April 2019

Leading Transformation in a College of Education: Becoming Change Agents

In US PREP, college of education deans recognize and are committed to teacher preparation as a critical component to school improvement and equity; however, the pressures that deans face can distract them and often de-incentivize them.  Deans are responsible for attending to enrollment, promoting and honoring faculty voice in program decision making, meeting school district hiring needs, producing research and publications, adhering to state demands, and more. Sarah Beal, Executive Director of US PREP, stated, “Deans have to navigate these pressures while not losing sight of why colleges of education exist...to prepare teachers who are ready to meet the needs of their P-12 students.”

Recognizing the critical roles deans play, coalition deans and department chairs in US PREP recently joined together for 1 ½ days in Memphis, Tennessee. The convening provided a space for “real talk” with the goal of strengthening leadership practices as it relates to transforming their colleges of education. The retreat kicked off with dinner and an activity focused on the “why.” Beal said, “We felt it was important to review the real reason we do this work. Why do we care about high-quality teacher preparation in our colleges of education? Why do we partner with schools who serve Black, Latinx, and/or economically disadvantaged students? When the going gets tough, how do we keep focused on our 'why'?"

Being a transformative dean is contingent on having the right conditions in place. It is impossible to do this work without the strong support from the university presidents and provosts. University of Memphis’ Dr. Tom Nenon, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, kicked off the morning retreat by welcoming the participants. He shared his strong support of our work in teacher preparation and emphasized the importance of deep partnerships with historically underserved schools.

Following the Provost’s welcome, Kandi-Hill Clarke, Dean of the college of education at the University of Memphis, opened the convening with revisiting our "why.” In typical Hill-Clarke fashion, she commanded the room, “Our ‘why’ is what needs to keep us grounded as we take risks, experience resistance and pushback, and when we get exhausted. As we promote shared governance, we have to stay attentive to our 'why' and hold our programs accountable. Resistors can help us think through the unintended consequences; however, if we’re not careful, the resistors can also distract from the willing.”
The retreat proceeded with panelists from the inaugural cohort sharing personal stories of leading change. Amber Thompson, Associate Chair of Teacher Preparation from the University of Houston shared, “We recognized we were doing great things before we joined US PREP; however, we also knew we could get better. We had to stop thinking that we knew everything.”  Thompson elaborated and said, “As a leader, I had to navigate faculty who didn’t agree with our transformation goals. I would ask them, what is in here that is not good for kids?”

Throughout the day, participants engaged in three deep dive table discussions around key topics of interest: engaging faculty in the work of transformation, scaling high-quality programming, and sustaining the transformation efforts. The discussions centered around strategies that support leaders with modeling transparency, navigating academic freedom, responding to resistors, establishing clear roles for all faculty, holding faculty accountable, establishing a culture around data use, and much more. The last part of the day was spent codifying leadership practices through sharing of articles and studies, and engaging in one-on-one consultancies to support leadership improvement efforts.
Feedback survey responses suggested that every participant found the retreat beneficial. Hill-Clarke stated, “The exchange of ideas around clinically-based teacher preparation was impactful, and I look forward to continued conversations.” Other participants agreed and noted specific benefits to include: meeting and learning from colleagues in leadership roles at other institutions; gaining concrete strategies for involving faculty in diverse and meaningful ways; staying grounded in our why and the purpose that drives our work.

Participants also commented on the structures that fostered their deep learning. One participant summed it up, “The panel and small groups left me with a list of great ideas about how to engage faculty at all levels and how to improve communication. I loved all of the deep dive discussions and learned something valuable from each one. I also loved the consultancy protocol and the opportunity to engage in joint analysis of a dilemma and also learn from a colleague whose institution who has gone through implementation.”
Contact us for more details:
[email protected]
© 2018 US PREP. All Rights Reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.