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Article

School Networks  

Denise Mifsud

It is evident that in many educational systems there has been a partial dissolution of the traditional single school model towards more flexible modes of organizational link-up, taking the form of increased collaboration among schools. The early 21st-century climate of rapid technological change creates a need for collective knowledge creation and information sharing at classroom, school, and system level. Different forms of networks, collaboratives, and federations have become an established part of many educational landscapes and have arisen for a number of reasons. Some have been “imposed” on schools, others have been “incentivized” by the offer of external funding, but many have arisen because of the efforts of educational leaders who want to “make a difference” in their locality, which assumes their essential “good.” Within education, networks are regarded as one of the most promising levers for large-scale reform due to their potential to re-culture both the environment and the system in which policy-makers operate through increased cooperation, interconnectedness, and multi-agency. School networks contribute to capacity-building across the education service through the production of multiple solutions for potential, multifaceted, and intractable problems. Networks foster innovation, providing a test bed for new ideas while offering a platform for gradual innovation, distributing the risks and the workloads among different schools. Moreover, they provide capacity-building, reflective practice, and an inquiry frame of mind besides raising achievement and enhancing student outcomes through the sharing of resources and professional expertise. Networks enable schools to overcome their isolationism and move to form community relationships. Notwithstanding the benefits generated by collaboration, some of the ambiguities surrounding the setting up of school networks focus on: network purpose; collaborative inertia; collaboration and accountability; trust and relationships; conscription and volunteerism; identity and autonomy; competition and cooperation; lateral agency; and power inequality. There is no simple, single solution to leading networks, due to the very nature of a network making it difficult to define who its leaders are, resulting in leadership that is defined by activity rather than by formal position.

Article

Charisma and Charismatic Leadership  

Fenwick W. English

That some of the characteristics of leaders, ancient and modern, involve the ability of a leader to connect with and create an emotional bond with followers is an age-old documented phenomenon. Academic studies of charisma, as a special gift from the gods, have proven disappointing. Finding predictable descriptors about who is or is not such a leader have not revealed the kind of scientific reliability believed to be required to stand the test of context free generalization. Studies about charismatic leaders have shifted from compiling lists of common traits or behaviors, to recognition that situational context and culture in which a leader functions is a more reliable guide to what leaders with charisma do and what lies behind their common agendas throughout history. There are different types of charismatic leaders depending on their motivation and who benefits from their ministrations. Bureaucracies do not require leaders to be charismatic because the authority of bureaucracy is rational and legal, not emotional. Yet the essence of transformational leadership is the emotional bond between leaders and followers. Such a bond is independent of the moral legitimacy of any agenda which units them.

Article

Interdisciplinary Professional Partnerships  

Poi Kee Low

With the growing diversity of professions working in schools, interdisciplinary partnership and collaboration are growing quickly the world over. Apart from traditional teaching and learning concerns, awareness of children and youth mental health issues and socio-emotional wellbeing, grew readily since the 2000s. Rising in tandem with this trend is the number of psychologists, social workers, and counselors joining educators to support children and young persons in schools. Challenges such as misconception of roles, differing perceptions as well as cross-disciplinary misunderstanding threaten to prevent concerned professionals in working collaborative to help children and young persons in need. Fortunately, this aspect of interdisciplinary partnership in schools gains the much-needed attention in research from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and the Americas. Models and frameworks suggesting best practices for interdisciplinary collaboration emerged in school psychology, counseling and social work literature. Also growing in tandem is research in methods of measurement and evaluation of such collaboration as well as studies on pre-service professional training on interdisciplinary collaborative skills in the related disciplines.

Article

School Crisis Prevention and Intervention  

Mary Margaret Kerr

A school crisis unexpectedly disrupts the school, causes emotional and physical distress, and requires extraordinary decisions and resources to restore stability. During a crisis, teachers and administrators are the first decision-makers. Yet, their training may not prepare them for this responsibility. The first school crisis framework published in educational psychology appeared in 1994, following a U.S. symposium of school psychologists to discuss a recent school massacre. In addition, cross-country communications forums and seminars recognized cultural considerations while fostering the exchange of school crisis research findings and their implications for practice. These efforts have led educational psychologists worldwide to adopt a temporal framework of recommended practices to guide educators’ decisions before, during, and after crises. Pre-crisis work includes assessment, prevention, planning, and training. Pre-crisis planning calls on expertise in multidisciplinary collaboration with other emergency responders and risk assessments that require one to choose measures and interpret data. Once a school staff identifies impending risks, educational psychologists collaborate with responder agencies to communicate some of this information. Planning for a crisis includes procedures for young children, as well as those with special needs, which calls on the psychologist to consider how best to assess their needs and accommodate these groups. Practices and drills call for behavioral observation skills and an understanding of stress reactions that impede compliance with directives. Here, the educational psychologist contributes technical expertise in behavioral observations and performance assessment. The crisis response phase thrusts educators into rapid collaborations with emergency responders to prevent casualties and reduce exposure to trauma. During a crisis, psychologists work alongside others to safeguard, reassure, and empower those affected, taking into account the assistance that older students may offer. Post-crisis efforts seek to restore psychological safety through the restoration of social supports, then address acute mental health needs. Educational psychologists impart clinical expertise to restore social supports, arrange for psychological first aid, minimize continued exposure, and triage mental health needs. Academic recovery requires decisions about how and when to resume instruction. A return to schooling, ongoing supports for victims and responders, and evaluations to improve school crisis responses comprise the final goals. Some view this post-crisis mental health work as the psychologist’s primary contribution; however, the aforementioned examples reveal a greater agenda of opportunities during all school crisis phases.

Article

Status, Content, and Evaluation of Lesson Study in Japan on Teacher Professional Development  

Takashi Nagashima

In Japan, various styles of Lesson Study (LS) have been born over 140 years. The first issue is what should be the focus of observation in the live lesson. There are two trends with regard to the target of observation. One is teacher- and lesson-plan-centered observation since the Meiji era (1870s), and the other is child-centered observation since the Taisho era (1910s). The former is closely related to administrative-led teacher training. The latter is more complex and can be further divided into five types. The second issue is which activities are given priority in the LS processes: observation of the live lesson itself, preparation before the lesson, or reflection after the lesson. Furthermore, each activity can be designed as a personal or a collaborative process. Thus, there are roughly six types of LS in Japan related to this issue. Which type is adopted depends on the period, lesson-study frequency, and school type. In addition, it is noteworthy that the type of LS implemented is closely related to which of demonstration teacher or observers are regarded as the central learners. The third issue is whether to regard LS as scientific research or as literary research. Teachers and researchers in 1960s Japan had strong interest in making lessons and lesson studies more scientific. On the other hand, as teachers attempt to become more scientific, they cannot but deny their daily practice: making improvised decisions on complicated situations without objective evidence. Although lesson studies have been revised in various forms and permutations over the last 140, formalization and ceremonialization of lesson studies has become such that many find lesson studies increasingly meaningless and burdensome. What has become clear through the discussions on the three issues, the factors that impede teacher learning in LS are summarized in the following four points; the bureaucracy controlled technical expert model, exclusion of things that are not considered scientific, the view of the individualistic learning model, and the school culture of totalitarian products. To overcome obstruction of teachers’ education in LS and the school crisis around the 1980s, the “innovative LS Cases” has begun in the 1990s. The innovative LS aims not for as many teachers as possible but for every teacher to learn at high quality. In the innovative LS Case, what teachers are trying to learn through methods of new LS is more important than methods of new LS itself. Although paradoxical, in order to assist every single teacher to engage in high quality learning inside school, LS is inadequate. It is essential that LS address not only how to actualize every single teacher to learn with high quality in LS but also through LS how to improve collegiality which enhances daily informal collaborative learning in teachers room. Furthermore, LS cannot be established as LS alone, and the school reform for designing a professional learning community is indispensable. Finally, the concept of “the lesson study of lesson study (LSLS)” for sustainable teacher professional development is proposed through organizing another professional learning communities among managers and researchers.

Article

Education and Activism  

Lori Beckett and Amanda Nuttall

The case story of a local struggle in the north of England by research-active teachers to raise their collective voice and advocate for more realistic policies and practices in urban schools is one which premises teacher activism. A school–university partnership initiative exemplifies how teachers, school heads, school leaders, and academic partners can work together to address disadvantaged students’ lives, learning needs, and schooling experiences. The practitioners’ participation in an intensive, research-informed project to build teachers’ knowledge about poverty effects on teaching and learning was successful in the yield of teacher inquiry projects which were published. However, teachers’ efforts to combat student disaffection and under-achievement were deprecated with a lack of system support to the point where democratic impulse and social justice goals were weakened. It would be a misnomer to describe these teachers’ professional intellectual and inquiry work as activist, but they did engage in transformative practices. This led to the production of new knowledge and teachers working collectively toward school—and community—improvement, but it was not enough to effect policy advocacy. Professional knowledge building as a foundation of teacher activism is foregrounded in the matter of trust in teachers. To agitate for change and action in a vernacular neoliberal climate means to fight for teachers’ and academics’ voices to be heard.

Article

Teacher Education and Inclusion in the Asia-Pacific Region  

Chris Forlin

While countries across the Asia-Pacific region have since the early 2000s been very forthright in acknowledging the international conventions and declarations that promote inclusive education, there still seems to be a substantial gap between policy and school expectations in most educational systems. Many of the less developed countries have adopted the terminology in the Education For All framework and applied this within their own education policies. Thus, country policies promote an “inclusive approach to education” that enable children with disabilities to attend a regular school. Some policies go further and state that this should be with appropriate differentiation and support. Unfortunately, this is where the strength of the shift in education seems to end for many of the Asia-Pacific countries. There appears to be an ongoing lack of understanding that inclusion means that not all students will achieve through the “same old” ways and that outcomes will need to be different. In other words, governments promote inclusion through policy, but at the same time continue to expect schools to help all students to achieve the same curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment as the way to equity. Countries across the Asia-Pacific region, like elsewhere, vary enormously in their cultural diversity and in their ability to respond to inclusion. Models of teacher education, likewise, will vary and must be focused on what is contextually viable and culturally acceptable within each individual country. Cultural differences, beliefs, values, and understandings associated with inclusion and disability vary enormously across the Asia-Pacific region and are often firmly embedded within historical contexts. These invariably have strong impact on acceptance and in decision-making regarding what constitutes appropriate teacher preparation for working in more inclusive schools. Regardless of context, effective teacher education requires skilled teacher educators who have received full training in regard to inclusion and who are also aware of the needs of classroom teachers when asked to operate an inclusive classroom, within different cultural contexts, and the potential additional strains of large class sizes, and often limited resources. A variety of different models have been applied throughout the Asia-Pacific region to prepare teachers for inclusion with inconsistent outcomes.

Article

Teacher Education and Lesson Study  

Peter Dudley

Lesson Study is a form of collaborative, classroom-based teacher professional development, and also a form of institutional and local educational system improvement. It originated in Japan and experienced rapid global spread in the 21st century. The deliberate processes of Lesson Study can help overcome specific factors that can form barriers to teacher professional learning—factors such as the complex environment of the classroom and the role of tacit knowledge.

Article

Teacher Leadership and Professionality  

David Frost

The concept of teacher leadership emerged in the United States in the 1980s but increasingly it has featured in the contemporary international discourse about professionalization and modernization. It is best understood against the backdrop of the emergence in the literature of an awareness of the importance of the distinction between educational leadership and school management. A key dimension of that discussion is the concept of transformational leadership, which emphasizes that the goal of leadership is change rather than the maintenance of the status quo. Linked to this is the view that improved outcomes can only be secured when organizational conditions are modified to enable practitioners to develop as individuals and in relation to one another. The idea of distributed leadership is integral to this perspective, which leads to a focus on teachers as potential agents of change. However, interpretations of the concept of teacher leadership are shaped by the realities of hierarchical organizational structures and the way policies related to curriculum and assessment lead to patterns of accountability. Middle managers inevitably focus on management at the expense of leadership. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common distinction drawn in the literature on teacher leadership is between formal and informal, a distinction which reflects the emphasis on designated roles of responsibility within organizations rather than the actual practice of leadership. An alternative conceptualization is that of non-positional teacher leadership, which hinges on the teacher’s professionality and the possibility that leadership could be part of any teacher’s construction of their professional identity. There is a body of evidence emerging that indicates the possibility that any education practitioner can be enabled to develop their human agency and moral purpose and so become an effective agent of change.

Article

Understanding Relational and Responsible Leadership for School Leaders  

Brigitte Smit and Mapula Mabusela

Relational leadership and responsible leadership are important subjects in the literature, and more attention can be paid to these leadership practices in educational leadership. Most educational leadership studies focus on distributed, instructional, teacher, and transformational leadership using mostly quantitative research. The aim is to explore and describe relational and responsible leadership in the context of educational leadership. Qualitative research methodology such as narrative inquiry is not often used for inquiries into educational leadership studies. Moreover, the scholarship on narrative inquiry as a relational methodology for relational and responsible educational leadership is scant, and there is a need to broaden the discussion to include appropriate the concepts of relational leadership and responsible leadership for educational leadership in a context of relational narrative inquiry. Relational and responsible leadership theories can be appropriated through a relational research methodology using narrative inquiry. These scholarly lenses may add value to school leadership research and to school leaders who wish to transform and change leadership practices, specifically in diverse school communities with challenging and problematic educational landscapes.