Aboriginal Inquiry: Lifting All Learners

An Impact Assessment of the Aboriginal Enhancement Schools Network (AESN)

8.2 A sustained impact in creating and profiling leadership for change

It was often difficult to discern if leadership enabled change, or if the changes wrought through the Network enabled leadership. Certainly we can say that the initial leadership of Drs. Kaser and Halbert was fundamental to launching the Network. It was their initial vision and belief that change could be supported using a grassroots, invitational approach. Yet we can also say that leaders emerged from the work of participating within the Network, and from there, the spiraling of these emergent leaders’ influence to broader and more diverse contexts became evident. Several AESN members talked about ‘shoulder tapping’ as the way in which their strengths as teacher leaders within the Network were initially identified and recognized. Recognition did help to broaden the scope of Network impact as teachers could “see” role models that inspired and motivated. But it wasn’t just this informal system of identifying and promoting “innovative thinkers”; existing formal school and district leaders who had an interest in and capacity to stimulate Network efforts were also built into the Network’s early work. In this way, several prime locations for innovation were identified as early “lead organizations”—districts such as Prince Rupert for example, where school district efforts at improving Aboriginal student performance had been in place since at least 1989. In this way the process of embedding the Network into district cultures was both nurtured and modeled. In some ways, BC is educationally a small province, and as formal leaders, particularly Superintendents, are transferred from district to district, they imported their previous efforts to effect change through the Network, bringing new jurisdictions into the fold of inquiry-based districts. It is this two-pronged effort of nurturing existing innovative cultures and promoting or championing new leaders who emerge through the work that has the effect of bolstering the commitment of the AESN to a broader network of schools. The creation and promotion of educationally informed leadership is a significant and sustained impact of the Network.

In sum then, what we noticed was the importance of having educational leaders at the provincial level who have the capacity to support the work of local districts and schools, nurture the growth of new leaders and provide a professional ‘spark’ by creating and hosting events which profile promising and emerging practices in education that address diversity and create culturally inclusive spaces. In essence, these individuals bridge between multiple educational worlds by acting as knowledge translators for the field professionals they work with.