The WISE Empowering Leaders of Learning (ELL) program is a Qatar-based school leadership development program operated by WISE in partnership with Qatar’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education that supports educators in their development of leadership for learning skills to improve student outcomes. At the core of ELL is improving instructional leadership in schools as a catalyst for systemic improvement to: guide school change processes to improve learning outcomes; empower educators at all levels with leadership skills and capabilities; and support and encourage the development of collaborative school environments where educators can openly discuss challenges and share best practices.

Project background

Research has shown that school leadership policies are integral to improving the quality of teaching and learning, which impacts student achievement and well-being. While the development of principals remains a core component of pre-service educational leadership training globally, less attention is paid to in-service training and development of school leaders, including on-going and embedded professional learning support and development; as well as the development of shared, networked or team leadership skills among educators.

In response to this, WISE developed the Empowering Leaders of Learning (ELL) program in 2016 as a Qatar-based school leadership development program that supports school leaders in their professional development with the ultimate goal of increasing their skills and competencies as instructional leaders and ‘leaders of learning’ in their schools to support teacher and overall school improvement. While ELL is not a new program, this year’s ELL program is revamped to accommodate for the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to also provide an even deeper focus on coaching of school leadership teams and on forming school leadership communities of practice.

Since its creation, ELL has held over 10 sessions that have trained over 200 teachers in 30 schools in Qatar. Read more about these programs below.

ELL Program 2021

This year’s ELL involves in-depth leader development and coaching work with four Ministry of Education and Higher Education Schools, including Al Wajba Preparatory School for Girls, Al Qadesya Primary School for Boys, Hajar Primary School for girls, and Al Kawthar Secondary School for Girls.  The program design, which was co-developed by the WISE Team, The Ministry of Education’s TEDC, and Dr. Shelby Cosner, who is a WISE Fellow and Director of the Center for Urban School Leadership at the University of Illinois, Chicago, focuses attention on the learning-oriented leadership practices emphasized in the OECD’s Leadership for 21st Century Learning, Qatar Principal Standards 1-4, and academic/instructional leadership more generally. The program also focuses on developing leadership-oriented mindsets and practices

Key learning design principles that have guided the design and implementation of the program are:

  1. Evidence Informed Design: Research evidence and data inform co-designed learning that aims to extend and challenge adult learners.
  2. Transformative Learning Approach: Transformative learning approaches lead to deep shifts in leader understanding, identity, and practice.
  3. Dynamic Learning Environments: Dynamic learning environments support the formation of collaborative learning communities where adults take initiative and make significant decisions about their learning.

The implementation phase of the program kicked-off in January 2021 and will run through December 2021. The program, through a mix of hybrid in-person and digital synchronous and asynchronous learning, engages leaders in highly practical, authentic leadership work including individual and team coaching, cross-school learning sessions where leaders and leadership teams can engage with their peers at different schools, and one larger action-based leadership project taken up by the leadership team in their schools. In addition, to learning with and from Dr. Cosner and the WISE team, the project is designed to cultivate several different but important professional learning communities for participating leaders to learn with and from one another including: a) a large group learning community that includes all of the participants from across the participating schools, b) role-based learning communities for those in similar leadership roles across each of the schools, and c) school-based learning communities for all of the leaders from each school.

Despite the challenges and disruptions presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, WISE and The Ministry of Education and Higher Education have been able to collaborate seamlessly to troubleshoot program delivery and implementation challenges and innovate new designs and modes of program delivery to overcome the unique obstacles presented by the current context. Many of these innovations – including new design and program delivery components – have proven to be so successful that even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided they will continue to be incorporated as best practices in future iterations of ELL.

ELL Program 2019

The 2019 ELL program followed the same format of the first but with a focus on female Qatari school leaders. The 2019 program trained 30 Academic Vice Principals in how to build their capacity in order to lead sustainable improvement processes in their respective schools. You can read more in the below information sheet.

ELL Program 2016

The first program began in 2016 with two cohorts, each in two workshops. The first cohort consisted of twenty-five school leaders from Qatar Foundation schools and the second with ninety senior leaders from 18 Ministry of Education public schools. The 2016 program was organized by WISE and Learnlabs, an Australia-based project that equips participants with strategies to drive sustainable change in teaching practices.

The sessions shared LearnLab’s Agile improvement cycle, which aims for its participants to review the understanding of challenges they face and design evidence-informed solutions and develop a detailed plan to address them. Each cohort met in two workshops with five months in between the first and second workshops. The months in between were used by school leaders to identify challenges in their respective schools and to test the improvement cycle.

In the first workshops, school leaders were taught about the Agile improvement cycle and then given a set of tasks to carry out in their respective schools prior to the second workshop, these included: a) teachers spending time as a team confirming their focus for the year; b) considering ideal teachers to be a part of a team that will work on this project during the early phase of this project; c) collecting baseline-evidence of student learning through use of work samples and exercises to pinpoint areas of concern, and lastly; d) identifying examples of excellent practices already operating in their respective schools that can provide examples to imitate.