Language, Learning, and Leadership A Qualitative Study of Teachers’ Experiences within the Learning-Oriented Leadership Model Learning to Better Meet Adaptive Teaching Challenges Involving English Learners in Urban Schools
Context and Background Transformation of failing or underperforming schools in urban K-12 contexts requires teachers and principals to address adaptive challenges. Adaptive challenges are problems that require new learning and organization-wide capacity building because the problems are not well-defined and/or have no known solutions (Heifetz, 1994). Key adaptive challenges in urban schools involve teaching English learners, students not sufficiently proficient in English to be able to benefit from regular classroom instruction. I define adaptive teaching challenges for teachers of English learners as pedagogical problems of practice related to language acquisition for which there are no easy or ready-made answers.
Research Problema) Teachers of English learners face many adaptive teaching challenges in their work in urban schools, and recently researchers have linked Heifetz’s (1994) work to increasingly complex problems principals and teachers face in K-12 urban school contexts, yet few studies have sought to define these adaptive teaching challenges faced by teachers of English learners.My study will address this gap in the research literature byasking 16 teachers of English learners to reflectupon and name the adaptive teaching challengesthey face in their work as teachers of Englishlearners.
Research Problem (continued)b) The learning-oriented leadership model (Drago- Severson, 2004, 2009, 2012 forthcoming) addresses the need to support teachers in addressing adaptive teaching challenges through creating opportunities for teachers to build their internal capacities through transformational learning (changes in how they know), yet no studies have focused on teachers’ experiences engaging in the pillar practices (i.e., mentoring, teaming, assuming leadership roles, and collegial inquiry) of the learning-oriented leadership model.My study will address this gap in the research byexploring how 16 teachers of English learnersexperience the pillar practices of the learning-oriented leadership model (Drago-Severson,2004, 2009, 2012 forthcoming).
Research Problem (continued)c) No studies have explored how working within a learning- oriented leadership model (Drago- Severson, 2004, 2009, 2012 forthcoming) grounded in constructive-developmental theory (Kegan, 1982, 1994) may help teachers of English learners acquire new knowledge and new ways of thinking to better meet adaptive teaching challenges.My study will address this gap in the research literature byasking 16 teachers of English learners to reflect upontheir experiences engaging in the pillar practices ofthe learning-oriented leadership model, theirlearnings within the model, the potential influenceof their cultural background on their experiences,and any perceived impact on their abilities tobetter meet adaptive teaching challenges.
Research PurposeMy qualitative multi-site case study attempts to explore theexperiences of 16 teachers of English learners engaging in thepillar practices (i.e., teaming, mentoring, assuming leadershiproles, and collegial inquiry learning) of the learning-orientedleadership model (Drago-Severson, 2004, 2009, 2012forthcoming) acrosstwo urban school sites.The ultimate goal of my study is to gain an understanding ofhow the professional learning spaces within the learning-oriented leadership model help teachers to bettermeet the adaptive teaching challenges involvingEnglish learners. An important lens of my studyincludes the potential influences of teachers’cultural background on their experienceswithin the learning-oriented leadership model.
Research Questions1. What do 16 teachers of English learners from two urban schools name as the adaptive teaching challenges they face in their teaching? How do they describe and understand these adaptive teaching challenges?
Research Questions (continued)2. How do 16 teachers of English learners describe and understand their experiences participating in the pillar practices (i.e., teaming, mentoring, assuming leadership roles, and collegial inquiry) that compose the learning- oriented leadership model? In what ways, if any, do they describe how participating in the pillar practices has helped them to better meet the adaptive teaching challenges they face? How so? What kinds of learning do they name from participating in these practices?
Research Questions (continued)3. How do participants describe their cultural backgrounds? In what ways, if any, do participants describe how their cultural backgrounds influence their instructional decision making, how they relate to students, and how they relate to colleagues? How, if at all, do participants describe influences of their cultural backgrounds on their participation in the pillar practices (i.e., teaming mentoring, assuming leadership roles, and collegial inquiry)?
Research MethodologyMethodological Approach Qualitative multi-site case study approachSite and Sample Selection 2 urban school sites (where principals use learning- oriented leadership model) 16 teachers of English learners (8 at each site)Data Collection 3 interviews with each teacher (60-minuteinterview protocol for each interview) Each of the three interviews addresses a separate research question Interviews conductedspring throughsummer of 2012
Research MethodologycontinuedData Analysis Procedures1. Analytic notes and reflective writing after interviews2. Interview transcription and review of transcripts3. Preliminary coding4. Categorization5. In-depth narrative summaries6. Within-case and across-case analysisAddressing Validity Threats Analytical memo writing, digital voice recording, review of transcripts, member- checks, cross checking codes with other researchers, seeking out discrepant data
Rationale and Significance Extends Drago-Severson’s (2004, 2009, 2012 forthcoming) learning-oriented leadership model by exploring teachers’ experiences engaging in the pillar practices in urban schools Links the learning-oriented leadership model (Drago- Severson, 2004, 2009, 2012 forthcoming) to the professional learning spaces created for teachers of English learners, highlighting teachers of English learners’ learning experiences with the pillar practices (i.e., teaming, mentoring, assuming leadership roles, and collegialinquiry) and the potential influences of cultural background on those experiences
Rationale and Significancecontinued Highlights a leadership model that has not yet been explored by researchers for its potential capacity to create professional learning spaces for teachers of English learners that could be linked in the future to improved learning opportunities for English learners Extends Heifetz’s (1994) research and defines the concept of adaptive teaching challenges generally— and specifically for teachers of English learners— while also asking teachers to describe their experiences with adaptive teaching challenges and their experiences learning to better meet the adaptive teaching challenges they name
ReferencesDrago-Severson, E. (2004). Helping teachers learn: Principal leadership for adult growth and development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.Drago-Severson, E. (2009). Leading adult learning: Supporting adult development in our schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.Drago-Severson, E. (2012 forthcoming). Creating spaces for leadership: A guide. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.Heifetz, R. (1994). Leadership without easy answers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: Problems and process in human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Kegan, R. (1994). In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Sarah Benis Scheier-DolbergTeachers College, Columbia Universitysarahbsd@gmail.comwww.sarahbsd.wordpress.comPrepared on February 23, 2012 for a dissertation proposalhearing at Teachers College, Columbia University.