Educon 2.3 - Philadelphia, PA - Saturday, January 29. 10:00-11:30 AM. Room 311

Presenter: Randy Ziegenfuss

Proposition: We - school leaders (building and district office as well all other roles) - must change how we approach leadership if we are to bring about the changes we talk about at gatherings like Educon. Much focus is placed on how learning and teaching must change, but less focus is placed on necessary changes in leadership. Research shows (Leithwood, et al., 2003; Marzano, et al., 2005) that leadership is second only to teaching in improving student achievement. We must address changes in leadership more purposefully, at least to the degree we address learning and teaching. As leaders, do we promote the things most of us care about - love of learning and ability to think deeply and critically?

Albert Einstein put it brilliantly:

Or..."If all you ever do is all you've ever done, then all you'll ever get is all you ever got."

Objective: Share several frameworks with you to help you think about your leadership, regardless of role. Ideally, the ideas presented today will provide you with new ways of thinking about your leadership and how you can forward the agenda for progressive education. "What can you do Monday morning?" is a question worth answering by the time we conclude.

Concepts to help get us there:
  • Kegan and Lahey (2009) - mental complexity
  • Hefetz (1994) - technical change vs. adaptive change; Argyris & Schon (1974) - single loop and double loop learning
  • Marzano, et al (2005) - Leadership responsibilities/first order-second order change

Discuss and share: What does leadership mean to us? How do we define it? What are some examples? Input your ideas into this spreadsheet.

Plateaus of Mental Complexity (Kegan and Lahey, 2009. Immunity to Change. p.16.)
Mental complexity can change over the course of the lifespan and generally gets more complex.
  • Socialized Mind - How do I get on the bus? What is everyone else doing? OK...I'll do that.
  • Self-Authoring Mind - How do I get on the bus, and in the driver's seat? It's my map, and I'm going to get us there. Tied to the frame of reference.
  • Self-Transforming Mind - How do I get in the driver's seat, but remain open to the possibilities of a changing map. Not tied to a frame of reference. Can step back and see other possibilities.

The reality today: "...we are asking more and more workers who could once perform their work successfully with socialized minds - good soldiers - to shift to self-authoring minds. And we are asking more and more leaders who could once lead successfully with self-authoring minds - sure and certain captains - to develop self-transforming minds. In short, we are asking for a quantum shift in individual mental complexity across the board" (Keegan & Lahey, 2009, p. 27)

Discuss: Locate yourself in this paradigm. Where are you? What evidence leads you to believe this? What are your stories? Do we see the construct of mental complexity relevant to others you see work in leadership roles? What is the evidence? What are your stories? Do leaders we label as "effective" - leaders bringing about a more progressive model of learning and challenging the status quo in their work context - tend to be self-transforming? What is the evidence? Did we have, or even need, self-transforming leaders, say, 30 years ago? Can school leaders today be effective with only a self-authoring mindset? How could this model make a difference in your leadership within your particular setting?

Kinds of challenges - Technical vs. Adaptive (Heifetz,1994; Argyris & Schon, 1974)
  • Technical - The skill set needed to address the challenge is known - well practiced and proven. Technical challenges are still important and in need of address. (i.e. fixing a flat tire)
  • Adaptive - The problem is not clearly defined and the solution is not readily available. The challenge can be addressed only by changing mindset. (i.e. losing weight)

Adaptive challenges require a self-transforming mindset.

Discuss: Think about a personal challenge that irritates you the most at work. Is it a technical or adaptive challenge? Why?

First-order vs. Second-order Leadership Responsibilities - (Marzano, et al., 2005) Another way to look at leadership and change, specifically applied to education.

"First-order change is a by-product of the day-to-day operations of the school. The routine business of schooling demands corrections and alterations that, by definition, are first-order in nature. The responsibilities then can be considered the management tools of effective school leaders. (p. 70)

"Second-order change is anything but incremental. It involves dramatic departures from the expected, both in defining a given problem and finding a solution." (p. 66)

First-order Change:
  • Is perceived as an extension of the past
  • Fits within existing paradigms
  • Is consistent with prevailing values and norms
  • Can be implemented with existing knowledge and skills
  • Requires resources currently available to those responsible for implementing the innovation
  • May be accepted because of common agreement that the innovation is necessary.

Second-order Change:
  • Is perceived as a break with the past
  • Lies outside existing paradigms
  • Conflicts with prevailing values and norms
  • Requires the acquisition of new knowledge and skills
  • Requires resources currently not available to those responsible for implementing the innovation
  • May be resisted because only those who have a broad perspective of the school see innovation as necessary.

Marzano's meta-analysis of leadership research studies produced a series of 21 behaviors for First-order change (ranked in order of importance): 21 Leadership Responsibilities Defined
  • Monitoring/Evaluation
  • Culture
  • Ideals/Beliefs
  • Knowledge of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
  • Involvement in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
  • Focus
  • Order
  • Affirmation
  • Intellectual Stimulation
  • Communication
  • Input
  • Relationships
  • Optimizer
  • Flexibility
  • Resources
  • Contingent Rewards
  • Situational Awareness
  • Outreach
  • Visibility
  • Discipline
  • Change Agent

Of these 21 behaviors, seven were necessary for second-order change (in order of importance):
  • Knowledge of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment - Seeking out and keeping abreast of research and theory on effective practices in curriculum, instruction and assessment.
  • Optimizer - Providing an optimistic view of what the school is doing and what the school can do in the future.
  • Intellectual Stimulation - Fostering knowledge of research and theory on best practices among the staff through reading and discussion.
  • Change Agent - Being willing to challenge school practices that have been in place for a long time and promoting the value of working at the edge of one's competence.
  • Monitoring/Evaluating - Establishing an effective monitoring system to provide feedback on the effectiveness of the school's curriculum, instruction and assessment practices and their effect on student achievement.
  • Flexibility - Inviting and honoring the expression of a variety of opinions regarding the running of the school and adapting one's leadership style to the demands of the current situation.
  • Ideals/Beliefs - Operating from a well-articulated and visible set of ideals and beliefs regarding schooling, teaching and learning.

I actually took leaders in my small district in PA, and studied their leadership beliefs and actions using these frameworks. Here's what I found...
  • What they were describing and the way they were framing learning requires adaptive, second-order change and a self-transforming mindset - authentic learning experiences, student-centered instructional design, use of technology for problem solving and meaningful learning, the development and redefinition of skill sets, and greater personalization of learning.
  • The leaders were in the process of developing their understanding of 21st century teaching and learning. They didn't feel they knew exactly where they were going all the time.
  • Even though they characterized their challenges as second-order, their actions as leaders emphasized first-order change.
  • The movie didn't match the soundtrack.

From the research findings, I created a heuristic - a commonsense set of recommendations to increase the probability of solving leadership challenges. I took the theories I've shared today and applied them to real people in a real setting.
  • Experience digital media and learning in the knowledge age
  • Experience and identify meaningful learning that reflects the learning sciences
  • Collaborate with others and engage in reflection to further develop the vision
  • Develop leadership in teachers and others who have embraced meaningful learning as defined in the literature
  • Translate espoused theories into theories-in-use
  • Develop annual goals that address second-order change responsibilities

Discuss and Develop: Choose one factor in the list above and answer the question..."What can you do Monday?" Using the lenses of (1) complexity mindsets; (2) technical and adaptive challenges; and/or (3) leadership responsibilities for second-order change, develop your own list of things you can do to increase the probability of solving your leadership challenges. Test it out by applying it to your own leadership context. What can you do to continue this conversation?

Reflection: It is critical that we as leaders reflect on the frameworks we use to approach our leadership challenges. How are you different as a result of this conversation? How has your thinking changed?

Argyris, C. & Schon, D. (1974). Theory in practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Talbot, Lyne (2003) Coaching leadership Montreal: Private Coach
Kegan, R. & Lahey, L. (2009). Immunity to change: How to overcome it and unlock potential in yourself and your organization. Boston: Harvard Business Press
Marzano, R, Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). School leadership that works: From research to results. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Aurora, CO: MCREL.