Creating a Culture of Learning to Enhance the Role of Board Members in School Governance

POSTED: April 26, 2023Category: GeneralBY: AISA P9

In preparation for the AISA Good Governance Institute in Accra in August 2023, we asked Simon Gillespie Ed.D. – Head of School at the International School of Uganda and one of the Institute facilitators, to offer his thoughts on why school boards should approach governance as learning.

One of the principles of governance that power exceptional boards is continuous learning: “embrace the qualities of a continuous learning organisation, evaluating their own performance and assessing the value they add to the organisation. They embed learning opportunities into routine governance work” ( Our schools need to encourage all members of the community to engage in learning including students, teachers, support staff, leadership, and board members.

Board experience is desirable but not a prerequisite for being recruited to a board. Board members need to understand current research-based best practices in school governance along with trends in education, and a basic understanding of financial practices. Beyond learning about good governance, it is important the board builds awareness and understanding of key strategic areas related to the mission and vision of the school.

This year our board at the International School of Uganda (ISU) attended Governance training in Addis Ababa. As part of this experience, we had a tour of the International Community School Addis Ababa which included an introduction to the learning hub model and co-teaching that has been created. When an ISU board member enquired more about the model, I realised there was a gap in core knowledge that our board should be aware of. This led to discussions within our own board and the introduction of “learning walks” and more detailed presentations on “learning data”. The goal was to create a better understanding of what learning looks like at ISU.

In order for this to be successful, board members needed a firm understanding of their roles to ensure the learning and discussions were informing their understanding and responsibility to measure the mission. Board members were provided with an observation tool and guiding questions, divided into small groups, and led by a member of the leadership team. The time spent on observations included interacting with students who presented different learning projects and assessments, followed by a generative discussion on what was learned and the next steps.

This example articulates the value of exploring different modalities of learning together as a board. Through this experience board members were able to have much deeper and more informed conversations. It led to invaluable questions being asked and a better understanding of the school mission and whether we are achieving and improving what we are promising.

An effective board learning plan should include opportunities for engaging with different resources, workshops provided internally and externally (in-person and/or virtually) and engaging with governance consultants. Creating a board calendar which incorporates learning throughout the year is an effective way to stay focused, including a robust new board member orientation, an annual board retreat for learning and goal setting, attending workshops or training as a whole; learning as part of board and committee meeting agendas; annual learning walks and presentations of learning data.

Incorporating continuous learning as a key feature of a board’s procedures and operations will enhance levels of understanding, reflection, and our ability to ask the right questions leading to school improvement and growth as an organisation.

The aim of the AISA Good Governance Programme taking place in August 2023, is to understand the principles of effective school governance and develop the capacity of international school leaders to guide the learning and work of their own boards.

Authored by Simon Gillespie Ed.D. – Head of School, International School of Uganda

Similar posts

See all posts

Search News

AAIE Alerts

Contact us

Physical address
International School of Kenya Campus, Peponi Road, Nairobi, Kenya
Postal Address
P.O. Box 14103 - 00800, Nairobi, Kenya
+254 (20) 2697442 / 8076067
General Email:
AISA Conferences:
AISA Accounts:
AISA Marketing:
Executive Director:
Quick Contact
Contact Us

Subscription Form

Need additional assistance?


The Association of International Schools in Africa is dedicated to serving its members throughout Africa. Please let us know if you require additional or specific information, resources and or support, and we will endeavour to assist you as soon as possible.

Cookie Policy

As part of the new data protection laws we are required to let you know when we use any kind of tracking devices or "cookies" on our website.

What are Cookies?

A cookie is a small text file that is sent to your computer via your web browser when you visit a website. Our website uses the WordPress platform, which uses Cookies to verify users. We also use Google Analytics on our website which uses Cookies. You can read more on "How Google uses information from sites or apps that use our services" via this link:

How do I disable cookies?

If you do not want to receive a cookie from Our Site, you have the option of setting your browser to notify you when you receive a cookie, so that you may determine whether to accept it or not.