You are the leader at a post-secondary institution of higher learning (IHE) whose governing board has become critical of the school's direction. The board believes that the institution is lacking a clear vision. Drawing upon what you have learned at Argosy University about human motivation and the psychological foundations of education, what steps would you recommend to the president of the institution, which, if followed, would lead to the "vision" that is thus far lacking? In your response, anticipate difficulties that may arise, and how would you address them.
Clearing the Vision
As a leader at a post-secondary institution of higher learning (IHE) whose governing board has become critical of the school's direction, one should assemble an institutional site based management team (SBM).
Site based management is a consensus-driven learning environment that is linked to decentralization and driven by the school improvement team. Greater control over decisions regarding budget, personnel, and curriculum focuses on the following: student performance, teaching and learning, needs assessment, accountability, professional development, review, and evaluation. The site based management team is representative of the entire school community.
Through the involvement of administrators, teachers/staff, parents, community partners, and students in the decision-making process, more effective learning environments are created. Each stakeholder is a vital instrument to its' success. Successful school improvement requires establishing a clear educational vision and a shared institutional mission, knowing how well the school accomplished that mission, identifying areas for improvement, developing plans to change educational activities and programs, and implementing those plans or new programs effectively. Therefore, it is essential that the site based management team leaders establish a stronger link to others in the school and Ministry of Education. In doing so, they should connect the institutions goals to the broader and deeper mission of providing higher learning for all students. As leaders in this effort to improve the vision of the institution, the assembled site based management team should also consider stratification such as the benefit of program planning to all students rather than some in development and implementation of change initiatives, asking whether a proposed program will improve access to higher-order learning tasks for marginalized students.
For school improvement efforts to be successful teachers, parents, community, business partners, administrators, and students must share leadership functions. Likewise, the Principal's role must change from that of a top-down supervisor to that of a facilitator, architect, steward, instructional leader, coach, and strategic teacher (Senge, 1990).
Managing school change and improvement is one of the most complex tasks of school leadership. Fullan (1993), Sparks (1993), and other researchers of school leadership point out that school leaders need to understand the change process in order to lead, manage, and improve efforts of change effectively. They must learn to overcome barriers and cope with the chaos that naturally exists during the complex process of change (Fullan and Miles, 1992).
Administrators and other key school leaders help teachers and other stakeholders build effective teams by developing new organizational structures and a created shared vision that focuses on authentic student learning (Maeroff, 1993); ( Newmann, 1993). Such inspired and informed leadership would be critical to the success of schools.
Leading successful change and improvement involve developing and managing six critical components of schooling: (a) a clear, strong, and collectively held educational vision and institutional mission; (b) a strong, committed professional community within the school; (c) learning environments that promote higher standards for student achievement; (d) sustained professional development to improve learning; (e) successful partnerships with parents, health and human service agencies, businesses, universities, and other community organizations; and (f) a systematic planning and implementation process for instituting needed changes. Louis and Miles (1990) drew on several case studies of urban high schools. The authors emphasized the importance of planning: "Substantial change programs do not run themselves. They need active orchestration and coordination (p. 14)."
Human Motivation and Psychological Foundations
Maslow's great insight was to place self-actualization into a hierarchy of human motivation. According to Maslow (1954), self-actualization is the highest drive, but before this can happen must satisfy other, lower motivations like hunger, safety and belonging. The hierarchy has five levels: (a) physiological (hunger, thirst, shelter, and sex.); (b) safety (security, protection from physical and emotional harm); (c) social (affection, belonging, acceptance, friendship); (d) esteem (also called ego) which combines the internal aspects of self respect, autonomy, and achievement, and the external factors of status, recognition, attention; (e) Self actualization (taking action).
Maslow (1954) pointed out that the process of self-actualization is dynamic; the dominant need is always shifting. For example, a sexual partner may be lost in the self actualization of love making, but eventually becomes tired and hungry, and has to stop in order to fill a more immediate need, nourishment. Moreover, a single behavior may combine several levels. For example, eating dinner is both physiological and social.
This hierarchy does not exist by itself, but is affected by the situation and the general culture. Satisfaction is relative. Finally, Maslow notes that a satisfied need no longer motivates. A hungry person may be desperate for food, but once a meal is eaten, the promise of food no longer motivates him (Masters and Johnson, 1974).
The Hersey and Blanchard theory is highly popular and strikes most people as intuitively right. McGregor (1960) however, makes it the building block for the Theory X and Theory Y. Csikszentmihalyi (1988) continued the tradition with the concept of "Flow," a 1990s concept of self-actualization.
Empirical research conducted by Hersey and Blanchard (1977) confirmed Maslow's first three levels, but has not made further process as it relates to the fourth and fifth levels of self-esteem and self-actualization. McGregor (1960) noted that Maslow's hierarchy follows the life cycle. A newborn baby's needs are almost entirely physiological. As the baby grows, it needs safety, then love. Toddlers are eager for social interaction. Teenagers are anxious about social needs while young adults are concerned with esteem and only more mature persons transcend the first four levels to spend much time self-actualizing (Hersey and Blanchard, 1977).
The connection at this juncture is that external motivators such as wages, benefits, and tenure, satisfy lower needs. Workers satisfy higher needs by working with others, or learning and finding fulfillment in their work (Rusaw, 2001). As leaders in the change process, one must respect that piece of the puzzle each member of the team brings to the table and validate those talents.
Before the change process begins, leaders must become familiar with the school improvement cycle, the stages of the change process, and change models associated with each. Name the change models As change agents, one must be able to distinguish between the school improvement cycle and the change process, determine where the school is located within the change process, and identify appropriate next steps.
Fullan (1992) argues that in preparation for a leadership position, the leader must do two things: learn more about the complexities of the change process by reading, researching, talking with expert practitioners, and attending seminars; and accept the change process as a positive experience to be understood and embraced, rather than a negative experience to be feared and avoided.
Responses to questions of why institutions expend so much time, energy, and extensive resources on education are primarily ideological, grounded in personal belief systems. One cannot answer fundamental questions about the purposes of educational leadership unless there is a willingness to reveal the principles, values, and assumptions ground and guide them. These principles form fundamental belief systems about the ways in which one can understand themselves and society and determine the hopes for the future. Csikszentmihalyi (2003) cites businessman Max DePree who states that the first question for a leader is not what are they going to do but that it always is: where does the organization intend to be.
Conversely, it can be argued that should educators fail to consider the challenges of leading in the midst of diversity, they neglect the foundations of the educational endeavor. On the other hand, when they engage in explicit conversations about the diversity of their student bodies and the relationship of social justice to conceptions of academic excellence and school success, they are leading with moral purpose. Leadership requires, as Csikszentmihalyi (2003) states, that one should reflect deeply on one's own experiences and bedrock values to find ways in which one might intervene deliberately with moral purpose.
During the school improvement process, change experts such as community stakeholders, faculty, staff, students, should come together as a team to lead change efforts. According to Maslow's theory, the social, self-esteem, and self-actualization needs take center stage. Social needs are being met given that the assembled team belongs to a special group charged with enhancing something dynamic that will impact the lives of others.
The self-esteem needs of the team will be met as the team has status and mutual respect of their colleagues which leads to the next step of taking action in the achievement of the goals. Therefore, it is important to draw upon the expertise and skills of university faculty, central office personnel, external consultants, professional staff developers, and others.
During this pre-implementation stage, discussions are facilitated about the school's history of change in order to understand how and why past change efforts have succeeded or failed. Fullan (1993) favors simply beginning the change process without necessarily planning every step in advance. However, it is important to manage, guide, document, and learn from the change process.
Leaders of postsecondary institutions should learn about the roles of administrators, faculty, central office staff, parents, board members, and others involved in serving children and youth. All play an important role in the school improvement process. The collective knowledge of such individuals is used to form effective school improvement teams. School leaders understand and cultivate these roles and the roles that others play within improvement initiatives.
To build collaboration within the school culture, faculty study groups and cross-grade or department teams provide time for collegial work. As a committed and collaborative culture emerges in support of the change process, the evaluator of leaders establishes communication with and high expectations of team members while demonstrating confidence in school staff and the surrounding community.
Once partnerships are formed with parents, businesses, and social services and community agencies, efforts are made to consolidate resources to meet a range of student needs. In creating high-achieving learning environments and improving student learning, the leaders select and integrate a variety of programs to improve teaching and learning. Lastly, a set of guidelines are established to implement new approaches to student learning while continually monitoring both internal and external measurements for improvement.
Leaders of post-secondary institutions of higher learning should draw upon the talents of their stakeholders while utilizing the various motivational and psychological foundations to anticipate, understand and address team difficulties as that may arise throughout the school improvement process.
As school system funding is increasingly tied to performance, leaders should consider that performance needs to be more broadly defined. Performance measurement systems are to produce drive and communicate change. Performance measurement systems that are dominated by punitive incentives tend to have a counterproductive impact on improvement efforts. Ultimately the goal of school improvement should as a tool for those interested in building system capacity to meet the needs of children.
An effective performance measurement system is the foundation for evaluating programs. The leadership team should facilitate the development of a comprehensive performance measurement system that examines all aspects of operations whether it is at the school or in the community. Performance indicators should provide stakeholders with a diagnostic tool, enabling them to quickly and easily communicate progress, needs and challenges to their constituents.
According to Stephen Covey, leadership deals with direction and vision. The basic role of the leader is to foster a mutual respect and build a complimentary team where each
strength is made productive and each weakness is mitigated. The key is providing the context for success in terms of resources, systems and empowerment.
The role of leader as teacher starts with identifying people's mental models of important issues. No one carries an organization in his or her head. What we carry are assumptions. These mental pictures of how the world works have a significant influence on how we perceive problems and opportunities identify courses of actions and make choices.
Everyone agrees that leaders need vision, energy, authority, and strategic direction, but I think it is equally evident that the ability to inspire people, to capture their hearts, minds, souls, and empathize fiercely with the people they lead, is the alchemy that determines the difference between average and spectacular success as a leader.
At the end of the day, the leader must rally the team and take the hill. After all, the qualities of leadership are of limited use unless we do something with them.
You and I are so fortunate. When the interest at stake are the well being and future of our profession, its easy to be excited and full of energy. It only makes sense to be a visionary. It's instinctive that excellence is a minimum requirement. And it is so much fun to work with others similarly inflicted with a passion for public education.
When I look around the room and when I think of all the talented and dedicated people I have met this weekend, I know that our future is indeed in good hands.