From K-12 School Administrator to University Professor of Educational Administration: Similarities, Differences, Risks and Rewards

By Borba, John A. | Education, Fall 2001 | Go to article overview

From K-12 School Administrator to University Professor of Educational Administration: Similarities, Differences, Risks and Rewards


Borba, John A., Education


Appointment of persons to positions in school administration frequently follows identification as effective, "successful" teachers. In short, such persons somehow manage to "catch the eye" of powerful persons within their school districts.

Various incentives usually drive these persons. These enticements include (1) the need to earn more money, (2) the desire to implement widespread changes that affect learners, and (3) the pursuit of long-range career goals.

Typical career paths include vice-principalships, principalships and central office posts at various levels. Some pursue new challenges in educational administration outside K-12 school districts. These options include county education offices, state and federal education agencies, and public and private foundations.

University teaching is another avenue pursued by school administrators. This writer made such a career transition in the fall of 1995. In this article, the similarities, differences, risks and rewards of the transition are discussed.

Similarities

Competencies expected of both school administrators and university professors are similar to those expected in many fields. Still, persons new to the university context will find that they must perform some competencies at extremely high qualitative levels. These similarities are discussed here.

Skills of Discourse

Both occupations require effective execution of the skills of public discourse. Speaking and writing are tools essential to effective communication with students, staff, parents and members of the community in both K-12 schools and higher education. Unencumbered transmission of sophisticated concepts requires the ability to organize and discuss various aspects sequentially, with ongoing cross-references to existent opinions reflected in the literature. Similarly, syllabi, course outlines, and occasional papers must reflect the same clarity and levels of sophistication. Thesis and dissertation advisement, discussed later in this article, is an ongoing requirement that can illustrate the level of sophistication required of university professors.

Teaching Effectiveness

Most professors that are former administrators perceive effective teaching in higher education as no different from effective teaching in the K-12 schools. The key elements of good instruction are the same. According to Hester (1994) these key instructional elements are ... "quality of instruction, organization of subject matter, efficient use of time, motivation, classroom environment, student reinforcement and feedback" (p. 4).

As with elementary and secondary teachers, effective teachers in the university context use interesting, challenging, relevant activities during class meetings. These activities (1) encourage active student participation, (2) provide instant feedback and reinforcement regarding key ideas and concepts, and (3) create a classroom that is conducive to learning (Cronin, 1992). Other effective activities include cooperative learning, demonstrations, video presentations, guest speakers, field trips, problem solving exercises, student presentations, debates, role playing, and others (Stevenson, 1996; Falk, 1990).

Syllabi prepared by professors for each of their courses are synonymous with the instructional units commonly developed by elementary and secondary teachers. Syllabi specify course goals and objectives, instructional materials, activities/assignments, deadlines, and grading procedures (Stevenson, 1996).

Organizational Skills

Positions in school administration and university teaching require similar organizational skills. In both positions, excellent organization skills enable both school administrators and university professors to complete duties and tasks consistent with the expectations of super-ordinates and colleagues. These tasks may include development or modification of course curricula, staff development, grant writing, preparation of course schedules, administration of grant projects, program coordination, accreditation preparation and follow-up, department and program level meetings, and student advisement and guidance. …

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