About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Professional learning communities in Haiti (Pt 1 #4)

4. Provide professional learning opportunities such as regional events and a national gathering of school principals

Approximately 15% of schools in Haiti are public (government) schools. The remaining 85% of schools are a wide variety of Catholic, Protestant, and other private schools. A system of professional learning communities would provide an opportunity for networking and shared professional learning around a common goal: improved student learning. Although there is a strong sense of "silo-ism" (i.e. not wanting to collaborate or cooperate with other schools/school systems - sometimes based on suspicion of the intentions of others or in an attitude of "what's in it for me?") in Haiti, my experience has shown that there is a move among new, emerging, school leaders to break this down. A national principals' organization, in partnership with universities and the Ministry of Education, could serve as the catalyst for breaking down these barriers. The organization could also lead the effort for developing regional professional learning events and even a national convention for school leaders. On-line professional learning communities could be developed in tandem with these face-to-face events and would serve as a networking hub to support and extend professional learning on a 24/7 type of basis.

Regional events would be relatively easy to develop in Haiti. The country is already organized around 10 (geographically-based) departments that would serve as natural professional learning regions. A national event may be more challenging (e.g. costs and time involved with transportation) but utilizing digital technologies could overcome these challenges. For example, a national event could take place in a large city such as Port au Prince or Cap Haitien and web-cast to regional hubs. I am already familiar with a leadership conference which occurs in the United States which is simulcast in Port au Prince. A similar model, with a central conference and regional hubs, could be utilized in Haiti. If the event couldn't be simulcast (live), it could be taped and then distributed to the regional hubs for regional conferences scheduled a few weeks later.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Re(imagining) educational research in Haiti: (Pt 1 #3)

3. Encourage educational research and disseminating this research through a professional journal and web-site.

Currently, educators in Haiti rely on research, and the resulting reports, articles, and books, that is based in North American and European contexts. We need more (and better) research completed in, and on, Haiti. A national principals' organization can support this through the certification process (described earlier), partnerships with academics at Haitian universities, and through "knowledge mobilization."

Knowledge mobilization refers to the dissemination of research. It can take place through workshops and courses but, to cast the widest net, should certainly include dissemination through a professional journal and website (see www.haitieducationalleadership.com). Mobilizing the information contained within research reports is not really all that challenging in today's digital age; first, we have to establish a mind-set (a professional expectation) that research is something all educators should be involved in.

Typically, we refer to "on-the-ground" research as action research. Teachers and school administrators identify a problem and determine steps to investigate that problem, usually within their own school or local area. The findings lead to steps to resolve the problem, leading to improved practice. There is a cyclical nature to research as the action steps and changed practices should themselves be examined. Principals should be leading this type of action research on an on-going basis and setting new and improved direction for their schools based on the results. They should also be sharing the results of localized action research practices (knowledge mobilization) so that others can learn from their experiences.

I have led action research training in Haiti (see the guide I've published in French and English which is located on the www.haitieducationalleadership.com website). Principals can receive basic training in a day. One of the successful practices we developed in Haiti has been an opportunity, usually 4-6 months after the initial training, to bring the participants back together to share their experiences. In 2009, we published a number of these action research projects in a book (posted on www.haitieducationalleadership.com). Again, this is part of knowledge mobilization.

Haitian universities should be heavily involved in this process. Scholars within these institutions should be leading the training, supporting the research, and establishing conferences, journals, and web-sites to ensure the results are widely publicized.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Haiti: (re)Imagining a System for Principal Qualifications (Pt 1 #2 elaborated)

2. Develop a system for principal qualifications.

A number of steps would be important in developing a structure to support a "principal certification" program. Likely, this would need to be a "two tier" certification program since some people currently serving in principal positions would not have a university degree which should be seen as a minimum academic standard.

a) Determining minimum educational qualifications. A university degree, preferably in education, would be the minimum standard for a "tier 1" principal qualification. For those with only a high school education, the track they would embark on would be for a "tier 2" (or "associate"?) principal certificate.

b) Establishing multiple professional courses which candidates would have to satisfactorily complete in order to be recognized as a certified school principal. This could follow a number of different models:
  • four courses, each of 30 hours in length (i.e. 1 week), which would cover issues of leadership, educational law, curriculum development, programming, educational psychology, budgeting, etc
  • multiple, shorter courses (i.e. 1-3 days) focused on specific topics (e.g. 1 day on a facet of educational law, 2 days on curriculum development, etc)
  • Master of Education degree - obviously, this would involve a longer period of completion (and wouldn't be available to those without a university degree) but would provide an internationally recognized professional degree program leading to principal certification
c) In any model, there should be two distinct aspects built into the certification program: an internship (or service component) and an action research project. More on this in my next blog posts.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fixing Haiti - a meeting with the author, Jorge Heine

Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with Jorge Heine, the Chair in Global Governance at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), affiliated with my university (WLU). He is a former Chilean ambassador to South Africa and India and has a long, distinguished career. He recently co-edited a book on Haiti (see below) and has been highlighted in some Canadian media outlets such as The Toronto Star and CBC.

I was amazed at how interested he was in my work in Haiti. There are four faculty members, between WLU, University of Waterloo, and CIGI who are doing work in Haiti. Jorge believes that this represents the largest core of faculty at universities in English-speaking Canada who are engaged with Haiti. He encouraged me to contact Mirlande Maniget, a former presidential candidate for Haiti and current vice-president (vice-rector) at Quisqueya University in Port-au-Prince. She wrote one of the chapters in his recent book Fixing Haiti: MINUSTAH and Beyond (see image below). While we were meeting, he sent her an email encouraging us to meet and I am hoping to do so when I am in Haiti in mid-May.

(Re)imagining Educational Leadership in Haiti: Registry of Principals (Pt 1 #1 elaborated))

1. Establish a registry of school principals in Haiti. 

All school principals would be encouraged to join the professional body, no matter what their current qualifications. This would help determine how many principals are in existence, a baseline of their qualifications and experiences, and contact information.

Although some of this information is collected by the Ministry of Education (for those schools which register with the Ministry), much of the information is dated, inaccurate and/or incomplete. As well, the registry with the Ministry focuses on schools and not on principals. A registry of principals would provide a baseline data set which could be utilized for contacting principals regarding training opportunities and for distributing newsletters (whether in paper or electronic form). It would also help provide an understanding of the diverse backgrounds and contexts of school principals i.e. in order to know where we need to go, we need to know where we currently are.

Given the number and wide array of schools in Haiti, a pilot project for developing this principals' organization could commence within one department (there are ten) of Haiti. The registry would need to involve the Ministry of Education and university partners to develop the registry tool and to collect the information. This registry could be developed concurrently with other aspects of the principals' organization.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What could (re)imagined educational leadership look like in Haiti? Pt 1 Professional organization

I have been asked to speak at a TED talk this fall which will have a focus on (re)imagine. My talk will be on (re)imagining educational leadership in Haiti. I'll use this blog to capture some of my ideas over the next few months.

Since the January 2010 earthquake, there has been a concerted effort in Haiti to re-build schools, provide free lunches for children, and provide for teacher training.  However, there has been limited attention to school leadership development - it's time to (re)imagine what this might look like.

Professional Organization

A national organization of school principals, either overseen by the Ministry of Education or as a self-regulated professional body, needs to be created in Haiti. School principals of all public schools would be part of this body and any principals of private schools would be invited and encouraged to join. This professional organization's tasks would include:

1. Establish a registry of school principals in Haiti.
2. Develop a system for principal qualifications.
3. Encourage educational research and disseminating this research through a professional journal and web-site.
4. Provide professional learning opportunities through regional events and a national gathering of school principals.
5. Liaise with MENFP (Ministry of Education), Haitian universities, and other partners to further develop the educational system in Haiti.

Future blog entries will expand on these and consider other aspects of (re)imagining educational leadership in Haiti.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Re-examining educational leadership in Haiti

Earlier this year, we were not successful in receiving a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) grant to support teacher training in Haiti. However, yesterday I had the opportunity to have lunch with the head of CIDA's program in Haiti and to discuss how we might support the development of school principals in Haiti. He was very helpful in pointing me to a number of people in Haiti who are doing important work in this area. I will be setting up appointments with these officials for my next trip in May with the hope of re-applying to CIDA in the summer.

I continue to be amazed that there is very limited concerted effort regarding principal development in Haiti. It was clear from our meeting, that a number of the Haitian ministries (including the one responsible for education) continue to be under-funded and with limited capacity to carry out their roles. It is as important as ever to work with our Haitian partners in developing and delivering a coherent, contextually relevant, training and mentoring mechanism.