We understand schools and how to work with them.
CIRCLE understands education and leadership. Founded in Australia, we have over three decades of experience at working with schools. Currently, we support over 1,750 schools, educational bodies and other organisations and some 20,000 educational leaders internationally. We service an established global consulting, research and educational practice of clients that extends into North America, the United Kingdom, South Africa, South-East Asia, and Australasia. We have an ongoing physical presence in North America, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
As at September 2017, we are also aligned in strategic alliances with major educational bodies and professional associations, and we have formal relationships with a range of tertiary providers, especially the University of Tasmania and Alphacrucis College. This allows us to articulate many of our services into recognized and accredited research projects, professional learning programs and tertiary awards, including the CIRCLE-UTAS Postgraduate Program in Educational Leadership. We also conduct international research projects with professional association partners including projects in character education (48 schools, 39,000 students and 4,500 teachers across six continents) and excellence in boys’ education (the entire boys’ school sector in New Zealand covering 42 schools, 30,000 students and 4,000 teachers).
Many educators and schools connect with us initially through our publications, educational programs, professional learning offerings, and also the multi-partner research projects that are usually brokered through professional associations. Some schools and educational organisations choose to become clients in long-term strategic development relationships where we provide the structure, perspective, and objectivity of an external critical friend and facilitator.
Particularly in our work with our clients, CIRCLE helps schools and organisations to:
Drawing on our research and the work of other leading educators, we collaborate with school leaders, governors and practitioners to co-create sustainable solutions that contribute to enduring cultures of excellence in leadership and learning within communities of inquiry. These solutions do not manifest overnight. Often, these are the result of some 3-5 years of patient work together as client and consultant. Our work is governed by agreements written first as Proposals and then refined annually into Terms of Reference documents, the deliverables for which will usually be structured according to CIRCLE’s unique 5 D methodology:
Discover: What do we know about our performance and culture?
- Discovery surveys
- Culture Capture focus groups
Diagnose: What key patterns and trends can we observe from the data?
- Framing + Focusing workshops
- Preferred Futures surveys and workshops
Decide: What should we do?
- Long Term Vision workshops and statement
- Strategic Intent workshops and statement
Direct: What approach can we use to do this well?
- Strategic Blueprint workshops and statement
- Educational Framework workshops and documentation
- Professional Learning Strategy workshops and statement
- Performance Development Software design, implementation and support
- Leadership Development Programs design, implementation and support
Deploy: How are we going to get there?
- Operational Planner workshops and documentation
- Evaluation and Reporting Systems design, implementation and support
We are proven and innovative thought leaders in education.
Our understanding of education is shaped by the unique knowledge architecture that we have constructed and which informs all of our work that has been synthesised into The CIRCLE Framework for 21C Education:
At CIRCLE, we have adopted an “inside-out” approach to the development of individuals within this framework. In other words, we believe that to be fit for purpose as 21C educators and leaders, we need to understand our beliefs, our context, and how we might be most effective in what we do. To this end, we emphasise sequential and conceptual growth in the stages of The CIRCLE Leadership and Learning Development Process:
1. Who am I? Learning values that equip
- Hope: Inspiring learners by mandating and maintaining a positive tone and attitude
- Care: Displaying an enthusiasm for excellence by striving for better outcomes for more learners
- Research: Cultivating a disposition for investigation by identifying and responding to evidence
- Review: Seeking continuous improvement of outcomes and process by focusing on outputs, evaluating rich data and honing in on what works – impact
- Creativity: Promoting innovation by harnessing perspective, conceptual thinking, iteration and attention to detail
2. Where do I fit in? A curriculum of empowerment
- Language: Developing shared culture and practice with a consistent vocabulary for learning
- Structure: Aligning ends, means and intentions through backwards design of learning
- Flexibility: Progressing learners through clear, logical and adaptable curriculum structures and matrices
- Evaluation: Recognising how and when to give feedback within assessment for learning, assessment of learning, and assessment through learning
- Challenge: Challenging learners to grow by coaching for achievement and success
3. How can I best serve others? A pedagogy of engagement
- Context: Teaching learners as they present in the right environment
- Motivation: Encouraging discipline and commitment by boosting mastery, autonomy and purpose
- Personalisation: Enhancing individuals by respecting and responding to difference
- Inquiry: Consolidating meaning by asking the right questions and providing the right tools to answer them
- Capability: Building confidence and competence by strengthening knowledge, capacity, understanding and process
We base our work on a comprehensive body of evidence in practice.
CIRCLE helps schools globally to achieve their strategic development tasks through a shared understanding of what the best research available internationally teaches us about leadership and learning in communities of inquiry:
- The values set for 21C education draws on tradition and is sharpened by our contemporary circumstances.
- All aspects of 21C schooling need to be both aligned and personalised.
- The leading schools of the world have a clear vision for learning and graduate outcomes.
- Educational research across the world points to teacher performance as the key to achieving graduate outcomes.
- The best teaching is that which works to improve more outcomes for learners within a learning culture that is enriched by reflection and inquiry.
- The disposition and habits of the best teachers are based on professional self-efficacy and adaptive expertise.
- We can help teachers to improve their performance with an effective coaching and goal-setting process.
- Teaching operates in a society that is more open, informed by data at all levels and technologically rich.
- The leadership of the ongoing pattern of change and renewal that we see in schools needs to predict rather than respond to that which we see in society.
- Educational leadership works best when it attends to deliberate, targeted and intentional strategy that builds the right culture for a learning community that, in turn, leads its society.
At the heart of all of our work is a firm belief in the value of evidence-driven practice. Two abiding questions guide us and shape our evaluation of our work:
- What have we learned?
- How would we know?
At CIRCLE, we have learned from our work with our clients since the early 1980s that if change is to come about in education, it is more likely to do so through a combination of:
Aspiration: Education should be excellent for all of our students both by intention and design, not just the preserve of the lucky minority who happen to land the good teacher or good coach.
Intention: Great education for students, and that includes an education for character, is neither incidental nor accidental as a primary means of methodology.
Perspiration: Our work in educational reform requires depth of examination, thoroughness in implementation and measurement of impact.
Deliberation: Our current context and future demands in education require fresh thinking, different models and rapidly evolving practice, especially if we are going to educate students for the type of character – behavioural, performance and moral – that will stand them in good stead in the years ahead.
Iteration: Change works best in education when it’s logical, systematic and incremental. It’s got to be accompanied, if not foreshadowed, by a clear and compelling rationale that explains how and why a community might move forward without disrespecting its own past.
We have also learned that a great 21C school which moves through a successful process of reform has four essential qualities:
- A shared vision for a future with better outcomes for more learners
- A vocabulary that helps this potential become realised in culture
- A value proposition for this vision and culture that is agreed on by stakeholders
- A velocity for change is that is designed and implemented to meet the needs of internal and external contexts with a deliberate, targeted and intentional shape and trajectory
Schools of this nature lay down strong strategic and systems foundations before making progress with authentic educational innovation, as opposed to tinkering with unsupported research and development processes that almost inevitably fail.
What we at CIRCLE know is that the educational, community and business successes of a school all come with the right scope and sequence for its strategic development. Knowledge about how to do this is curated and then shaped by specific activity in the following way:
- Knowing how to enable effective leadership: Establishment of autonomous and strategically driven school leadership, data-based review of outcomes and action research, and quality school governance, facilities and finance.
- Knowing how to build systems that work to bring people together: Consultation on and implementation of teacher and leader standards of excellence, recruitment and evaluation, supported by quality professional learning and the development of targeted expertise, and aligned learning and business structures and systems.
Knowing how to improve student learning and the attainment of desired graduate outcomes: Building a curriculum that is driven by and integrates an understanding of key competencies of knowledge, skills, character and reflection, enhanced by the delivery of personalised pedagogies, and situated within a 21C context.