Building a knowledge base for educational leadership (Opinion)

It is clear that something important is being prepared in the training of educational leaders. For more than a decade, scholars and policy makers have worked to develop and implement standards for the preparation of education leaders through the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium., under the aegis of the Council of Superintendents of Public Schools. Today, these standards have made their way into most state certification systems.

Additionally, at least a quarter of states have introduced some form of alternative certification for school leaders, allowing pathways to leadership roles outside of traditional structures. At the same time, major urban districts, including Boston, Chicago, and New York, have launched their own director preparation programs, either alone or in conjunction with third-party providers. In recent years, national organizations, based on innovative models of practice and preparation like the expanded residency in urban education and Academy of Superintendents programs and new leaders for new schoolshave grown from start-ups to established alternative providers of leadership talent.

Jonathan Bouw

And that’s not all. The Wallace Foundation put its considerable financial and institutional resources behind a large-scale effort to improve the capacity of state and local education officials, working through national academic institutions and state and local education agencies. local. Representatives of traditional professional organizations have also begun to endorse important proposals for reforming education leadership training systems. Clearly, a window of opportunity has opened around reforms in the preparation of education leaders.

Will these many initiatives really change the practice of education officials on a large scale remains unclear. In education, the general rule is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite all the action around leadership preparation reform, the vast majority of people who are certified as educational leaders still come from largely part-time cash-for-credit certification programs in small institutions, operating under traditional state certification requirements, with no research capacity and staffed largely by part-time faculty.

And despite the existence of the ISLLC standards, empirical data on the state of curriculum and teaching in leadership preparation programs paints a picture of relatively low-level content that is disconnected from research and practice. common practice in public and private organizations outside the education sector. The existence of alternative programs and providers has not broken the traditional cartel of higher education institutions, state departments of education, and local districts that have controlled leadership preparation for a century or more. In fact, it may actually contribute to the persistence of the existing cartel, attracting the most intellectually active and enterprising talent. a way institutions that prepare the greatest number of practitioners.

The challenge to those interested in leadership reform practice in the education sector is knowing how to contents and pedagogy leadership preparation programs match the aspirations of reformers, and how to make powerful new ideas about sector leadership practice accessible to a wider audience of individuals and institutions than the current set of innovative providers, but marginals.

Two features of the current wave of innovative programs are particularly encouraging. The first is that their content is distinctly different from that of traditional models. They tend to focus much more on the direct influence of educational leaders on educational practices in classrooms and schools, and to base the management of the organization on the development of strong teaching and learning practices. learning, rather than the traditional categories that have defined education. administrative courses.

What happens in these leadership programs is exactly what should happen in all of education.

The second encouraging element is that innovators are striving to align their pedagogy with their theories of good practice. New programs tend to focus more on the development and use of cases and applications to practice teaching, and on guided practice in on-the-job learning. Since alternative providers have fewer institutional constraints than traditional providers, they tend to make the structure and practice of their programs more like the real work they are trying to promote.

So what happens in these leadership programs is exactly what should happen in education as a whole, that is, ideas and practices from outside the sector are adapted to the preparation of new practitioners, and that the preparation of new practitioners is refocused on the fundamental concerns of teaching and learning.

There is at least one trend in the current situation, however, that is do not encouraging. The knowledge about What teach and How? ‘Or’ What teaching it has essentially become an exclusive good in these innovative programs. That is, innovators have become very protective of their distinctive curricula and teaching methods because they see themselves, in some way, as being in competition with each other and with established preparatory programs. . This instinct is understandable, as it makes sense to protect one’s intellectual assets in the early stages of development, both because ideas and practices are in the formative stages and because consistency and quality control of content and delivery are major determinants of how successful the alternative programs will be.

Ultimately, however, the influence of these alternative programs on broader industry practices will be determined not by how well their creators are protected from their proprietary knowledge, but by how accessible their ideas and practices speak to a wider audience of scholars and practitioners.

The field of leadership preparation will change when knowledge of the practice becomes public.

Practices change on a large scale when knowledge becomes a public good. With this principle in mind, the Public Education Leadership Project– a joint venture of Harvard University’s Graduate Schools of Education and Business Administration – has chosen to publish a collection of teaching materials and case studies based on work done over the past five years or so at the search for a new approach to teacher education and training. leaders. Developed in conjunction with a number of major school systems across the country as part of a program for senior education executives, the materials represent our best attempt to capture both the conceptual and practical issues facing industry leaders. We view these materials as a work in progress that we will develop in greater depth over time.

We have begun using them in our own courses and sharing them with our colleagues at other academic institutions and alternative prep programs, including in the Wallace-funded Leadership Development Initiative for State Education Officials. and premises, ExEl. These materials are intended to communicate to mainstream and alternative programs what the problems of leadership practice look like in real education systems and how we might use our knowledge of improving complex systems to productively solve these problems. We have also prepared, through our publisher, Harvard Education Press, an instructional guide to addressing learning and pedagogy issues for faculty members and practitioners interested in using the material for courses and for professional development.

We would like these documents to be part of the public dialogue. We would like to open a conversation with our colleagues about the knowledge base of the field, the pedagogy in preparing practitioners, and the relationship between research and practice.

The field of leadership preparation will change when knowledge of the practice becomes public.

Janice G. Ball