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Article

Leadership That Bridges Arts and Social-Emotional Learning  

Marco A. Nava, Imelda L. Nava, and Jan Kirsch

Over the last 40 years, due to the combination of cuts to school and district budgets and an overemphasis on standardized testing, arts instruction has been severely cut back in public schools. Minority and low-income students are the ones most negatively impacted, as the schools they attend generally have lower standardized test scores. A study, Arts and Social-Emotional Learning (ASEL), provided training for 44 elementary school administrators serving high-needs students. Through a theoretical framework of social-emotional and brain-based learning, participating administrators received 40 hours of professional development that supported them in creating safe classroom learning environments to foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration. The research may provide insights to assist school and district leaders to provide all students with equitable access to the arts and social-emotional learning.

Article

Transformational School Leadership to Dismantle Inequitable Systems  

Deirdra Preis

A key reason for the failure of U.S. school leaders to challenge systems of inequity is the lack of exposure to the theory and skill development needed to manage the resistance and political challenges that inevitably occur when interrogating unjust traditions of practice. As preparation programs aim to improve their candidates’ future success in addressing inequitable educational access, it is critical that they develop in their students the self-efficacy around relational practices and strategies needed to manage the micropolitics of transformative work. Examining how transformative K–12 school leaders effectively challenge structural inequities and manage to sustain their leadership positions during turbulent times can help to inform such curricular and instructional revisions. Some of the key practices identified by successful transformative K–12 leaders include engaging in reflection around their positionality, developing racial literacy, effectively facilitating shared visions and collective responsibility for social justice advocacy, building the capacity of stakeholders, developing critical alliances through transparent and authentic community involvement, and participating in supportive professional peer networks that offer ongoing reflection, study, and support. By providing such content and skill practice, and ensuring that instruction and mentoring are provided by faculty who are experienced in transformative leadership, leader candidates can be better prepared for the realities of this challenging work, increasing the likelihood that they will act transformatively upon assuming school leadership roles.

Article

Shared Sense-Making, Agency, and Learning in School Development in Finnish School Reforms  

Tiina Soini, Kirsi Pyhältö, and Janne Pietarinen

Curriculum reform is at the heart of educational change and impacts pupils, teachers, other educational professionals, and society at large. Moreover, the way we go about developing our schools and designing curricula defines our future and reveals where we stand regarding the role of education in society. In order to research the desired aims of reforms, it is crucial to understand curriculum making: How does the school develop, and what regulates the development? Learning is at the core of school development. It can be considered as both the aim and the primary means of achieving and sustaining any change in schools. Accordingly, the impact of a school reform is highly dependent on the quality of learning enabled within the school communities. Particularly, the extent to which the reform engages teachers in active and skillful learning by promoting their professional agency is a central determinant of the reform’s outcomes. The core curriculum is the single most influential regulator of school development in Finland. It is renewed approximately every 10 years and provides a common direction and basis for renewing school education and instruction, and sets the framework and foundation for district- and school-level curriculum development work. Teachers in Finland are curriculum makers not only in the class and school, but also at the district and even national levels of the school system. In such a system, teacher autonomy and teacher agency are at the core of school development. Moreover, teachers’ ability to understand the aims of the reform and to integrate, modify, and adopt them as part of their pedagogical practices is essential. This requires making sense of their aims. In Finland, shared sense-making has been the main strategy in the latest participatory reforms, with the aim of promoting transformative learning in professional communities in order to reach reform goals.

Article

Preparing Teaching Assistants for Including All Learners  

Rob Webster, Paula Bosanquet, and Peter Blatchford

The early 21st century has seen a considerable increase in both the number and presence of teaching assistants (TAs) and learning support staff in classrooms. In the United Kingdom and elsewhere, TAs have assumed responsibility for teaching lower-attaining pupils and especially those with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND). This drift has occurred in a largely uncritical way and has attracted little attention because of the attendant benefits additional adult support has for teachers. However, evidence from research in the United Kingdom and the United States have revealed troubling and unintended consequences of this arrangement in terms of impeding pupil progress and increasing the likelihood of pupils’ dependency on adult support. Of particular concern are research findings that show how a high amount of support from TAs for pupils with high-level SEND leads to a qualitatively different experience of schooling compared to pupils without SEND, particularly in terms of having fewer interactions with teachers and peers. Heavy reliance on the employment and deployment of TAs to facilitate the inclusion of pupils with often complex learning difficulties in mainstream settings can be seen as a proxy for long-standing and unresolved questions about how teachers are prepared and trained to meet the learning needs of those with SEND and the priority school leaders give to SEND. Future efforts to meaningfully educate pupils with SEND in mainstream schools must attend to teachers’ confidence and competence in respect of this aim. In addition, extensive and collaborative work with schools in the United Kingdom is offering a more hopeful model of how TAs can supplement this endeavor. Improving how teachers deploy TAs and how TAs interact with pupils, together with addressing persistent problems relating to the way TAs are trained and prepared for their roles in classrooms, schools can unlock the potential of the TA workforce as part of a wider, more inclusive approach for disadvantaged pupils.

Article

Action Research as Continuous Professional Development in Southeast Asia  

Sarimah Shaik-Abdullah, S. Kanageswari Suppiah Shanmugam, and Mohan Chinnappan

The quality of education in any country rests on school communities as a whole. However, the real implementers of innovations and changes in curriculum are teachers. Teachers, as practitioners, are the ones most often held accountable for successes and failures in educating schoolchildren. The way to facilitate teachers in handling challenges and keeping up with curriculum renewals is through constant support in the form of continuing professional development (CPD) by means of action research. Action research as CPD has been viewed as a critical platform for advocating change, which is the outcome of teachers’ ability and autonomy to lead in making informed decisions about their own practices. Given its usefulness, action research is found well established, vastly practiced, and widely published in Western countries. This has raised the question of the widespread use of action research as CPD in the Southeast Asian (SEA) region. Preliminary analysis reveals that in some SEA countries, such as Timor Leste, there is limited literature on action research, while in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, action research has been well documented. At the same time, there is an emerging trend in SEA countries to adopt different models of action research. In Malaysia, for instance, action research has been primarily classroom based, whereas in Indonesia, a critical and community based approach to action research seems to be prevalent. This suggests that the kinds of action research conducted in the different SEA countries may reflect variations in cultural, economic, and geographical landscapes. Given the importance of action research to teacher practitioners and school leaders, and in providing an identity to the action research approaches conducted in Southeast Asia, the historical trail of action research presents a window into the nature of CPD concerns of each country, as well as the successes and challenges of conducting action research as CPD for sustained impact.

Article

Data Use in Recent School Reforms  

Sølvi Mausethagen, Tine S. Prøitz, and Guri Skedsmo

Typically involving the use of test scores, grades, and other forms of assessment in various educational contexts, the concept of data use has developed in parallel with the introduction of new managerial approaches to school governance, including performance management and accountability measures. This use of data for governance purposes is one way in which national authorities coordinate activities across administrative levels to improve education quality and effectiveness. Policymakers’ and researchers’ frequent use of the concepts of data and data use also usually parallels this development. However, based on systematic research mapping, the present findings identify differing ideas about data use in national and local contexts, including the role that data play and should play in school reform. Such differences relate to variations in school systems, teachers’ status, school governance traditions, curricular traditions, and research traditions. Moreover, characteristic of the literature on data use is an emphasis on the organization and development of effective data use practices. This is somewhat paradoxical, as both earlier and more recent studies emphasize the need for a stronger focus on the actual practices of the involved actors if data are to be of value in school development processes. Three important needs are important when considering data use in policy, research, and practice: the need for greater awareness of the epistemic aspects of data use; the need for context sensitivity, as data use is often presented as a universal concept across national and local contexts; and the need for researchers to communicate with other related fields to improve theory and practice.

Article

Translating National Policies into Schoolwide Practices  

Watinee Amornpaisarnloet

One of the ultimate goals in improving students’ quality of life is to provide them with quality learning experiences in schools. This goal has led many developed and developing countries to establish educational policies that encourage school practitioners to implement systems and practices that maximize students’ positive outcomes in both special education and inclusive school settings. Policy initiatives have influenced schoolwide practices and processes in many ways to change the requirements of schools and implement new approaches. Schools are directed by policies and then either strengthen or hinder implementation. Translating policies into practices can be sometimes complex and difficult. Many schools are faced with implementation failure due to a variety of factors, ranging from teacher problems with confidence, skills, and knowledge or issues in adapting to the changed practices of larger systems. Meeting these challenges requires the involvement of teachers, schools, stakeholders, and policymakers to close the gaps between existent policies and actual school practices. One promising approach to closing the gaps is known as implementation science, which is centered on a systematic process to promote the adaptation of research-based practices and other evidence-based policies into a regular routine. Core components include ongoing coaching, staff selection and training, and support systems. These components need to be employed and sustained at a high level for successful implementation. To achieve better outcomes, schools and all stakeholders require a systematic process of transferring policies. Stages of implementation considered as a formal protocol include exploration, installation, initial implementation, full implantation, innovation, and sustainability. Community-wide efforts are required to improve the uptake and effectiveness of policies in school contexts.

Article

An Emerging Framework for Inclusive Educational Leadership  

Michelle D. Young and Noelle W. Arnold

Ongoing shifts in demographics, knowledge, and expectations require continuous critical reflection on the leadership of K-12 schools. The models of school leadership offered in the past, which focus on management, are no longer adequate. Today, leaders must also ensure that all the students in their care are being provided high-quality, developmentally appropriate, and challenging educational opportunities that prepare each student for college, careers, and life. In other words, leaders must engage in “Inclusive Educational Leadership.” Inclusive Educational Leadership is a reconceptualization of traditional education leadership, which is dedicated to equity, quality and inclusion. We emphasize “inclusive” because it is our contention that providing a quality education experience that is both equitable and fosters equitable outcomes requires an intentional focus on inclusion. Inclusive Educational Leadership has three key areas of emphasis: place, preparation, and practice. Place refers to social practices and policies that reflect competing meanings and uses of spaces, the role people play in a given space and articulations of locations (geographic positions), environments (conditions), and ranks (hierarchies). Preparation refers to education, training and mentoring that is provided to leaders, and practice refers to the work leaders do to cultivate dispositions that support inclusion, support inclusive and culturally responsive practice, and develop an inclusive school culture. The goal of inclusive leadership is to cultivate an inclusive, caring, and supportive school culture that promotes the academic success and well-being of each student. In other words, its goal is to offer more than expectations that lightly touch on all students; its goal is to deliver results for each student. Thus, the work of Inclusive Educational Leadership involves a restructuring of the education experience to prevent marginalization, while creating school cultures based on dignity and respect and focused on achieving equity, high-quality educational experiences, and life success for all students.

Article

Leadership Practices and Managerial Accountability in Italy  

Angelo Paletta, Christopher Bezzina, and Genc Alimehmeti

The changes that are affecting public education imply the need to incorporate into principal’s leadership practices two opposing forces: on the one hand, the accountability systems, which require responsibility for centrally managed achievement testing, compliance with standard procedures of self-evaluation, planning teaching improvement, and reporting of the results; and on the other hand, the expectations that come from within the school, namely those of teachers, students, families, and other stakeholders. This presents the challenge of coproducing authentic learning (problem solving, soft skills, civic knowledge, and citizenship) that is not easily measurable and therefore difficult to bring to light, rationalize, systematize, and report. Principals react differently to the demands of centralized policy-making initiatives. Some see them as opportunities for growth and only formally adopt them, whereas others entrench themselves into particular practices aimed at focusing on the immediate, on being conservative and minimizing risk taking and setting less ambitious goals that can take their schools forward. Managerial accountability can end up “colonizing” the organizations (and those who lead them), with the consequence that time and attention is devoted to what is being measured or observed by the central administrative systems. The “colonized” leaders develop or bend their managerial practices primarily in response to the expectations of accountability systems. On the opposite side, accountability systems can produce the effect of “decoupling”: the actual activities are separated from the rituals of accountability requested by the central or local government. In this case, school principals conform only formally to the demands of accountability systems. Other school leaders can capture opportunities from an accountability system, integrating it into a comprehensive management approach that balances opposing requests and organizational principles into a “systemic” model. Thus, the accountability practices in the field of education introduced in Italy can leave both a positive or negative impact on the way school principals lead their organizations. Studying the impact that the introduction of such policies can have on individuals as a result of the way leaders execute such directives are deemed important as they shed light on the link between policy and practice, and help us gain deeper insights into the so-called theory and practice divide. The move toward greater forms of accountability presents an ideal opportunity for policy makers and educational leaders working at different levels to appreciate the importance of systemic leadership and engage in a discourse that enlightens its value to school improvement initiatives. Rather than focusing on the self, on merely following directives and working independently, the school principal that is able to understand how things and people are connected and can come together to transform their schools can make a difference to school development and school improvement. Bringing policy makers and implementers together can help in understanding the realities faced by educators at the school level, the former often oblivious to the challenges educators face on a day-to-day basis.

Article

Place-Based Educational Leadership  

Noelle W. Arnold

Understanding, shaping, and mediating the unique contexts and communities in which schools are located offers a unique approach to educational-leadership preparation. The emerging frame of PLACE describes a place-based leading and learning framework for educational-leadership preparation that uses a combination of concept-based curricula that includes practice and problem-solving in context, bridging culture and community, arts and humanities pedagogies, creative evaluation and engagement, and leadership for context rather than for region that includes followership models. Place-based educational leadership focuses on context-based professional practice that has a direct bearing on the well-being of individuals in the school ecology and the larger ecologies in which they live and work.