Reflective Leadership in Practice

Context

While working as the Deputy Director of Learning Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, Anne-Marie Scott led a 3-year project to retrofit over 360 lecture rooms with audio/visual recording capabilities.

The Problem

The project involved a significant budget and numerous technical aspects, which was highly innovative, combined with a strong component of change management. The project scope was certainly ambitious, however, over the duration of the project, unforeseen factors emerged, which added considerable challenges.

For instance, the initial data revealed a vast difference between the expectations of students and lecturers in two main areas, namely: the purpose of what a lecture is, and why lectures should be recorded. Students felt the lectures were very important and should not be missed, however, lecturers felt they were a “jumping off point” for further study (Scott, personal communication, February 19, 2010). Lecturers were uncomfortable with the idea of being recorded on a personal level, whereas students didn’t think it was a big deal. Fundamentally, this revealed a gap in the university’s communication to students about why courses are taught in a specific manner and the purpose of a lecture and ultimately, the purpose of the recordings. The project team leaders recognized the opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders, “By involving others in reflective practice, the leader is promoting a shared purpose that motivates and revitalizes the workforce, which is apt to result in renewed and improved performance” (Castelli, 2016, p. 231). As a result, the project outcomes were positively impacted through stakeholder engagement as demonstrated by the data collected showing an increased uptake of recorded lectures from 30% to 89%.

Lessons learned

There were a number of lessons learned throughout the project. Specifically, Scott mentioned that they were very cognizant of the ethical use of student data that underpinned their use of analytics (personal communication, February 19, 2020). Furthermore, the opportunity to explain why some lectures would not be recorded emerged.  For example, a music course that contained copyrighted music, or a medical course that contained personal information about a patient presented “teachable moments” to explain the use of recorded lectures to students. (Scott, personal communication, February 19, 2020).

Overall, through my experience of the readings along with Scott’s exploration of the project at the University of Edinburgh, I plan on utilizing the theory of reflective leadership in my work. Because I would describe an important aspect of reflective leadership as one that is experimental and iterative, which allows for evaluation and recalibration throughout to better ensure success. As Castelli states, “By visualizing varying outcomes, new insights can be revealed. Thus, the act of reflection makes possible the determination of an organization’s best course of action before the execution of a potentially flawed plan” (2016, p. 218).

Reference

Castelli, P. A. (2016). Reflective leadership review: A framework for improving organisational performance. The Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236. 10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0112

Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash