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Developing leadership at all levels of education for sustained development outcomes

Mon, April 26, 6:15 to 7:45am PDT (6:15 to 7:45am PDT), Zoom Room, 135

Group Submission Type: Formal Panel Session


Too often have interventions in education simply been transplanted from one place to another without local leaders driving them with a robust understanding of the local context. Now more than ever, the movement to tackle the systemic oppression of marginalized groups has made more visible the ways in which current systems and approaches to development can stifle the leadership of individuals from marginalized communities and lead to unsustainable development outcomes. Further, the inequalities faced by the education community in the global south, where a combination of factors including conflict, natural disasters, and disease outbreak only exacerbated by COVID-19 have left millions of children without access to education, will require local leaders more so than ever.

There is increasing consensus within the research community that achieving strong and sustainable development outcomes in education requires that local leaders - including students, teachers, school leadership - have ownership over the policies and practices that affect them the most. School leadership is often the most recognized form of leadership in the literature – whereas initiatives designed to improve school leadership can have a lasting impact on student outcomes and school improvements (Herman et al. 2017; Leaver et al., 2019; Bloom et al., 2015). Teacher leadership is also becoming recognized as critical to improving student learning (Shen et al., 2020, Wenner & Campbell, 2017; Muijs & Harris, 2007), and initiatives to support teacher leadership development also have lasting impacts on teachers’ beliefs in marginalized students potential and teachers’ career choices to continue to work with marginalized kids (Dobbie and Fryer, 2015).

Even as the consensus around the need for investments in the development of leadership at all levels of the system grows, there are still few concerted efforts by governments to harness the potential of local leaders. Slowly evolving concepts and definitions of leadership may be partly responsible for the slow uptake in policies to harness leadership, as leadership is not generally associated with teachers and students, and is often reserved for positions of authority and management. Evidence from intentional efforts to develop leadership are also beginning to emerge, which may shed light for the education community and governments on the importance of leadership and how to develop leadership traits and capabilities.

This panel will focus on distilling lessons from research on “What does leadership look like at all levels of the education system – from students, to teachers, to school leaders?” Rooted in a shared understanding of leadership, the panel will consist of practitioners and evaluators of current initiatives whose objectives are to enhance the leadership of local educational stakeholders. The panel will feature evidence from studies from multiple initiatives organizations to answer “What can we learn from the evidence of current efforts to cultivate local leadership in education?”

Panellists will represent an array of efforts to develop local leadership. Global School Leaders will demonstrate emerging evidence from an evidence review of empirical research in the global south about the emerging findings about the relationship between school leader background, skills, and training and support can lead to greater student outcomes. STiR Education will present new findings from research on the motivations, mindsets, and behaviors of central and district level education officials in India and Indonesia. IIEP-UNESCO and the Educational Development Trust will present new research on the effects of investing in leadership of teacher mentors, school system leadership. Katharine Conn and Cecilia Mo will present new evidence on the effects of the Teach For India program among other Teach For All partner organizations on teacher’ career trajectories, mindsets, and beliefs for working with marginalized students. Researchers from Educate! will discuss how they define demonstrated student leadership and how they monitor and evaluate their intentional efforts to cultivate student leadership.

The panel will be chaired by Dr. Karen Mundy, Professor of Comparative and International Education at the University of Toronto, who will also serve as the discussant. Dr. Mundy’s recent work on teacher leadership and the role in addressing COVID-19 crisis response is well connected with the panel theme, providing additional insight for a timely discussion on the importance of leadership development in education.

The key questions pursued in this discussion will be:

• What does leadership look like at all levels of the education system – from students, to teachers, to school leaders
• What can we learn from the evidence of current efforts to cultivate local leadership in education?

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