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The final survey asked for summative reactions and recommendations from students. The summative responses were similar to responses from earlier surveys. Students felt positive about “insights” and “confidence” they gained from working on “real-world” issues. They also enjoyed working together with cohort members to complete tasks. Several students mentioned that they had gained personal insights into their strengths and weaknesses as an aspiring administrator. Two recommendations were offered by multiple students; (a) increase the number of practice field activities and, (b) add more structure so that students would know better what was expected from them in each activity.

Lessons learned

The students’ reactions and instructors’ experiences with this course provides lessons that can enhance the effective use of leadership practice field activities to prepare aspiring school leaders. Following are a few of those lessons:

  • People like choice and control. When students were given the opportunity to offer input into the design of this course, they not only provided appropriate suggestions, they engaged more fully in the course because what they (the students) said, in their words, “mattered”.
  • Instruction needs to match students’ learning styles. Only one student in this course identified himself or herself as an auditory learner. Eleven indicated a preference for hands-on learning. Clearly, a lecture format would have been a poor choice.
  • Students need to be able to generalize skills to contexts other than those specific situations in the practice field activities. Providing time for individual and group reflection on the activities can facilitate this generalization.
  • Students want (need) specific and frequent feedback.
  • Explicitly teaching skills prior to asking students to use those skills in a practice field activity will enhance the activity. Don’t assume aspiring principals have the necessary group process, decision-making, problem solving, and communication skills.
  • With a framework for designing the instructional activities of the course, student input can be incorporated, and students can be given the structure they need.

Using leadership practice field activities is a promising instructional strategy that is viewed as effective by students and instructors. While most professions offer aspiring members opportunities to practice, aspiring school principals are often lacking this opportunity (Creighton, 2005). Properly structured, the leadership practice field can give aspiring principals the chance to engage in “real” activities in a safe environment where skills can be developed. The result will be new assistant principals and principals with greater skill and confidence to handle the job they will face daily.

References

Council of Chief State School Officers, (2008). Educational leadership policy standards: ISLLC 2008. Washington, D.C.: CCSSO.

Creighton, T. (2005, June 22). Toward a Leadership Practice Field . Retrieved from the Connexions Web site: http://cnx.org/content/m12743/1.8/

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Source:  OpenStax, Nature and context of educational administration. OpenStax CNX. Sep 17, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11214/1.3
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