number of students, much more than a room may include
  • It is more interesting for students to use up-to-date electronic tools
  • They may navigate on both computers and mobile devices anywhere and anytime

The second one had these arguments:

  • Online learning and teaching takes time
  • It is impossible to concentrate on one theme
  • If there is no electricity then online learning is over.
  • Is harmful for our eyesight
  • No communication face to face without seeing the emotions and the language of the body
  • Students may cheat


Some items were really controversial. And the discussion was really hot.  We discussed how to transfer these tools into our own teaching contexts. We aim to implement at least one online tool in our teaching. And so there are still many things to ponder over. There are the things that may “surprise, confuse and inspire” us. And it is only your choice either use it or not.  We hope that this session will be a kind of beginning of taking the borders away to teach and learn.

Peer observation


Aktorgyn Agisbayeva, Gulzhanat Baigudanova, Ainura Amirova, Ulbossyn Kanseitova, Aigul Uteshkaliyeva, Gulnar Mukusheva

Peer observation is a process of teaching which mutually enhances the quality of teaching. It is cyclical, reciprocal and iterative process. We will consider this using the following questions such as who, why, what and how. To support peer observation a short workshop should be scheduled before the paired members of staff undertake observation to discuss demands, areas and methods of observation and teaching.

  • Who should participate in the observation? We believe that senior and junior staff and also the head of the department should be involved.
  • Why use peer observation? It is for own professional development and giving feedback (self-analysis, analysis of observer and some evaluations of the head of the department).
  • How should observation be done? It should be taken into consideration post observation discussion for observer and for teacher. Both of them should have the plan: the teacher should have the lesson plan and observer should have observation plan. All of these things under the discussion should have the exact criteria of observation.
  • What should be observed? Contemporary methods of teaching any subject and also improvement of students’ knowledge.
  • When should observation happen? Peer observation must be done according to the schedule. The scheme operates for all teaching staff (both on full and part time students) other than those on probation for whom arrangements for observing and evaluating teaching process.

We would like to say that using peer observation is necessary and useful for members of the department. We’ve come to the conclusion that there needs to be a mutual understanding and trust between peers.


The themes that the course participants have reflected upon above provide an indication of the areas of professional and pedagogic practice that they feel they have scope to develop in Kazakhstan.  We wish the participants well in their ongoing work and look forward to meeting more of their colleagues later this term.