Academic journal article Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly

Learning to Be an Education Leader: How a Web-Based Course Meets Some of the Challenges of Leadership Training and Development

Academic journal article Scholar-Practitioner Quarterly

Learning to Be an Education Leader: How a Web-Based Course Meets Some of the Challenges of Leadership Training and Development

Article excerpt


This article captures how a web-based course, designed as a part of the School Leadership Grant Program, meets some challenges of leadership training and development. The content, structure and discussion board exercises of the sample course are designed to provide more reflective and practical opportunities for leader-learners to develop expertise. In addition, the article discusses the opportunities and problems that lie in the written form, including the rich information sources and e-mail communications that are unique to web classes.


According to the National Association of Secondary School Principals (2001), more than 40% of public school principals will retire over the next ten years. Increasing job stress, inadequate school funding, and increased responsibility without adequate incentives have exacerbated this shortage. As current incumbents retire, the concern is that no systematic method is in place to ensure that there will be well-qualified prospects waiting in the wings to replace them. These conditions place pressure on school districts trying to fill vacant administrative positions and on universities' efforts to provide a pool of qualified people.

Considerable attention has been given to the development of guiding principles for school leadership such as those proposed by the Interstate School Leadership Licensure Consortium (Council of Chief State School Officers, 1996). Recognizing the gaps and inefficiencies in the current system of preparation and professional development, this paper explains the new approaches to educational leadership and explores the opportunities presented by web-based courses to help prepare future educational leaders.

In October, 2002, the College of Education at Arizona State University, in collaboration with the Southwest Center for Educational Equity and Language Diversity and four diverse, urban school districts in the Phoenix area, was awarded a federal grant under the U.S. Department of Education sponsored School Leadership Program. The intention of the School Leadership Grant Program is to assist high need local educational agencies in developing, enhancing, or expanding programs to recruit, train, and mentor principals including assistant principals (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). Program participants are now in the beginning of year three of a training and mentoring program titled "Learner Centered Leadership for Language Diverse Schools in High Needs Urban Settings." The Grant draws from both University knowledge and theory and the applied expertise of the four participating school districts by (1) recruiting and training new candidates for school leadership positions, (2) enhancing expertise of beginning principals and assistant principals based on new knowledge and new understandings of the commitments required of educational leaders, and (3) encouraging the retention of expert school principals through participation in mentoring and coaching activities.

What is Learner Centered Leadership?

Learner centered leadership gives attention to the primary role of teaching and learning in the development of school leadership. This view, by definition, involves changing the major source of inspiration for educational leadership away from management and towards education and learning. Murphy (2002) proposes a role for leadership which entails developing a learning community, one in which greater attention is needed to promote an atmosphere of inquiry with greater focus on collaboration and shared decision making. In this new role, leaders will need to develop the capacity for reflection and promote self-inquiry among the entire school community. The American Association of School Administrators is also developing a masters program with the central focus on "learning for leadership" (Murphy & Hawley, 2003, p. 3). A concern with learning raises questions such as why this new focus is appropriate and how it helps practicing school administrators. …

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