Discussion Starters

This material is intended to provide discussion points for Leadership Teams, teachers and parents.

Click on the blue triangles to view the material.


triangle-go Move fast and optimise for the long term by David Lynch (Manager, Engineering, Intercom)

David expands on these ideas – they come from business, but have application to Education.

  • Pick the right problems
  • Become an expert in not being an expert
  • Make sure success or failure is obvious to everyone
  • Predict broadly and position yourself to react
  • Get more data and remember it’s just data


triangle-go Six Leadership Styles, and when you should use them by Robin Benincasa

Based on Daniel Goleman’s Leadership That Gets Results, this article examines 6 leadership styles. Which ones do you use?

  1. The pacesetting leader
  2. The authoritative leader
  3. The affiliative leader
  4. The coaching leader
  5. The coercive leader
  6. The democratic leader


triangle-go The 50 Most Powerful Questions Leaders Can Ask by Mike Myatt

The best leaders don’t engage in monologues; they stimulate conversations. They understand conversations are not competitions to be won, but opportunities to enrich, inspire, challenge, illuminate and learn. So, what makes for great dialogue? Great questions.


triangle-go Introducing your blue and red zones – by Andrew Mowat

We call the two mind states in this model the blue zone – where we are at our best – and the red zone where we operate well below our full capabilities.

As a leader, are you able to stay in the Blue Zone?


triangle-go 5 hallmarks of a great listener by Andrew Mowat

So you think you are a great listener? Test yourself against these five traits and see how well you do. Give yourself a rating from 1 to 5 on each trait (1 is rarely or poorly expressed, 5 is habitually and permanently a part of the way you listen).

triangle-go Balloons and Weights – from Comcare (Australian Government)

This exercise has proven to be a good guide of work team wellbeing. It will help you identify the positive and negative factors affecting your team.


triangle-go Bringing out the best in everyone – by Andy Buck (Growth Coaching International)

As we all know, there is there is plenty of evidence that the quality of school leadership makes a difference to pupil outcomes. It is second only to the quality of teaching. But for all types of organisations, the relationship between leadership and results is not a direct one… What leaders at all levels actually do makes a difference to the culture and climate of their team. By creating an effective culture and climate, they can make a huge difference to outcomes.


triangle-go I was a tiger mother – it made us all miserable by Tanith Carey

There is a great variety of parental attitudes towards their children’s schooling – not all being effective in helping them. Some parents try too hard, as this article from The Age highlights. Perhaps worth a link in the school newsletter or discussion on Parent Information Evening?


triangle-go Homework and academic success: less is more? – article in The Age

Researchers from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have found little connection between the number of hours students spend doing homework each week and the overall results achieved on Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. An interesting discussion starter about your school’s policy.


Public versus Private

The debate goes on – here are some articles on the topic. Something to put on the table at a School Council meeting, or up on the wall at Information Evenings.

triangle-go Private school education has little effect on a child’s academic success; new research (Herald Sun)
triangle-go Private school students no happier than public pupils: world-first study (Herald Sun)
“Our findings show that students’ educational experiences are similar between private and public schools with similar socio-economic compositions,” the report stated, published recently in the Australian Journal of Education.

“This finding is aligned with the numerous studies that have shown that students’ educational outcomes do not vary by sector after accounting for student SES.”
triangle-go A child born today will cost more than half a million dollars to put though private school. Are parents getting their money’s worth? Reporter Tara Brown speaks to families, educators and experts on both sides of the debate to uncover the truth about secondary education. A 60 Minutes report.
triangle-go $3 billion not leading to better results for private schools – a report in The Age

triangle-go Private schools and their bankrupt propaganda. Rather than take the pressure off the public system, private schools do the exact opposite. An opinion piece by Julie Szego in The Age.


triangle-go Conversation Starter or Final Word?

Using International Evaluations to Drive Productivity in Education. An ACEL monograph by Dr Jim Watterston and Ms Natalie Swayn.

A noticeable performance slump of Australian students in international evaluations … has prompted growing public concern about the comparative effectiveness and quality of our education… With school education reaching a record recurrent cost of $47.9 billion in 2012-13 (Australian Government, 2015a), it is not surprising that the community—parents, politicians, academics, industry and the media— might question the return on this investment when Australian students appear to be stagnating against global measures.

But this approach, we suggest, fails to appreciate both the weaknesses and the strengths of international evaluations—their weakness as a macro approach that cannot fully capture all aspects of local productivity, and their strength as an impetus for evidence-based reforms. Further, notwithstanding the undeniable value of international measures, we caution that a preoccupation with the international— both for comparison purposes and as a means of locating high-performing systems that we might emulate—is often to the exclusion of more relevant local intelligence about school improvement and student achievement.


triangle-go Horizon: Thought magazine

Horizon aims to extend the thought leadership that is being generated around thinking, learning and teaching. Produced by Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership


triangle-go The difference between an incomplete leader and an incompetent one by Jack Dunigan

Incomplete leaders are humble enough to recognize…and accept…their weaknesses. Here’s the key – because they can see and accept their flaws and weaknesses, they search for others who possess the skills, competencies, and capabilities they do not. Then they employ them to build a leadership and executive team that is complete.

Incompetent leaders do not. Their flaws, because they remain unacknowledged and unattended, eventually overcome them and overwhelm their ability to lead. Why? Because of the wizard syndrome.


triangle-go Six things effective leaders know about talking and talking too much by Jack Dunigan

It seems that leaders are talkers. Indeed, some languages have no word that would translate “leader”. Their word is orator, one who speaks eloquently.

So we tend to say things…a lot of things. But perhaps there are times when we shouldn’t.


triangle-go Ten habits of top performers who are not stressed by Norman Murray

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, what follows are 10 of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognising when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.


triangle-go Growth Coaching International coaching manuals for individuals and teams.

The Leadership Coaching Guide provides a concise summary of research on effective leadership coaching practices as well as practical applications of the growth coaching international model which has proven highly successful in leading individuals and teams to greater success.

This updated and expanded edition contains new chapters on Coaching Evaluation, Building a Coaching Culture and Coaching and Strengths Based approaches. Each chapter contains a mix of content and practical applications.


triangle-go Why the Adelaide Crows sacked me by Brenton Sanderson

An article of relevance to all leaders – behaviours to avoid! Good for discussion with leadership teams. The points Sanderson makes apply to a range of leadership contexts, including schools.

Modern-day coaching ­requires modern-day management skills. On reflection, I made a number of errors at Adelaide, which ultimately cost me my job. It can happen very quickly if not properly identified and adjusted.

In 2012 we took the Crows from a seven-win season and 14th on the ladder to 17 wins and a heartbreaking pre­liminary final loss to even­tual ­premier Hawthorn the next year.

Two seasons later I was sacked after missing the finals by just one win, two years in succession. These are some of the mistakes I made.


triangle-go The Six Secrets of Change – What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive  by Michael Fullan

May this summary [of Fullan’s book] provoke your thinking, cause you to take at least one purposeful action on behalf of teachers and students, and inspire your continued development as a leader.


triangle-go Psychologically Healthy Workplace – by Dr Peter Hart

Phrases like ‘workplace health’ or ‘workplace wellbeing’ were once viewed with skepticism among those in the business world. But as more evidence emerges around the far-reaching effects of employee wellbeing on organisations, more people are standing up to take notice. 

A psychologically healthy workplace is one that is conducive to enhancing the wellbeing of individuals, ultimately improving performance and the bottom line. 


triangle-go Want to Be More Productive? Never Touch Things Twice by Dr Thomas Bradberry

When it comes to productivity, we all face the same challenge — there are only 24 hours in a day. Since even the best ideas are worthless until they’re executed, how efficiently you use your time is as important as anything else in business.


triangle-go Leadership Matters by Philip Gardner, VASSP Project Services Officer. A blog which provides conversation starters for leadership teams on topics such as:

  • the balancing act
  • model behaviour
  • asking questions
  • listening
  • observable goals
  • do what you say you will do