Assignment Example

Steven Raeburn,VIBE- Reflective Journal 3


Submit a final essay that details the impact of VIBE for Middle Leaders on your professional practice.

This will be assessed against the Key Professional Standards for Middle Leaders detailed below. You are expected to ask critical self-reflective questions about yourself as a leader. Throughout the essay,
you should reflect upon your professional practice and development within your context.

You are expected to demonstrate critical reflection, depth and rigor in line with the below key

Professional Standards for Middle Leaders.

  • 2.3.1 Demonstrating self-awareness and inspiring and motivating others.
  • 3.1.1 Middle leaders foster an ethos to support self-evaluation and plan specific opportunities for this to take place.
  • 3.1.4 Middle leaders critically engage with literature, research and policy.

2.3.1 Demonstrating self-awareness and inspiring and motivating others.

Since embarking on the VIBE Leadership course, I have had the opportunity to critically question my practice through reflection, professional dialogue and critical enquiry. From the outset, I had the opportunity to increase my self-awareness as a leader by discovering ‘my VIBE’, where I reflected on my leadership philosophy, discussed leadership styles and discovered the concept of ‘FLOW’. I was reassured that my personal views of my leadership matched with my responses in the 360 feedback. It was humbling to read the many positive responses and as a leader who is constantly self-reflecting for self-improvement, there were areas for reflection as I progress on my leadership journey. My professionalism, work ethic and building positive relationships came across strongly and this is something that I strive for. Having confidence in my ability to set up the conditions that guide the process and being able to step back and encourage others to learn for themselves is an important reflection for me. This will at times mean being kinder to myself and accepting ‘good enough’ and recognising that slowing down the pace is not necessarily a weakness. Inspiring others, alongside my own professional values were highlighted as a strength which was encouraging, as giving pupils the opportunity to have valuable learning experiences and enabling them to apply this to make a difference in their lives is something that I find very rewarding.

3.1.1 Middle leaders foster an ethos to support self-evaluation and plan specific opportunities.

For this to take place I believe that successful schools place an emphasis on high-quality self-evaluation and the development of systems that allow practitioners to challenge themselves to improve the quality of learning experiences they offer young people. As a link Depute Head Teacher for English, Geography, RMPS and Classics I have aimed to create a culture of critical self-reflection in line with school policy through formal review, data collection, sharing interesting practice, as well as listening to the pupil voice. This information allows all staff to be fully informed and prepared to initiate change as appropriate. The staff in my faculties feel comfortable with sharing ideas and observing teaching and learning on both a formal and informal basis. Gathering a range of feedback and differing perspectives allows for teams to challenge their thinking, resulting in high quality professional discussion. Because of going through these processes, staff have an increased awareness of how they can adapt practice to best meet the needs of the learners. Exploring the topic of ‘Flourish’ allowed me to reflect on how I foster the ethos to support effective self-evaluation with my link faculties. Having a level of empathy to understand the emotions and insights of my staff has been key to a smooth working environment. However, “dilemmas, tensions and conflicts can also be opportunities for growth in understanding” (O’Brien, 2015: 15). Furthermore, Bryk and Schneider (2002) state that school systems are often a bit messy and that middle leaders require relational trust to hold this ‘messy reality’ together. This is quite often the case when staff members feel overloaded with work, initiatives or policy documents and my role is to make sense of the complexity and instil meaning so that staff are part of the vision in moving their faculty forward. Reflecting on ‘Flourish’ and what I want to ‘Transmit’, it became clear that Middle Leaders play an instrumental role in helping to shape the teaching and learning culture as well as build relational trust so that a shared vision can be aimed for. It is important that I am critically self-reflective and promote a culture of honesty, openness, trust and directedness, all of which are fundamental in aiming for successful collaboration of a team.

In terms of individual self-evaluation, modelling good practice by self-evaluating against the appropriate standards and benchmarks is important. Carrying out the 360-evaluation helped increase my self-awareness and allows me to reflect on targets for personal development. I also believe that engaging in professional dialogue and discussion with colleagues across the authority and nationally is imperative to self-development. Setting leadership goals and engaging in continuous professional learning allows me to best contribute to effective school improvement. Reflecting on what I want my ‘Legacy’ to be as part of the VIBE course was powerful and allowed me to put a perspective on what the most important elements of the job are for me. Starting with asking myself ‘why’ has reminded me to think about the bigger picture and put a perspective on what is most important within my job. For me, it is about never underestimating the power of the everyday interactions with those around me- pupils, staff, parents. The following Mayo Angelou quote sticks with me, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. Too often we hear from adults who talk about a negative encounter they had with a staff member or how they felt when they were told ‘they would never be good enough’, I don’t want that to be my legacy.

3.1.4 Middle leaders critically engage with literature, research and policy.

As a Middle Leader it is vital to understand the most up to date policy, literature and research that have a direct impact on the education of children and young people in a school setting. “Leadership is recognised as one of the most important aspects of the success of any school” (National Improvement Framework, 2016: 10) and in order to “encourage the participation, development, and commitment of followers” (Bolden, 2011) middle leaders must be confident with their understanding of key documents.

One of the areas under my current remit at The Royal High School and in line with the Scottish Government’s Youth Employment Strategy is to better prepare young people for the world of work. With this in mind and for my VIBE Practitioner Enquiry I wanted to explore ‘Bringing the Curriculum to Life through Education-Employer Partnerships- What works and why?’. To unpick this, I explored our existing school-employer partnerships across three levels:

1. Engagement- One-off activities by an employer such as an interview session or a career activity.

2. Collaboration- A longer-term commitment between the employer and the school, such as mentoring or work experience.

3. Influencing- A long-term partnership where the employer has considerable influence on the curriculum offer, through for example contributing to lessons throughout the year.

Whilst capturing the range of DYW participation in the school it became clear that there were less ‘Influencing’ opportunities at our school and more one-off activities. Developing the Young Workforce- Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy (2014) outlines that all young people should have the opportunity to engage in purposeful and directly work-related learning whilst at school. There is also increasing evidence that appropriate and high-quality employer engagement will support young people in acquiring essential employability skills, enhance pupils understanding of the jobs market, raise career aspirations and enrich education by drawing upon employer input to contextualise learning (Education Endowment Foundation, 2018). As a result, a partnership with HSBC and our Business Studies Department has been set up in which employees aim to bring various aspects of the curriculum to life. Progress will need to be understood both quantitatively and qualitatively to ensure a rounded picture. However, based on research, if we get the influence partnership set up in the correct way then the long-term positive impact on pupils could be profound where educators and employers work together to enrich the education experience.

Engaging in a Practitioner Enquiry has allowed me to have a better understanding of DYW practice and ways to improve it. Using the ‘Inwards, Outwards, Forwards- transforming learning’ Education Scotland Self Evaluation tool has allowed me to critically reflect on research, policy and literature and make localised decisions on what I think is best for our school context (Sosu and Ellis, 2014). There is no doubt that as I progress with this practitioner enquiry, collaborative practice will allow for a greater understanding of what works well, the most effective approach to developing partnerships and utilising resources effectively.

Concluding thoughts
The VIBE Leadership Course has enabled me to delve deeper into my understanding of the skills, strengths and behaviours of effective middle leaders. Each of the four workshops- ‘Your Vibe’, ‘Legacy’, ‘Flourish’ and ‘What do you transmit’ were all powerful in their own way by allowing for personal reflection, professional discussion and challenging perception. I have valued the opportunity to practice and aspire to model life-long learning daily by “… capitalising on the educational opportunities” (Murphy, 2013: 3) that my role has allowed me to. I have found ‘reflective practice’ (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012: 98) helpful in my professional development as well as professional dialogue with many colleagues. There is no doubt that VIBE has had a positive and lasting impact on my professional practice and I would encourage others to engage in the VIBE journey.


Angelou, M. (2017) Goal cast. Available at:

Bolden, R. (2011) Distributed Leadership in Organisations: A review of theory and research. International Journal of Management Reviews. 13: pp251-269. Bryk, A.S., & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Education Endowment Foundation (2018) Employer Engagement in Education. Available at:

Education Scotland (2015) How Good is our school? 4th Edition [online] Available at:

General Teaching Council for Scotland (2012) The Standards for Leadership and Management. Edinburgh: General Teaching Council for Scotland. [online] Available at:

Hargreaves, A., and M. Fullan. (2012). Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School. London: Routledge.

Murphy, D., (2013). Professional School Leadership: Dealing with Dilemmas. 1 ed. Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press.

O’Brien, J. (ed.) (2015) School Leadership (Third Edition). Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press

Scottish Government (2014) Developing the Young Workforce: Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy. Implementing the Recommendations of the Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce. Edinburgh. Scottish Government.

Scottish Government (2016) National Improvement Framework for Scottish Education: Achieving Excellence and Equity. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Sosu, E and Ellis, S. (2014) Closing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Education. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

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