Raising the Standard
Toward Excellence in
Educational Administration Programs

A Brief Review of Literature
With Values Added

Dr. Tom Hollis and Dr. Michael Arnold

Dr. Michael "Mick" Arnold is the Coordinator for Educational Administration at Southwest Baptist University. In addition to coordinating the program he also teaches School Administration, Administrative Communication, Educational Research, and the Capstone Experience. Dr. Arnold has presented nationally and internationally on topics related to the principalship, problem-based learning, and good teaching practices. His writings have been published in state and national journals and will soon have the story "The Last Volleyball Game" published in the book Stories for the Extreme Teens Heart.

Dr. Tom Hollis is an associate professor of education and is the Director of Graduate Studies in Education at Southwest Baptist University. In addition to teaching graduate education courses, he has conducted numerous workshops nationally and internationally in the areas of learning styles, classroom management, and good teaching practices.

Today, many colleges and universities have entered into the endeavor of preparing educators for a career in school administration. While national standards must be addressed it is important to instill in these professionals that to lead one must first learn to serve. Raising the standard toward excellence in educational administration programs, explores what programs are doing in the preparation of school administrators with a focus on the program at Southwest Baptist University which works to develop an attitude of servant leadership in students completing the program in school administration.

John F. Kennedy stated, "All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the lifetime of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But, let us begin."

Today, many colleges and universities have entered into the endeavor of preparing educators in the field of school administration. A goal of this preparation must be to instill in these professionals that to lead one must first learn to serve. The purpose of this review is to examine current literature regarding the preparation of students in the area of educational administration and reflect on the practices of one such program.

Serving is distinguished by the fact that there is commitment between the people who serve. This commitment shifts serving from being a conditional act dependent on merit or whim, and moves it toward being an unconditional act marked by acceptance, nurturance, and grace. This unconditional act of serving can be a reality to the extent that people, living with an awareness of their interdependence, strive to cultivate and maintain a sense of community and to act in ways that further the welfare, growth and development of others and of themselves.

In the earliest period from 1820-1899, educational administration was not recognized as a distinct profession. To that end, little training was required. From 1900-1946 the establishment of formal programs was observed with emphasis on technical skills with business being a leading influence. From 1947-1985 scientific and theoretical ideas from the social sciences came into being. The current trend is the notable effort to define rigorous standards for the profession and the programs that prepare educators (Lashway, 1999). Several associations including Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC), American Association of School Administrators (AASA), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) believe training programs should reside in institutions of higher education that have a strong commitment to the preparation of teachers (Schneider, 1999). Having programs evolve from sound teacher education programs may also help school leaders better understand teaching and learning as well as help teachers and future teachers understand the various aspects of school administration.

The centerpiece of any program in educational administration should be teaching and learning (Shipman, 1999, Schneider, 1999, Murphy, 1999). This theme is reflected throughout the most recent literature. In fact, Joseph Murphy, Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University says, "Tomorrowís principal will need to learn, and help others to learn." It is further suggested that programs should focus on the education of school administrators and not simply the training (Wildman, 1999). Professors that teach in the field of school administration must decide whether the primary goal is to prepare individuals for real world experiences or prepare researchers in preparation of becoming higher education faculty (Shipman, 1999).

Students see the connections between the content in the courses and what they will experience when they assume their first administrative position. Researchers have learned that students value integrated experience (Geltner, Price, and Tracey, 1998). In addition, faculty as well as students respond favorably to cohorts, the use of practitioners, problem based learning, and field-based research (McCarthy, 1999). Programs should emphasize hands-on, applied knowledge, internships, reflective practices, case studies, and problem-based learning (Shipman, 1999). In addition, these programs should also organize their curricula around standards and emphasize adult learning principles (Lashway, 1998).

Duffy and Cunningham state that "learning is an active process of constructing rather than acquiring knowledge"; "instruction is a process of supporting that construction rather than communicating knowledge." This perspective has some implications to the delivery of any program in educational administration. The first is that not everyone will achieve identical knowledge. Instead active engagement leads to a broader understanding of the issues. Learning is the outcome of interactive processes. Second, the learner is not expected to achieve expert status. The understanding and challenging of the learner is considered to be the center (Duffy and Cunningham, 1996, pp. 171-2).

"Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing oneís ideas and responding to othersí improves thinking and deepens understanding" (Chickering and Ehrmann, 1997, p. 2). In other words, we learn through interaction, conversations, and the sharing of ideas. When we resolve conflicts, we can build knowledge. Then social interaction is essential to learning and collaborative processes enhance connections among learners (Harasim, 1990). The collaborative process also supports intentional learning, develops critical thinking skills, and enhances cognitive development (Duffy, Dueber, and Hawley, 1998; Harasim, 1990; Oliver and Reeves, 1994; Sharan, 1980).

Research suggests that the development of professional expertise requires vertical integration of experience with empirical knowledge during the preparation. This, regardless of the field will help prospective practitioners (Muth, 1999). Because of the importance that is placed on reflection, Dewey (1944) and Schwab (1978) contend that the interaction of analysis and action must be considered in program design. Students must be able to deliberate successfully about courses of action over a period of time and examine their own actions as well as the consequences. Through this process students can become increasingly capable of performing complex problems and evaluating outcomes of their actions (Murphy et al., 1994, p. 6).

Adult learning theory and practice is another aspect that must be considered when delivering a program in educational administration. Merriam and Caffearella (1991) list five assumptions about adult learners: (a) mature adults are self-directed; (b) adults accumulate a reservoir of experience; (c) an adults readiness to learn is closely related to the developmental tasks of their social role. In other words, if I need to know it I will learn it; (d) adults are more concerned about problem solving than simply acquiring knowledge, and (e) they are motivated by internal factors. This information suggests that for adult learners to learn effectively, instructors need to focus on learning opportunities for active learners and real problems in real situations (Grabinger et al., 1977).

What implication does or should any of this have on programs in educational administration? Perhaps programs should focus on reflective practice, diagnose situations based on experience and knowledge, and the integration of knowledge with experience. In addition, we should look at the implication for the student. Programs should require students to (a) analyze their actions; (b) compare their actions to current literature; (c) analyze situations, issues and problems; (d) work not only on an individual basis but with peers, faculty, and practicing administrators (Muth, 1999).

If we are going to look at the program and the student, it would seem appropriate to look at the instructor. Faculty need to develop ways for the student to reflect, have time for students to practice skills learned in class, develop guidelines for written and oral analyses of actions, and create resource bases for field activities (Muth, 1999). The University of Southern Mississippi has adopted a model that focuses on four values: (a) student-centeredness; (b) reflection; (c) transformational leadership, which is to transform the follower to a higher level, and (d) ethics.

It is doubtful that even the best-planned programs can produce caring school leaders if the professors leading these courses fail to act in supportive ways toward students and colleagues. Several forces often mitigate against these kinds of interactions. One of the most notable being the great myth of academia that servant leadership, collegial relationships and research, publications, tenure, and promotions cannot co-exist. Professors of education, guided by the ethic of service, must work to explode this myth. They must endeavor to find a balance between their own scholarship and their interactions with others. In their scholarship, they must pursue excellence, and in their interactions, kindness and mutual support. For some, this task may seem easy; for others, it may appear to be formidable. Regardless, it is inescapable for academicians who are genuinely concerned with developing caring and competent school leaders consistent with an ethic of service (Beck, 1994)

Focusing on content reveals that instruction must be reliant on up-to date, "best practices", cohort enrollment, team-based instruction, and field-based activities. Reflection is demonstrated through the development of portfolios. The portfolio contains writings and interpretations of the studentís experiences, personal growth, and skill development. Transformation leadership is represented in the state and national standards. Core curriculum and learner objectives come from recently developed, nationally recognized standards. The development of a written, philosophical educational platform helps the student to identify what they stand for, or ethics. Case studies and problems allow the student to link articulated beliefs and values to administrative practices. (Gupton, 1999).

Southwest Baptist University takes pride in developing educators who have a solid background in the current literature and practices as well as an attitude of servant leadership. The program is educational administration is grounded in a strong teacher education program. Each student is required to successfully complete a course in learning and the learning process (advanced educational psychology) and Research and Statistics. While issues related to teaching and learning are incorporated into the coursework through such aspects as school safety, funding, community relations and communication, putting teaching and learning principles into other classes needs to be addressed in a more proactive manner.

The concept of servant leadership points us to a lifetime of learning and reinforces the notion that many of us are now promoting: serving implies competence. When we genuinely serve others, we want to do our very best to effect worthwhile results for the recipients of our service. This means that serving is more than an attitude. It is an orientation of deep concern that carries us out of ourselves and into the lives, despairs, struggles, and hopes of others. Service is always a response to a need. And, to respond responsibly, we must continually strive for increased competence.

Preparing students to be servant leaders in a Christ-centered, caring academic community is the primary goal of the institution and the program. Students are exposed to real life situation they will deal with as school administrators. The practice of having students write their educational platform helps them focus in on what they believe. Individual belief systems will affect how the student responds to case studies throughout the program as well as when they are faced with difficult decisions as practicing administrators.

There is a conscious effort to make connections between what the student learns and what they will experience through the internship, case studies, and active learning. Through the use of visiting instructors, the students are exposed to best practices and years of experience not afforded in theory or research alone. Someone once said "Good teachers donít do, they be." We believe we have good teachers that add to the knowledge base of the student.

The program seeks to recognize the uniqueness of adult learners by tapping into their experiences, engaging in problem solving, and presenting knowledge that is applicable. Furthermore, the program meets the adult learnerís needs by having courses available to the student at a time that understands they are full time educators with families. Courses need to be offered evenings, weekends and during the summer. Although there are no online courses offered at this time, plans are currently being made to implement this avenue in the future. The development of a summer cohort is additional evidence the program is working to meet the needs of the student as well as recognizing the importance of collaborative learning.

Change is inevitable. A train goes through an intersection in about thirty-two seconds whether a car is there or not. We believe the people responsible for the development and implementation of the program in educational administration at Southwest Baptist University recognized the need for a student-centered program. This program recognizes and utilizes research that has been revealed through the literature as well as what the students will need in real-life situations. Simply stated, we believe this program offers both to the students it serves.

Dr. Arnold is the Coordinator for Educational Administration at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri.

Dr. Hollis is the Director of Graduate Studies at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri.



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