November 2019

Strengthening How We Lead:
Leading Transformation in a College of Education

“There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes. The innovator makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old order, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would be better off under the new. Their support is lukewarm partly from the fear of adversaries who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proved by the event”. 

-Machiavelli, The Prince, 1513

In US PREP, college of education deans recognize and are committed to teacher preparation as a critical component to K-12 school improvement and equity, and are leveraging their agency to bring about change through collective action. Recognizing the critical role deans play, coalition deans and department chairs in US PREP recently joined together for the US PREP bi-annual leadership retreat. The convening continues to provide a space for transparency and vulnerability with the goal of strengthening leadership practices in transforming their colleges of education.

The retreat kicked off with dinner and several deans sharing their personal leadership stories. Their leadership stories revealed their motivations for engaging in the challenging work of transformation.  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 that serve Black, Latinx, and/or economically disadvantaged students?” Beal continued, “normalizing the challenges we face as leaders in this work is really important. Our leaders need to know they are not alone and we are in this together. Our ‘why’ is what needs to keep us grounded as we take risks, experience resistance and pushback, and when we get exhausted.” 
Leaders came to the retreat with a problem of practice in which they have been wrestling. Paula Calderon, College of Education Dean modeled her problem for the whole group and shared, “When I began as dean, I was hired because I have great management skills. After a year of leading and navigating relationships, I realized that I lacked leadership skills. Over the past several months, I have focused my efforts on strengthening my own leadership.” 

Throughout their time together, leaders shared their problems of practice and engaged in sessions led by the inaugural US PREP leaders. Deans and Department Chairs from Texas Tech, University of Houston, Jackson State University, and Southeastern Louisiana, facilitated breakout sessions that focused on their own ‘lessons learned’ as they led their universities through improvement efforts. 
The discussions centered around strategies that support leaders with modeling transparency, navigating external pressures, building faculty engagement, establishing clear roles for all faculty, holding faculty accountable, establishing a culture around data use, and much more. 

Serigne Gningue, Associate Professor and Coordinator, Graduate Program in Math Education from Lehman College reflected from the sessions stating, “The process of change takes a collective effort. Dissent is welcome. Learning from what others are doing is critical. It’s not about buy-in from faculty, but rather how to engage them in the work of continuous improvement.” 

The last part of the day was spent analyzing and discussing survey feedback that the leaders received from their faculty and school district partners. Participants felt that the feedback from their faculty and district partners was enlightening and had an opportunity to debrief the feedback with a colleague from another teacher preparation program. Following this debrief, leaders were given time to reflect and write about their learning and connect back to their problem of practice.

Feedback from the deans and leaders suggested that every participant found the leadership retreat beneficial and noted specific benefits that included: 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.
Contact us for more details:
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