Facilitating Cooperative Leadership for Transformative Change and Community Involvement 

The Challenge

The principal felt that while learning and teaching programmes were becoming more effective and in line with research-based principles, the prevailing leadership style was still quite traditional and out of sync with what was happening in classrooms.

These were the concerns:

  • The principal had inherited a culture grounded in a lack of relational trust
  • Meetings and Hui followed a traditional model where one person, usually the principal did most of the talking
  • Most people did not contribute or actively participate at all – whether during staff meetings or at hui
  • Low turnout at hui and community evenings
  • Cliques were a barrier to improving school culture and collaborative practice and problem-solving
  • Carpark discussions were where some teachers voiced their opinion rather than at a meeting for face-to-face
  • Teachers sat behind their laptops at meetings, and usually with the same people in the same location
  • Teachers were not involved in high stakes decision-making
  • Data analysis was normally left to the SLT
  • Teaching as Inquiry was haphazard and ineffective
  • The same people were talking at CoL meetings with no one making a decision

The Solution

On analysing the data, we realised that in the first instance, improving school culture was crucial as many of these concerns fell under relationships, safety and collaborative practice.

Our hunch was if we completely changed the way meetings ran, then this would improve school culture and relational trust.

Action Plan:

I worked with the SLT from a number of schools to increase leadership capability in ‘cooperative meetings’.

Three Key Areas

  1. Relationship development through ‘communitybuilding’
  2. Growing professionally through professional dialogue
  3. Decision-making processes


  • Improve Leadership capability to create the right conditions for change management and teaching as inquiry
  • Relationship development through ‘Communitybuilding’ to dissolve cliques
  • Strategic team formation combined with teambuilding to enable professional dialogue at a deep level
  • Structure to ensure everyone contributes during collaborative problem-solving sessions and facilitate data analysis and co-construction of hunches, action plans and goals 
  • Collaborative decision-making structures and processes to enable a consensus approach versus voting
  • Support the principal to design and plan meetings/hui wananga tot actively engage and involve all participants and build relationships and connections between all parties
  • Provide structures to develop dialogue and connections across sectors, departments, and CoL schools


School culture became more collaborative due to relationship building, breaking up cliques at meetings, and making meetings more equitable regarding talk time. Teachers were more willing to share their ideas and welcolmed the opportunity to be more involved in key decisions. Decision-making structures have allowed everyone to have their say and be heard, as part of the consensus process. The SLT are now more deliberate in what decisions they will take to the whole staff, and have a clear process for this.

Data analysis has become more inclusive, thus increasing teacher capability in this area. Teaching as Inquiry is still a developing area, but through increased opportunities for professional discussions, reflection, and collaborative problem solving, there has been a clear shift in attitude by the staff as a whole. Several teachers have selected Kagan Structures as their inquiry, so have formed their own PLG.

The principal and SLT now use Kagan Structures at every meeting, along with communitybuilding for ongoing relationship development. Staff are becoming more secure and trusting so will discuss issues with the people concerned or take it to the SLT. School leaders are seen to be leaders of learning, as teachers are also implementing structures and activities used at meetings with their classes.

Community turnout and participation has increased due to the new format for meetings where they are able to safely share in pairs or teams, without having to stand up in front of everyone. Meetings are more enjoyable, as everyone is engaged and participating, and fun is built in with at least one Silly Sport and Goofy Game.

While many of the CoL leaders attended training, this is an ongoing area for development, and Jennie is continuing to support this. Meetings have started to include structures, but still follow a traditional-type format.

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