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Mr Mosea and Mr Moletsane are two education officials who volunteered to participate in the action research process. They are both Circuit Managers, meaning they have a role to play to support schools in their circuit and especially towards school leaders. Their aim is to transform their schools into centres of excellence through partially modifying their working approach with school leaders.

Critical Success Factors

One of the strengths in both cases is that there is a big attitude shift in the way they support school leaders. This shift has led to a shift in attitude of school leaders from perceiving children as the barrier to learning towards the schools bearing a responsibility in adapting to the diverse needs of their children. School leaders are empowered to look for solutions to challenges their schools are facing, rather than diverting from problems. Mr Mosea and Mr Moletsane instilled these mind shifts with their school leaders by modifying their supportive approach. Instead of pointing fingers or coming in as ‘fixers’, they give the opportunity to school leaders to identify their own solutions.

Before, principals would mostly start blame games, saying that learners are the cause of the challenges. But now, after I applied my new approach, principals are reflecting on what they can do and how they can go an extra mile.
Participant in the action research

One of the critical factors for the success of the action research is working with volunteering participants. Free State Department of Education officials engage in a yearlong action, reflection, learning and planning cycle which also requires intensive documenting of their learnings. Commitment to this process is crucial to bring about change. The action research started in April 2018. To date, only two participants have dropped out.

A contributing factor to this commitment is for participants to identify a problem of practice which is fully embedded within their daily work practice instead of an add-on to their performance plans. If participants’ cases are rooted within their work practice, additional work load decreases and the impact and sustainability of their action research increases.

During the action research, participants are gently pushed out of their comfort zones. Instead of their usual inspector’s role, they are becoming facilitators, instilling collaborative and enquiry-based learning with schools. They are researching and learning on their own role and practice to help educators to come to solutions. Action research questions often start with “How can I…”. Creating a conducive environment for this shift is crucial and requires experienced facilitators. In this action research process, VVOB co-facilitated together with CDRA who has vast expertise with developmental facilitation.