Develop Leadership

Well, I blasted through Thanksgiving without a post… but I can definitely echo Will’s sentiments, and I have to take at least a moment to disagree with Dave Winer. I think we do need a Thanksgiving 2.0 – something that gets back to the roots of the holiday (ie. giving thanks, which surprisingly was not a part of the extended family festivities I attended yesterday… I don’t get the impression this is uncommon) and something that is far healthier than the binge eating most American’s partake in.

At any rate, I’m writing again (still working on that last KAM), and here is part 4 of 10 in the depth, a brief focus on developing leadership in a professional learning community… for the purpose of instigating school change initiatives such as the introduction of video games and simulations for teaching and learning of course. Again, this is a DRAFT, but I am open to any feedback. I hope to pull together a completed version of this paper in the next couple of weeks. This all moves so slow! What with work and life and all…

4. Develop Leadership

A professional learning community cannot exist without leadership. Hord (2004) “found clear evidence that the administrator is key to the existence of a professional learning community” (p. 20), while Huffman and Hipp (2003) also noted that in a successful professional learning community, “leadership pervades the organization” (p. xvii). It follows that change agents who hope to bring about positive change in schools by developing professional learning communities must also take steps to develop leadership at all levels of their organization, in administrators, in teachers, and even in students.

According to DuFour and Eaker (1998), “to have the greatest impact, principals must define their job as helping to create a professional learning communities in which teachers can continually collaborate and learn how to become more effective” (p. 184). In addition, principals must model “behavior that is congruent with the vision and values of the school” (DuFour & Eaker, 1998, p. 193), remain results-oriented (p. 194), and find a balance in the paradox between urgency and patience within the change process (p. 195). Later, DuFour, Eaker, and DuFour (2005) wrote that principals should model lifelong learning (p. 120) and serve as a “leading learner” (p. 121), or “head learner” as Roberts & Pruitt (2003, p. 26) called it. Huffman and Hipp (2003) also considered principals “co-learners” who modeled the “the level of learning expected from the professional staff” (p. 14). Furthermore, the goal of the principal should be to “build a staff of lifelong learners” (DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour, 2005, p. 121).

Walde and Castleberry (2000) also saw a leader as an “architect of relationships” (p. 27). This is a very different sort of leadership than the traditional top-down authoritative model that has been expected of principals in the past. DuFour and Eaker (1998) expected “principals of professional learning communities [to] lead through shared vision and values rather than through rules and procedures” (p. 184). Rather than directing others what to do, “principals of professional learning communities involve faculty members in the school’s decision-making process and empower individuals to act” (p. 185). Huffman and Hipp (2003) thought that “the ability of principals to relinquish power is essential for the support of professional learning communities” (p. 14). These principals do, however, provide direction by providing staff “with the information, training, and parameters they need to make good decisions” (DuFour & Eaker, 1998, 186). In fact, Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) viewed administrators as “leaders of leaders” (p. 22). Huffman and Hipp expressed this by saying that:

“In PLCs, principals are not coercive or controlling, but seek to share power and distribute leadership among staff. In turn, staff increasingly become open to changing roles and responsibilities. Principals let go of power and nurture the human side and expertise of the entire school community. Shared responsibility is apparent through broad-based decision making that reflects commitment and accountability.” (Huffman & Hipp, 2003, p. 38)

If principals are leaders of leaders, then clearly the teachers, too, must serve as leaders in a professional learning community where leadership is shared. Hord (2004) advocated building teacher leadership within a traditional school structure (p. 140). She felt that “principals must be both willing to share leadership and able to develop conditions and communicate expectations that will advance shared leadership among school professionals” (p. 140). Huffman and Hipp (2003) described this kind of leadership saying, “it’s not like a leadership that’s passed around; it’s worn at all times by anyone who wants it” (p. 32). They called this “pervasive leadership” (p. 34). For Hord (2004), the development of shared (or pervasive) leadership enhances, and is enhanced by, team teaching (p. 9). As Stone and Cuper (2006) wrote, teachers come to “rely on each other’s areas of strength… [and] to support, help, and laugh with each other” (p. 101). For this reason, Stone and Cuper also advocated “collaboration pods” (p. 19), not unlike the teams suggested in the DuFours’ model. Stone and Cuper also understood that:

“the finest educational leadership… it is the leadership of teachers – big-spirited, compassionate, and inventive teachers who lead through their willingness to reach out to their colleagues and their communities. It is the leadership of teachers who are always on the lookout fro ways to enhance their practice through the use of new technologies, through professional development, and through discovering and sharing the talents of the people living in their communities” (Stone and Cuper, 2006, p. xi)

Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002), too, viewed teachers as “transformational leaders” (p. 22). Similarly, Huffman and Hipp (2003) noted that “setting expectations often begins with the principal, but in the high-readiness schools at the implementation phase, the teachers quickly assumed the responsibility for continuing to develop and to sustain those expectations” (p. 42).

Many of these theorists even advocated that leadership reach down to the student level. DuFour, Eaker, & DuFour (2005) acknowledged that “”the principal who joins with the faculty and students in learning activities is the one who changes the school culture into one that is hospitable to lifelong learning” (p. 121); student are included in the creation of this culture. Earlier Roberts and Pruitt explained that “leaders are not limited to the administrative ranks. Leaders may be staff members, parents, community members, or even students” (p. 176). Huffman and Hipp (2003) had documented schools in which “”teachers teach the students to lead one another, so there’s a bunch of leaders in [the] school” (p. 32), and later Stone and Cuper (2006) advocated that educators “designate student peer leaders in the classroom” (p. 146).

Developing meaningful and effective leadership abilities at each level of the organization – administrators, teachers, and students – requires a good deal of capacity building. After all, as Hord (2004) points out, “at the beginning, most teachers did not have experience with site based decision making, and principals often had to provide training on new roles and responsibilities” (p. 47). She noted that “of equal importance to establishing shared decision-making structures was the ability of the principals to increase decision-making capacity among their staff” (p. 49). She went on to explain several principal capacities that help build leadership in others, including listening (p. 146), knowledge of teaching and learning (p. 146), and consistency of follow through (p. 147). Hord also recommends recruiting external change agents to help with this process (p. 149).

If a change agent, internal or external, is helping an organization develop a professional learning community so that other change initiatives, such as the integration of video games and simulations into teaching and learning, might be more effective, then in addition to respecting the realities of change, establishing mission, vision, values, and goals, and focusing on what’s important, they must also be sure to develop leadership at all levels of the organization. Clearly efforts at building the leadership capacity of administrators are important, but these efforts should also be extended to include teachers (and even students) so that a culture of shared leadership can be developed at the school. There is no need to delay a change initiative in order to develop this leadership capacity, but this need for leadership development should be addressed as a part of any school change effort.