Leadership for learning: an investigation into described professional images of students using the Leadership Challenge

Paalman-Dijkenga, Ingrid (2020) Leadership for learning: an investigation into described professional images of students using the Leadership Challenge. Doctoral thesis (EdD), University of Sussex.

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This research was carried out in the Department of Education at the University of Applied Sciences in Windesheim, Flevoland, in the Netherlands. In recent years, the focus of the university has been on the teaching of basic skills in language and math to children of primary school age (4-12 years). However, conversations held with tutors within the university, the people from the werkveld1 and the students suggested that the university needed to develop a wider scope of skills to be able to face the challenges of the future. As a result of this view, in 2014 the university decided to focus equally on students developing an innovative, all-round professional image with a particular focus on leadership for learning.

To facilitate the development of the all-round professional image, students were required to interact with lecturers, teachers and peers in order to question their practice on a regular basis. A two-year pilot was carried out with students and monitored to evaluate how effectively the new initiative assisted the development of their professional image. Using the methodology developed by Kouzes & Posner (2013) to support their professional image and develop leadership for learning.

The aim of this research was:

To explore how an evidence-based model within the curriculum can facilitate the development of the student’s professional image growing into a professional identity.

Leadership within this research is seen as everyone’s business and not specially reserved for the ones who are set into leadership positions. It is about people transforming situations by bringing something ‘new’ into the situation that will transform and change a person’s identity. Leadership is the ability to move people towards shared aspirations. This means that leadership is a relation. It is a set of known skills available to anyone. Leadership is the ability to influence yourself and others to learn and to develop towards the set goals (Dufour & Marzano: 2011; Kouzes & Posner, 2013, 2012; Paalman, 2015). Where in this research the shaping of professional identity contains the process of integrating personal knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, norms and values with professional values and standards on teaching (Baumeister & Tierney, 2011; Beijaard et al, 2004; Darling-Hammond, 2007; Palmer, 2007; Ruijters, 2015).

The study used an action research approach, which is described by Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2017) as a small-scale intervention in the functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such an intervention. The intervention systematically used the leadership model by Kouzes and Posner (2013) with students in the last year of their Initial Teacher Trainer program (ITT). Questionnaires and in-depth interviews among students, lectures and people from the werkveld were held to answer the described research questions.

The main question: “To what extent does the leadership model by Kouzes & Posner (2013) support students in developing their professional image in leadership for learning?” shows that students are more aware of the different aspects of leadership for learning but according to the data students don’t show consciously competence in the described professional profiles towards the Leadership Challenge. Students as well as the werkveld show that in becoming a leader for learning aspects of the Leadership Challenge can be deducted but are not clearly mentioned. Lecturers of the bachelor program find the model supportive within their classes.

The data shows that in the support needed for students to develop a professional identity, all address the importance of working systemically. The werkveld as well as the lecturers from the university need to find ways to connect their thinking about building professional identity with each other. An equivalent approach is needed to support students in developing their professional identity. The werkveld sees a major role for the mentor because this is the person who connects the most with students from the ITT program.

Beliefs of the werkveld show that a leader for learning is someone with awareness of self, growing into the profession of a teacher. It is someone who believes and knows that learning is an ongoing process of interaction with children, colleagues and parents. Their professional identity show that reflection is a state of mind, a way of being. This initial teacher has an open mind towards learning situations within the educational setting and an open mind towards the learning questions that children expose. This professional has an inquiry state of mind.

Recommendations for policy and practice are to work systemically with the Leadership Challenge method. People working within the field of education and those who are entering the field of education through the university of applied sciences benefit from working systemically with a method that provides structure and that deepens ‘Opleiden in de School’ and building professional teacher identity.

Re-design the role of the teacher. The educational system in the Netherlands has its focus mainly on becoming an instructional specialist, experts in performing a curriculum for or, sometimes, with children throughout the year and being executers of organizational activities like organizing the sports events or parents night. These are important things but when looking at the wider scope of education and its purpose within society asks for evaluation and maybe even a re-design of the role of the teacher for the global world.

Growing into a professional teacher identity takes time. The university and the werkveld could design a framework for learning for professional identity, using the Leadership Challenge as foundation for addressing aspects of identity such as values, ethics and beliefs. Together they can develop a body of knowledge and related tools to make the profile of the professional teacher identity clearer, building professional capital in the widest sense possible. Teachers working in complexity will then develop habits of mind that can guide decisions and reflection on practice in support of continual improvement and a sustainable growing professional teacher identity. To obtain this continuous improvement learning networks need to be built with those working within the concept of ‘Opleiden in de School’ and its mentors. In my opinion this means that the university and the boards of the schools have a strategic agenda for professional development that is developed together around mutual interests and challenges because building identity takes time beyond the designed educational program within the university.

1 Werkveld are the people from the schools that the university of applied sciences works with. This includes teachers, principals, supporting staff etc. In this thesis the Dutch term werkveld will be used.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1025 Teaching (Principles and practice)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1050.9 Educational psychology > LB1060 Learning
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1101 Child study
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2020 13:20
Last Modified: 15 Jul 2020 13:20
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/92573

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