Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Transforming Leadership Programs: Design, Pedagogy, and Incentives: In Order to Prepare Administrators to Lead Schools That Provide Educational Opportunities for All, Ms. Stein Argues, Ed Schools Need to Make Three Critical Changes

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Transforming Leadership Programs: Design, Pedagogy, and Incentives: In Order to Prepare Administrators to Lead Schools That Provide Educational Opportunities for All, Ms. Stein Argues, Ed Schools Need to Make Three Critical Changes

Article excerpt

If schools of education are to remain relevant in this era of accountability, they must approach the preparation of school leaders as part of an urgent social justice agenda. At the heart of this agenda is the improvement of access to educational opportunities for all children, a goal to be accomplished through instructional leadership grounded in theories of organizational change. This agenda will require Ed Schools to make three critical changes: they must 1) improve program design in partnership with practitioners, 2) revamp pedagogy, and 3) design incentives that reward faculty members for engaging in innovative program design and delivery.

Improving design. To develop programs focused on preparing school administrators to lead instructional improvement, Ed Schools must form meaningful partnerships with practitioners and go through a three-step process. First, these partners must work together to craft a set of job-relevant performance standards and essential competencies that all program graduates will meet or exceed. (1) Second, these partners need to base the curricular scope and sequence of the leadership program on these performance standards and competencies, thus aligning the program with the professional practices it is designed to prepare graduates to perform. Third, these partners must develop collectively a pedagogy that both sustains adult learning and equips aspiring aspiring leaders with the skills, knowledge, and habits of mind necessary for transforming schools. (2)

Revamping pedagogy. In my experience, the most effective way to sustain adult learning and to achieve these curricular ends is problem-based learning. PBL simulates the work of a principal in the controlled setting of the university classroom. At its best, by having future school leaders address authentic problems that closely mirror the realities of the job, PBL enables them to develop the "muscle memory" they will need to analyze complex systems even as they act within them. (3) More realistic than the case-study method, PBL puts aspiring leaders in the position to make decisions, face the consequences, role-play interactions with various constituents, and learn by doing. Indeed, PBL reflects the best of what we know about adult learning. (4)

PBL allows students to practice being principals by facing comprehensive problem scenarios that mimic the conditions of real schools (including such details as student performance data, staff profiles, building floor plans, budgets, and so on). And the assignments given mimic the work of a principal (including such tasks as writing memos to staff, planning for professional development, observing teachers, and making master schedules). Organized into project teams, the students complete reality-based assignments while they learn to delegate responsibility and hold their teammates accountable, hone their interpersonal skills, and enhance team learning. Faculty members foster this learning through coaching and, when the content requires it, direct teaching in the form of mini-lessons.

In revamping the pedagogy, professors and practitioners must work together to determine what parts of the curriculum need to be simulated, what parts need to be taught directly, and what parts are best learned on the job. The more a program's work reflects the actual work of school leadership, the more effective its graduates will be at leading instructional improvement.

Unfortunately, few faculty members have observed or experienced PBL. And, as much as Ed Schools claim to focus on teaching and learning, they typically pay scant attention to their own faculties' pedagogical practices. …

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