Hi All,

Just thinking of different notions of leadership in education. One of the models is top-down, with leadership emanating from the apex of a triangle down to various designated people who then lead "the masses." Another view is quite different: leadership does not necessarily "reside" in a particular person, or emanate from "recognized positions," but ebbs and flows as a function of relationships in the school.

Gordon A. Donaldson Jr wrote in the article "What Do Teachers Bring to Leadership", "An alternative to the hierarchical model of school leadership is the relational model, which views leadership as residing not in individuals, but in the spaces among individuals." "Teacher leaders also have the benefit of working with others in small, intimate, adaptable groups or in one-on-one relationships... Some of these small units are formal work groups, such as grade-level teams or departments. But many are naturally occurring and informal—clusters of teachers who get into the habit of dropping by one another's rooms, sharing materials, ideas, and challenges or generating a proposal to the principal for a new science initiative. In these less formal clusters, it's often difficult to say who's leading whom. But few would say that leadership doesn't exist among these energetic and closely connected professionals."

"Teacher culture based on relationships is hugely influential in schools, often trumping administrative and legislative influence (Spillane, 2006). Although some administrators and policymakers might see this as a problem, strong relationships are teachers' most powerful leadership asset (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2002)." (Donaldson, Educational Leadership, September, 2007)

Similarly, here's Roland S. Barth in "Improving Relationships within the Schoolhouse,"

"Congenial relationships represent a precondition for another kind of adult relationship highly prized by school reformers yet highly elusive: collegiality. Of the four categories of relationships (parallel play, adversarial, congenial, and collegial), collegiality is the hardest to establish.

Famous baseball manager Casey Stengel once muttered, 'Getting good players is easy. Getting 'em to play together is the hard part.' Schools are full of good players. Collegiality is about getting them to play together, about growing a professional learning community.

When I visit a school and look for evidence of collegiality among teachers and administrators—signs that educators are “playing together”—the indicators I seek are

* Educators talking with one another about practice.
* Educators sharing their craft knowledge.
* Educators observing one another while they are engaged in practice.
* Educators rooting for one another's success.

Empowerment, recognition, satisfaction, and success in our work—all in scarce supply within our schools—will never stem from going it alone as a masterful teacher, principal, or student, no matter how accomplished one is. Empowerment, recognition, satisfaction, and success come only from being an active participant within a masterful group—a group of colleagues."

(Barth, Best of Educational Leadership 2005-2006)

A question it'd be interesting to explore at CR2.0 is where is the leadership in your school, and do you feel you can enter into the leadership in a smooth and healthy way? As we work towards reform and "21st-century learning," are you finding examples of teachers "taking" leadership on their own (interesting word, "taking", because sometimes if you take it there's MORE, not less of it); do you have suggestions of what we can do to move into educational change through viewing leadership differently?

Tags: change, collegiality, leadership, reform

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I copied, pasted and saved that thread starter. So thoughtful and it should get a lot more attention than it deserves on the pecking order of things that must be addressed within schools and classrooms. Usually it is just taken for granted. But school culture/environment depends on that seed of staff "shared" spirit or congeniality.

I'm tuckered, long day. I'll write more when my head clears. I have the same issues at my office at present and need to think this through. Thanks for priming me to do so.....(I feel like one of those old crank tractors :) A real Case.


I agree with you about your position on leadership. Leadership is not assigned but a trait, a characteristic that people follow as they relate the leader to what is universal in what they believe. A leader is someone you can trust, communicates the same values, and has insight to what is important to the majority and that is what brings people together for a unified purpose.

Leadership is not an assigned position. Although it is important to assign people to positions with leadership qualities, it does not necessarily occur in some organizations. It is also important that we recognize leaders for who they are and what they represent. There are leadership qualities in all of us but at times we are fearful to take the role as it might affect the comforts of the world we currently resolve in. What is important to us is the key, and what energy we have available for our daily lives is also reserved to the sense of our wellbeing. The question that we constantly ask ourselves; “Is the glass half empty or is it half full?” If it is half empty then what is it that will make the glass half full again?

I guess that brings me to the second element that is important to leadership and that is assessing your position to the quality of what is important. Assessing positioning is the process of systematically evaluating the quality of the vision statement in order to determine how the goals of the program will be developed to support issues of school reform.

Assessment of one’s position on the new vision is a process that requires collaboration and the development of trust. Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for schools to work. Trust implies accountability, predictability, and reliability. It is what keeps schools humming—the glue that maintains educational integrity. In traditional settings of school reform, educational leaders do not take time to assess their position on reform issues even when these issues are mandated through state or federal laws.

The typical response from educational leaders when asked why they must make these changes is, “It is out of our control” or “This is what the law requires of us.” A second type of response to the question of why we have to change is to use new mandates as an excuse for developing policies that fit self-centered ideas on school reform. In each case, the educational leaders did not assess their position about why the school should change. This traditional approach to positioning limits the ability of others to participate and sets up boundaries that restrict the development of a quality school.

The restrictive leadership approach leaves the teachers with the feeling that they should stay away from making decisions on their own, and it probably also inhibits them from acting on their own. Using the traditional approach, assessing a position would be that the leaders decide what needs to be done to improve the school and expect the teachers to be loyal to their requests. Unfortunately, the results of this position are low trust, negative feelings and comments about school reform, and lack of commitment to school improvement.
Hi Mike,
Reacting to this part of what you wrote:
"Assessment of one’s position on the new vision is a process that requires collaboration and the development of trust. Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for schools to work. Trust implies accountability, predictability, and reliability. It is what keeps schools humming—the glue that maintains educational integrity."

----Ok, new vision, develop trust--those are vital. I want to add something to the "implications of trust": that it is ok to experiment, make mistakes, take risks. We have to support educational atmospheres in which you expect each other to be trying out a lot things--a creative, open-minded, vibrant environment. So "accountability, predictability, and reliability", with have to also mean taking appropriate risks, making and learning from mistakes, and being supported by colleagues and administrators for doing so. What do you think?

Thanks so much to everyone for all these comments that make us think so much!
Hi Tim,
Yes, we need advocates, big time. Your questions about where are the voices of the advanced degree ed-tech people are good ones. We need all the help we can get with educational change.
As a university molecular biologist who has worked extensively for this exact purpose, I can report the following:

University administrators are not behind the idea of faculty working with schools instead of bringing in research grants.

University School of Education faculty appear to feel threatened by scientists entering their turf. Cooperation is very hard to come by.

Education and science don't speak the same language. Scientists can help immensely with teachers' presentation of science, but we have to get past the misunderstandings.

Case in point: our local school system has found many ways to exclude scientists from the Professional Development program. They're OK with it, as are university administrators, only if scientists get their own grant funding to run wholly independent summer programs.

Weird, but that's what I've found. Others have reported much the same things to me.

[an addendum to the above: Several years ago, the dean asked me to be the Office of Science Outreach (which accounts for my website being "oso"). This last summer, the new dean eliminated the Office, saying "we don't work with teachers." Over Christmas break, the dean asked me to take down the website. The compromise: I pay for web hosting myself, and I've removed all reference to the College of Arts and Sciences. Again, weird.]
The most surprising thing to say is: I'm not surprised. Your story, and the others which now unsurprise me underlines a failure of focus, or a slide in focus from mission to self (whatever the mission statement on the wall says!). Pollyanna here believes that education is about students, their learning their growth, their motivation, and my responsibility as a teacher is to foster these things. And schools and universities are about students as well - and that means an interest in where they've come from and where they're going. To sever connections is at least just plain dumb, if not worse (and I'm sure schools can be found just as dismissive of the 'ivory towers'.)

I must give some wraps to our local Uni, however: in the faculties I've been invilved with Uni of Tasmania has been keen to work with teachers in Professional Development, course design and content and use of facilities, provision of speakers for schools.
(By the way, my own university experience backs up that very often universities don't work with teachers and don't understand what they are or how they work. Very many of my lecturers knew nothing about teaching! I'm sure it's vastly improved from the 1970's - ahem!)
Ian, are you calling me a Pollyanna? Ok, true. A hopeless idealist--why doesn't everyone get along, cooperate, share the knowledge and leadership, work together to make rich, dynamic curricula?
J. Jose Bonner, it's very interesting what you're saying, and dispiriting too. Good to get a dose of what's really going on, however. Scientists and teachers not working together? Please, please, we need the scientists to work with us.
Could you elaborate about what you mean by educators and scientists not speaking the same language? What are the differences in focus? How do the languages differ? What are the typical misunderstandings?
No Connie, not this time - I was self-referring! (I take a jaundiced view, true, but work with optimism.) I warm to a comment made about a legendary breakfast radio personality on ABC Victoria. At his funeral Peter Evans was described as a 'pessimistic romantic' "often disappointed, but never surprised." But, I do see the best of Pollyanna in you.
We're studying oxymorons this week in class, yet I didn't get until afterwards that I was speaking in oxymoronese by calling myself a hopeless idealist.
Hmmm....I'll have to articulate this. Let's start with the Criteria for Success in professorships in the two areas. In a science like biology, physics, chemistry, etc, one majors in the discipline, usually doing undergraduate research in a lab during your junior and senior years. Then, one does graduate work in the discipline. By the end of your first year, you have joined a lab, and are identifying a project that fits neatly into the overall long-term objectives of your major professor. You work with the expectation that your PhD thesis will be publishable as a small cluster of papers in respected journals. Then you do a postdoctoral stint for a couple of years, and then start in on your assistant professorship. At this point, you are supported by research grants, and largely protected from a significant teaching load so that you can make enough research progress to be eligible for tenure. In my field, protection from teaching is important: your competition for grants is faculty at medical schools (maybe 9 lectures per year), or research labs (the Hutchinson Cancer Institute, for example) who have no teaching at all. Your life revolves around getting data and interpreting it, then publishing it. Nearly every day, there are research seminars in which faculty, students, postdocs, and invited speakers go through their data (lecture with slides) and the audience tries very hard to find alternative explanations that differ from the speaker's interpretation. It's all about reasoning from the data, and doing your dangedest to find the holes in the interpretations, and saving your friends from having holes in their interpretations.

After you get tenure, you may be allowed to teach another course. Maybe after you've been promoted further, you can take on a full teaching load...which, of course, means you pass the research torch on to your younger colleagues, because you can't compete successfully for grants if you're in the classroom all the time. The unwritten assumption about teaching is that, naturally, you use the language of the field: the lecture presentation of data. If the audience doesn't yet have the background information to be able to intepret the data accurately, you have to bring them up to speed. [translation: lecture at your students as if they are all going to become graduate students in your field, even though you know that's not true.]

In Education (judging from my Ed colleagues' CVs), one must first earn a teaching credential and teach in the schools. This makes sense, since you need to know what you're talking about. Then, you go back for an advanced degree. An alternative for secondary science ed folks is to major in a discipline, start graduate school in that discipline, find it unfulfilling, and switch to a Masters' in teaching. Then you spend a few years in the classroom before going after the PhD. The PhD is, of course, in Education.

Consider the Elementary Science Ed person. To meet these requirements, one often majors in elementary ed. Then, one gets a Masters' in Education, then a PhD in Education.

Advancement in the professoriate also requires research, but the traditions are different. Case studies, sociological studies, surveys, etc are appropriate. Controlled experiments are very difficult, given that you can't have two classrooms with the identical students in them. The rules for a thesis are different. Graduate students identify a Question that needs to be answered, then go trolling for thesis advisors. Here, at least, Ed faculty do not establish research groups with long-term objectives, because this would prevent graduate students from coming up with their own research questions. Their work would merely be "derivative." They sign on as thesis advisor if a graduate student comes up with a question that interests them.

The thesis proposal in Education must state its Research Questions, and the thesis must answer them. Digressions are discouraged. The initial question is the important part. In the sciences, thesis proposals are merely a formality (usually prepared and signed a few months before the thesis itself, well after the work has been done). Most theses come out of digressions from the original intent, based on unexpected discoveries that the students followed up. The initial question is merely the starter; the actual data and interpretation thereof are the important part.
So, there are some background-and-training differences.

As near as I can tell, my Ed colleagues, having wanted to work with students, tend to be outgoing, and well-versed in non-verbal communication. By contrast, my science colleagues tend to be nerds, who both by training and predisposition, are inept or in some cases wholly unaware of non-verbal communication. In meetings with my Ed colleagues, I have often found that they have no clue what I'm talking about, because they are reading some non-verbal something and ignoring the words. Often, I can't tell if they're saying anything important, perhaps because much of it is non-verbal.

One rule I did learn, though, was that for one group of them, disagreement or contradiction was forbidden, and justification for exclusion from the group. This made it hard for me to use the scientific/analytical approach to education reform, since my approach is to identify the problems that are most interesting and/or most pressing, and then search for methods to solve them. Their approach is to find those collaborations that are most accessible, and then join them, with the goal of making education better. I never learned how; I couldn't ask the question in a way that didn't offend.
The most significant differences in understanding concern Inquiry and the Nature of Science. These are pretty fundamental for science education; one would think we'd be on the same page.

Where I come from, Inquiry (a term we don't use, by the way) is research. We get data by one means or another, and then wrestle with it to figure out what it tells us. Doing the experiment is often excrutiatingly boring. "Doing science" is wrestling with the data, preferably with others who can shoot down your ideas, so you can refine them. To me, "inquiry teaching" means presenting students with data, and collaboratively working through it, to discover the fundamental scientific principles.

Classroom Inquiry appears to be conceived as "guided" or "full," depending on the locus of control (a term I think I'm using correctly; we don't use it in my field). The Gold Standard of inquiry learning is for students to ask the questions, determine the methods, do the investigations, and collect the data. If the teacher steps in, it diminishes the scienciness of the activity, making it merely guided inquiry. I imagine that this parallels, to some extent, the notion of a graduate thesis: it must be wholly the student's, not guided by the major professor.

I have two problems with Full Inquiry. The first is common: there isn't time for students to rediscover All of Science through their own investigations. They certainly won't rediscover the "hard bits" that require sophisticated equipment and materials. Full Inquiry is a good idea, but that's what the science fair is for.

The second problem relates to the Nature of Science, to which I will return on page 17. ;) Note that, in my description of Full Inquiry, I omitted the part where students wrestle with the data and figure out what it means. This is because, for the most part, that's not a part of Full Inquiry. In elementary science, as amply demonstrated by Taking Science to School from the National Research Council, lessons stop at data collection. Even the inquiry-based best-there-is curricula based on Science Kits rather than textbooks (e.g. FOSS), tend to stop at data collection. The FOSS lessons have as the "wrapup" of the investigation, the list of words that the teacher should tell the students to write in their word bank.

If the teacher helps the student interpret the data, it's no longer "inquiry." It's the teacher telling the student the answer.

And yet, it is precisely the analysis of data that is the science. To use the standard analogy of Hypothesis Testing: you turn on the light switch and nothing happens. What do you do? Your first hypothesis is that the bulb is burned out. You test the hypothesis by replacing the bulb. If your hypothesis was correct, the light goes on, and you can read your book. What happens if we stop at data collection? We write down "light does not go on," and then we read in the dark.

Science requires training in the thought processes of data analysis. Like all teaching, it should be a cognitive apprenticeship, in which the teacher coaches the student in the authentic thought processes of the discipline. if it's Full Inquiry, and you leave this to the student, you're guaranteed to get students with misconceptions.
The Nature of Science--where I come from, scientific knowledge is tentative (theory, not fact) because it's our interpretation of the data. Because there's always the possibility that new data may come to light, and force us to change our interpretation, we do not state knowledge as Facts. [Science is often taught as Facts, but that's another story.]

But consider the textbook used for elementary science ed, where it teaches the teachers about the Nature of Science--the tentativeness of scientific knowledge. Here's the schtick:

1. Take a fossil fragment. Make sure it's one you know nothing about.
2. Draw the rest of the organism, and describe where it lived and how it got its food.
3. Now think: did you do that entirely from objective data, or did you incorporate some of your own internal bias?
4. See? That's how science works. You can see for yourself by going to a museum and looking at the dinosaur skeletons. They may have a fragment of bone here and there, but the rest is plaster.

What image of science does this portray? It sounds like scientists get one piece of data, and then guess at the answer. Scientific knowledge is tentative, apparently, because scientists usually guess wrong.

There's another clue in this text (and in the Educational literature). According to the Edinburgh school of philosophy, there is no objective reality. It's just our current consensus. According to this philosophy, each of us builds our own reality from the experiences we have.

Constructivist teaching argues that each of us builds our own knowledge from the bits of information that we have. This makes sense; memory and recall require neuronal connections that work with moderate facility. You can't create or use my neuronal connections. I have to do it myself. Yes, we should be teaching in such a way as to help students construct their knowledge effectively.

The elementary ed textbook refers to "constructing reality," not "constructing knowledge."
ds al coda
Back to the Beginning
Scientists are trained in science. Educators are trained in education. It's not a big surprise that scientists are often lousy teachers. Should we expect that Educators, who have not experienced scientific research, should be adept at scientific thinking?

I think scientists have a caricature of what education is. Similarly, I think Educators have a caricature of what science is. [I speak generally here; there are certainly some individuals for whom these statements are false, to whom I apologize for the grossly inappropriate stereotype.] If it's even halfway true that people go into education because they like interacting with other people, and that scientists go into science because they are more adept at nerdy activities than with interpersonal whatever-they-are's, we are certain to have differences in our worldviews. We'll have trouble communicating with each other. If we add to this basic biological difference the distinctions in training and historical separation between the disciplines, and then add in the biological instinct to be suspicious of other groups, we get the current situation and its tendency to be a bit awkward.

Thank you for this extremely thoughtful response. You are illuminating the important differences in training, language, and perspective. Let's keep talking, working towards bridging some of the differences!



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