10 Roles & 7 Recommendations for Leading Toward Deeper Learning

By Tom Vander Ark & Karen Cator

Last week, the ISLLC released new draft standards for school leaders. The Council of Chief State School Officers is currently accepting public feedback on the standards, which include transformational leadership principles for school leaders. The project is evidence that the current system of leadership preparation and development is mismatched to the next-gen, deeper learning environments that we know are best for kids.

If we want more students to experience powerful learning, we need to create development pathways that allow school and district leaders to benefit from the same blended, competency-based and deeper learning experiences that they seek to create for students.

In our new white paper, Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning, released jointly with Digital Promise, we assert the need for programs that prepare and develop school and district leaders who will create and sustain deeper learning environments. (The paper is the fourth in a series from Getting Smart that explores the shift to deeper learning).

Next-generation leader preparation programs should embody and model deeper learning. In turn, school leaders committed to deeper learning principles for students should also create deeper learning experiences for their teachers, staff, parents and community.

The paper addresses two fundamental issues:

  • Roles: As a growing body of schools and districts recognize the need for deeper, blended, competency-based learning environments for students, how must the role of leaders evolve to create and sustain them?
  • Recommendations: How must leader preparation and ongoing professional development evolve to fully enable teacher and leader success in this new environment?

To answer these questions, Getting Smart captured a diverse set of voices – ranging from current practicing principals to representatives from pioneering programs and organizations whose missions address educational leadership challenges. The team reviewed the literature on leadership development and spent a year tracking the progress of high-performing educational leadership programs, talking to practitioners and researchers at conferences and events to learn from others passionate about this work; this yielded dozens of conversations and 50 guest blog contributions to inform the research, resulting in a paper that is a compilation of many voices, perspectives and ideas.

The roles that education leaders play is evolving as schools and districts are seeking deeper learning environments for students. Deeper learning leaders:

  • set the vision for deeper learning
  • act as conversation leaders in their community
  • innovate as design thinkers and change managers
  • act as instructional leaders for their staff
  • distribute leadership to others on their team
  • advocate for students

Leading for deeper learning also means engaging and scaling deeper learning as catalysts in the community and as advocates for education policy that promote deeper learning environments in schools.

The paper offers a set of recommendations that includes the importance of cultivating teacher leaders, prioritizing competency-based, job embedded experiences, and addressing policy barriers. Other innovative recommendations include the development of micro-credentials for leadership, the creation of regional talent development strategies and expansion of principal training beyond the College of Education.

The bottom line is that today, we can more clearly align the goals, measures, incentives, recognitions and roles to reflect deeper learning objectives, and if we don’t, the system will continue to deliver the results it always has.

“Preparing Leaders for Deeper Learning” is co-authored by Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart, Dr. Carri Schneider, Director of Publications at Getting Smart, Karen Cator, President and CEO of Digital Promise and Bonnie Lathram, Project Manager at Getting Smart. To learn more, download the full paper and follow along on social media using the hashtags #deeperlearning and #edleaders.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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