Director/Principal of the National College of Education Leadership (NCEL), Dr. Taneisha Ingleton
Photo: Contributed

Hundreds of principals and vice principals are slated to benefit from the National College of Education Leadership’s (NCEL) full implementation of the Virtual Instructional Leadership (VIL) programme, which is being rolled out in July.

The initiative was conceptualised by NCEL, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to enhance the information and communications technology (ICT) competencies of school administrators, and enable them to deliver quality leadership and remotely monitor and evaluate the performance of staff and students.

Participants will also be taught how to design solutions for complex challenges that may emerge while operating in a remote environment during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The NCEL’s Director/Principal, Dr. Taneisha Ingleton, tells JIS News that the course is tailored to support principals’ management and supervision of teachers using e-learning platforms.

“It provides a strong foundation for teaching with technology while providing strategies for instructional supervision, responding to [the Ministry’s] obligations, and supporting professional development and sustainability of the schools,” she adds.

Fifteen cohorts, comprising 100 participants, are expected to complete the VIL programme by the end of July 2020.

Forty-seven school administrators, including education officers, principals and vice principals from private and public schools, participated in the pilot in May.

According to Dr. Ingleton, NCEL believes in engaging schools administrators to hear their needs in order to adequately respond to them.

Principal of Chapelton Primary School in Clarendon, Christine Munroe-Walters, who participated in the pilot, tells JIS News that the VIL programme is “quite timely”, because “none of us knew that when the [2019/20] academic year began [last September], that it would have ended prematurely in March and that we would have to be teaching our student from online platforms”.

She points out that as instructional leaders, heads of schools must be able to lead their institutions remotely, not only monitoring the teaching and learning process, but also managing the administrative functions.

Dr. Ingleton says the College has been designing and implementing online and blended learning approaches at least three years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) programme, Inclusive School Leadership Programme, Effective Principals’ Training Programme, Webinars, Blogs, and The Principals’ Voice E-Zine, and Digital Learning Series, which includes our Back to School Tips and Tricks, are some of the ways we have been bridging the gap with technology”, she outlines.

Dr. Ingleton points out that in designing the VIL programme, NCEL was cognizant of the fact that, during a crisis, everybody is affected. Therefore, a holistic approach was taken into consideration.

The first module the participants were exposed to is the ‘Leading with Care: Maslow Before Bloom’ concept.

The phrase ‘Maslow before Bloom’ is popular in education circles. It is used to communicate how humans expect their basic needs to be met before academic learning can be fully embraced.

“We threw out all of the things about teaching and learning. Instead, we want our educators to understand [that] if they are going to meet the educational objectives that are outlined in the taxonomy of educational objectives outlined in Benjamin Bloom’s approach… the only way they can do that is to maximize the Maslow approach – the caring, the consideration, providing the various safety net, and responding to the psychosocial needs of the stakeholders,” Dr. Ingleton says.

Principal of Constant Spring Primary and Infant School in Kingston, Shay Dillion, another participant in the VIL pilot, commends the NCEL for “such a timely, insightful and cutting edge initiative”.

“For me it was a really rich experience which I will always cherish. I learnt a lot [which places] me in a better position as leader to meet the demands of the 21st Century skills that we want embedded in our students, and to also facilitate the teaching and learning process,” he says.

Other modules covered under the programme are: Education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR); Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs); Creating E-Learning Experiences I: Social Learning Platforms; Creating E-Learning Experiences II: Digital Tools; Collaborative Tools for School Administrators; and Managing Remote Employees. There was consensus that Maslow Before Bloom module had the greatest impact on the participants in the pilot.

However, Mr. Dillion points out that looking at education as part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution was also insightful.

“It is important that, as leaders and educators, we know we have a responsibility to use cutting edge technology as part of the teaching and learning process for our students because we are preparing them for jobs that don’t exist yet. We have to provide this ICT framework as part of our interaction with students as we help them operate, not only in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but prepare them for the Fifth Industrial Revolution”, he explains.

Meanwhile, Head of the Heinz Simonitsch Group of Schools in Montego Bay, St. James, Tamar McKenzie, representing private learning institutions, says the decision by the Ministry and NCEL to include the private schools in the programme is welcome.

She points out that “inclusiveness is the start of the conversation, because we are able to access resources that public schools are accessing at no cost”.

“The face of education has changed. We will never go back to what was perceived as normal prior to COVID-19, and it will continue to change. Organisations, such NCEL, have provided an opportunity for us to keep up with the changes and ensure that the quality of our product remains relevant,” Mrs. McKenzie adds.

Dr. Ingleton discloses that based on the modules the school leaders are being exposed to, as part of their final assignment, the participants are required to develop a blueprint/model. This will be used to guide how they will operate within their institutions during a pandemic.

“The ability to lead instruction effectively in a virtual space will depend largely on their expertise with technology and knowledge of the various tools, resources, platforms and practices of leading remotely. Therefore, school leaders’ technical, social, cognitive and behavioural capabilities must be developed to effectively lead in a virtual or remote setting”, she points out.

As the Ministry prepares for the re-opening of schools, NCEL has commenced building out another programme – ‘Emerging from Covid-19: Framework for School Leaders’.

This initiative, according to Dr. Ingleton, is called ‘R3’ – ‘Regroup, Recondition, Rebuild’, which is an approach or framework for the reopening of schools.

She points out that this is concentrated around sanitization, spacing allocation and extra curricula activities, specifically focusing on how principals will manage these engagements when schools reopen.

The NCEL was established in 2011 to equip school administrators with the requisite competencies to ensure that schools operate effectively in an increasingly demanding environment.

To achieve its mandate, the NCEL provides continuous professional development for leaders across the education sector, with a view to building on existing competencies and keeping them abreast of emerging practices and trends.

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