26 SES 09 C JS, Social Justice and Innovative Educational Leadership Part 1
Joint Paper Session NW 07 and NW 26 to be continued in 26 SES 11 B JS
Given the increasing demand for school-university partnerships for preparing school leaders, this paper describes and analyzes a new-formed partnership and a “non-traditional” model of leadership preparation that prepares educators as transformational leaders who are committed to working effectively in diverse, ambiguous, and challenging contexts. An important concern for emerging leaders in this program is ensuring equal access to educational opportunities for all students. The attention given to cultural relevancy, addressing the needs of first generation students, ethnic minorities, and diversely talented students, makes this program significantly unique.
Most important, the major focus of this study is to analyze student learning and examine the notion of collective critical consciousness as the central pedagogical approach. Teaching and learning in this program are driven by a constructivist theoretical approach. Coupled with constructivist learning theory, the Pedagogy of Collective Critical Consciousness (PCCC) (Garza, 2015) engages students in critical reflection, action and ultimately, praxis (Freire, 2000).
This innovative model, is distinct in several ways. First, the program is driven by a philosophy of social justice advocacy, focused initially on the development of asset-based attitudes and mindsets, and then on the cultivation of collaboration, analytical and leadership skills. Second, as an authentically collaborative partnership, both the school district and university are actively involved in the selection, planning, teaching, and evaluation of the program. This is essential to the department’s capacity building and results in a praxis-oriented curriculum that benefits the student and faculty. Third, the program is a closed cohort model that serves the employees of the partnering school district. Leadership preparation is customized to meet the needs of the children of the district while promoting buy-in and a level of ownership from central administration. Fourth, because all classes are taught by department faculty on campuses throughout the school district, university faculty engage with issues and problems in the ﬁeld, across the district and at multiple levels of the district organization. And finally, student support continues via a mentoring component in which faculty continue to mentor graduates as they assume leadership positions. As one graduate noted, “We may graduate, but we never finish.”
Teaching and learning in this program are driven by a constructivist theoretical approach. In a constructivist classroom, students, together and collectively, engage in critical reflection. Coupled with constructivist learning theory, the Pedagogy of Collective Critical Consciousness (Garza, 2016) engages students intensely in collective learning activities, including shared critical reflection, the writing of autoethnographies, and ultimately, the implementation of praxis (Freire, 1993). Students learn together and from each other. As co-constructors of knowledge, they are both teachers and learners. The central premise of the Pedagogy of Collective Critical Consciousness framework is to engage students in a continuous cycle of collective learning experiences. The intensive critical reflection and autoethnography are extremely demanding and require students to develop a deep understanding of who they are, personally and professionally. It is critical that these activities be carried out in a context of trust and respect, which deepens over the course of the program. Incorporating instructors from both the district and university who have understandings of the experiences of participants in the USLC has been critical to the success of these activities.
Using the students’ voices, (25 participants) this paper serves as a collective autoethnography to document and analyze the experiences of the first cohort of students in the program. The main sources of data are students’ voices collected through an autoethnography, in-class critical reflection, and a reflective journal. Data will be analyzed and coded for categories and themes. Autoethnography: Autoethnography is the main source of data. This study utilizes autoethnography to engage students in a shared reflective process, seeking to make sense of their individual and shared experiences. All students write an autoethnography that focuses on their personal, professional and transformational journeys. This is a two-year project; students begin writing their autoethnographies during the first semester under the direction of their professor. Critical reflection: Every class starts with reflection and all students are required to engage in dialogue– no one is allowed to pass. Reflection becomes a critical component of our pedagogy. With this dialogue firmly in place we continue onward toward collective critical consciousness molded through conscientization, the development of critical awareness, practiced with ongoing reflection and action (Friere, 2000). Reflective journal: Students maintained a journal documenting their reflection of their learning and transformation after each class. Collective Critical Consciousness as a Theoretical Framework This study perceives consciousness as a human tool to be used in engaging in relationships with others and the world of complexities, based on history, varied experience, and the omni- present dimensionality of time (Freire, 1974). Freire noted that each individual’s ability to perceive the psychosocial complexities of shared human existence and experience determines their ability to navigate the waters of existence with illuminated awareness versus the battering dehumanization of being pushed and pulled by the tides unwittingly. In this collective, critical autoethnography, a framework of critical consciousness serves as a tool for participants to reflect on their passage through the stages of critical consciousness in their journeys as aspiring school leaders. The study incorporates a multi-dimensional examination of self and identity to inform participants’ pathways to critically conscious leadership for social justice.
This study is important because we offer an alternative model to leadership preparation that aligns with the conference theme of Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research. If preparation programs are going to adopt a mission of social justice leadership, they need to be deliberate about helping aspiring principals understand the challenges they must be willing to confront if they are to maintain their commitment to social justice. In the last few years, a number of scholars have advocated for preparation programs designed to prepare aspiring leaders to lead socially just schools (McKenzie & Scheurich, 2004; Cambron- McCabe & McCarthy, 2005; Rusch, 2004). However, most principal preparation programs are traditional and continue to prepare future principals as managers mostly supervising and evaluating employees, encouraging collegiality, maintaining facilities, overlooking a set budget, discipline and many other non-instructional tasks (Toth & Siemaszko, 1996). Although these skills are important, social justice leaders are much more than good managers. In a study conducted by Theoharis (2009) his participants (practicing principals) expressed that preparation programs were uninspiring and did not address the need to advocate for equity and justice for marginalized students. They believed that their preparation programs were strongly focused on developing management skills that could be measured through a standardized “principal assessment” instrument designed and standardized for the “general” population of students. Furthermore, they were concerned about the absence of readings and critical discussion about race and equity (Theoharis, 2009, p.107).
Cambron-McCabe, N., & McCarthy, M. M. (2005). Educating school leaders for social justice. Educational Policy, 19(1), 201-222. Garza, E. (2015, in progress). The Pedagogy of Collective Critical Consciousness: The Praxis of Preparing Leaders for Social Justice. Paper presented at UCEA Conference, 2015. Denver, CO. Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: NY. Continuum International Publishing Group. Freire, P. (1974). Education for critical consciousness. New York, NY: Continuum. McKenzie, K. B., & Scheurich, J. (2004). Equity traps: A useful construct for preparing principals to lead schools that are successful with racially diverse students. Educational Administration Quarterly, 40(5), 601-632. Merchant, B., & Garza, E. (2015). The Urban School Leaders Collaborative: Twelve Years of Promoting Leadership for Social Justice. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 10(1), 39-62. Ng, E. S. W. (2014). Relative deprivation, self-interest and social justice: why I do research on in- equality. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 33(5), 429-441. doi: 10.1108/edi-07-2013-0055 Rusch, E. A. (2004). Gender and race in leadership preparation: A constrained discourse. Educational Administration Quarterly, 40(1), 14-46. Theoharis, G. (2009). The school leaders our children deserve. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Toth, C., & Siemaszko, E. (1996). Restructuring the assistant principalship: A practitioner’s guide. NASSP Bulletin, 80(578), 87-98.
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