The course portfolio for School Leadership involves reading the texts, engaging in conversation with authors and professionals who have thought deeply and penetratingly about the significant issues involved in managing and leading schools, participating actively in classroom discourse, and communicating one's reflections upon these matters and one’s professional experience in a style conversant with scholarly standards.
A (gentle) word of warning: as former students in School Leadership have discovered, it is important to watch one's language...words do possess meaning! Specifically, this "portfolio" is not a "term paper," although for many students the terms are synonymous. Be clear: the terms are not synonymous. A "portfolio" is a "work in process," one subject to revision and change as an individual works with various elements of the portfolio, receives feedback about them, revises, and thinks differently about the portfolio as the course and its materials as well as one's professional practice influence one's thoughts. A "term paper" is a final project judged solely on the basis of its merits as these are presented to a professor by a student.
Students should understand that the EDU 8677 portfolio is more "fluid" than "static." The percentages assigned to each exercise (as one component of the overall portfolio) reflect how each exercise builds upon what has preceded. The goal is that the final portfolio will reflect the best scholarship that bridges theory and practice as best as each student knows how bridge them...at this point in one's academic and professional careers. Please understand that it is the mindset implied by the words "portfolio" and "term paper" that students need to be clear about, because the mindset implicit in each influences how students will approach developing one's portfolio, in general, and each of its three exercises, in particular.
Upon reviewing this protocol for the portfolio, students may be tempted to expand each of the three exercises into a much larger, more onerous undertaking than it is intended to be. Remember: the portfolio is not a thesis. The explicit purpose of the portfolio is to engage students in thinking through and writing a statement about school leadership that utilizes the perspectives studied in the course, those voiced by professionals, and one's experience as an educator. The implicit purpose of the portfolio is that students will develop their intellectual powers to articulate the major issues and problems that school leaders typically confront in practice. Students will also have evaluated what others assert is the best way to resolve these issues against their own developing statement on school leadership.
Students should be alert to a trap that has ensnared some of their unwitting predecessors. Students should not use a unitary model of management or leadership or, even, several unitary models, and to relate it (or them) to one's ideas about professional practice. No, the purpose for this portfolio is for students, through what they are reading/studying/debating/evaluating (in this class or in other classes, for that matter) to unearth new insights into and to clarify one's statement of school leadership. But, as a consequence of one's study and research in this course, the purpose of this portfolio is for students to understand all of this perhaps in quite new or different ways. Thus, the process of completing this portfolio opens the students' minds to the possibilities of the mysterious and unknown, the unforeseen, as well as the unanticipated so that each student is able to revise one's statement of school leadership in light of these new truths.
In these three exercises, students should not worry so much about writing what they believe others (like the professor) want to read. Students should worry more about what they want to state and how to state it in the most efficient and effective way possible. In this sense, students should be guided by two phrases, namely, "less is more" and "simple is elegant."
For some students, the portfolio will be one of their first experiences with professional writing. At first, students experience writing in this way as somewhat artificial, especially until one learns how to express one's voice in the most forcible and compelling way possible as this is identified by the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition). Students should remember that developing proficiency in professional writing involves trial and error, editing, and rewriting/revising. That is, students will learn to write better by confronting the fact that they do not write quite as well as they might believe! Learning to write professionally also involves learning to read more critically (i.e., among other matters, appreciating how authors express themselves for better or worse). Lastly, professional writing also demands a personal commitment to inculcate the self-disciplines required to write well.
What this means experientially, however, is that students typically experience frustration when they discover that they do not know how to write as well as they believe they do write. APA style is formal and structured, following conventions required of those who write for the social sciences. Students tend to write in an informal style, following the conventions associated with conversation. Frustration, then, emerges as students begin to make the transition from informal to formal style and from conversational to scholarly writing.
Some students also become embarrassed when they discover that they do not know how to write as well as they believe they do write, at least in so far as this is reflected in the grade received (typically on Exercise #1). They wonder what the professor must think about them and their professional practice as educators. While this reaction is understandable, it may not be helpful if students get mired down in trying to figure out what to do and fear of a low grade instead of learning from one's errors, developing the disciplines associated with APA style, revising one's work, and correcting for those earlier errors in future writing. The grade received on an assignment does not reflect a professor's judgment of students as human beings or as professionals; instead, the grade reflects the quality of student writing as measured against the criterion of excellence in scholarship and style by the professor.
To promote learning to write in APA style, students are provided the opportunity to edit Exercise #1 in light on the commentary received on Exercises #1. When writing each of the exercises included in this portfolio, students should focus upon attending to clarity of expression more than the details of citing and referencing resources. Much of the former students have been taught and should be capable of doing well, especially considering the fact that they have completed their undergraduate degree programs. Students will learn the latter through the experience of not citing and referencing correctly in the portfolio and revising their written work for future submissions.
Three written exercises comprise the semester project for School Leadership (EDUC 8677). Exercise #1 articulates the student's inchoate beliefs about school leadership. Exercise #2 utilizes case study methodology wherein the student solicits and reports others' beliefs about school leadership. Exercise #3 articulates the student's comprehensive understanding of school leadership.
Taken individually and collectively, these three exercises will assist the student to articulate and, then, to defend one's statement of school leadership as the student engages in discourse with others who have thought deeply and penetratingly about these matters from a diversity of perspectives. When the student has completed the three exercises comprising the semester project, the student will have explicated a clear and comprehensive provisional statement of school leadership. This statement will then serve as a solid foundation for one's personal and professional decision making as one enters into the role of school leader, thus enabling one's decisions to be ethical, as Aristotle used that term in his Nicomachean Ethics.
Reflecting upon one's background and experience and, in particular, one's professional experience, the student will specify a vision of school leadership.
In articulating this vision, the student should ascertain and discuss what one currently believes are the most significant characteristics that identify successful school leadership practice. The student may also want to contrast these characteristics with others the student believes identify a failure of school leadership. Additionally, to substantiate one's beliefs, the student is especially encouraged to reference texts studied in other courses which the student has taken as part of one's preparation to assume the role of school leader (e.g., organization theory, decision-making theory, leadership ethics).
Exercise #1 should consist of between five and ten pages of double-spaced text (8½" x 11" paper, #12 font) and must comply with the Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition (APA). Exercise #1 should be submitted in a D-ring binder (2" should suffice) and include a cover page, an abstract, and four dividers that will separate each of the three exercises as well as a complete page of references.
Exercise #1 will be evaluated for content (50%) and style (50%) and will be graded and returned the following week. Students may edit and resubmit Exercise #1 on the date specified on the course syllabus. However, the highest grade that can be earned on this resubmission is an 85%.
The second written exercise requires the student to formulate a case study report investigating professional educators' perceptions about successful school leadership.
In preparation for conducting the case study, students will read about the case study research methodology used by educational researchers as well as investigate several websites offering concrete approaches to conducting and reporting a case study. Exercise #2 will commence with an in-class examination of the case study research methodology. In addition, students will organize the interview instrument and protocol for conducting the interviews.
In the ensuing weeks, students will interview three principals (for their level of certification, i.e., elementary/middle or middle/secondary) and three "master" teachers (for their level of certification, i.e., elementary/middle or middle/secondary) regarding their perceptions and beliefs about successful school leadership. These interviews will form the data for the case study report.
As students collate the data gathered and consider them, time will be used in class as necessary to address student questions. These may include such matters as how to organize data and how to report them. It will be the students' responsibility, however, to raise these questions as they arise.
The case study report should consist of between 10 and 15 pages of double-spaced text and must comply with the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition). Exercise #2 should be submitted in the D-ring binder in the tabbed-section following Exercise #1. This exercise will be evaluated for content (80%) and style (20%). It will be graded and returned the following week. Exercise #2 is not revised.
The third exercise provides the culminating activity for EDU 8677.
In this activity, the student will integrate one's beliefs regarding school leadership practice (first articulated in Exercise #1) with what practitioners believe regarding school leadership practice (as articulated in Exercise #2) and the theoretical perspectives the student has derived from one's reading and study in EDU 8677. Students are especially encouraged to supplement these ruminations with perspectives gained from other courses and literature studied in one's academic program.
The purpose of Exercise #3 is for the student to formulate a well-articulated and well-argued provisional definition of school leadership. This definition is provisional in that it provides the basis upon which one will approach school leadership practice; the definition will evolve, develop, and change as one gains experience as a school leader.
This statement should consist of between 10 and 15 pages and must comply with the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition) (2009). Exercise #3 should be placed in the D-ring binder immediately behind Exercise #2 and immediately in front of the references section. This exercise will be evaluated for content (80%) and style (20%). It will be graded and returned the following week. Exercise #3 is not revised.