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Monday, April 9, 2012

Teaching is leadership. Most teaching is bad leadership.

Unschooling Rules 24: Teaching is leadership. Most teaching is bad leadership.

The process of educating uses leadership. (The word "education" is from the Latin word for "to lead forth," just as the word "pedagogy" is from the Greek word "to lead.")

The specific type of leadership style used, however, results in predictable, different, but not always considered results. The key is the level of interactivity with a student. Consider different levels:
  • from the "talking-head" lecture (Level 1)
  • to environments that use sims and labs (Level 2)
  • to environments where students decide their own curricula, grading, and processes, and interact with complicated and real environments ( Level 3).
These different levels of interactivity map to well-researched leadership styles.
Education Interactivity LevelCorresponding Leadership StylesGood ForImpact and Results Duration
1: Lecture, Test, Graded PaperDirective and TransactionalPredictable Process PerformanceVery short-term, sometimes opposite long-term
2: Sim/LabDirective, Collaborative, and ParticipativeApplicable Skills and ConvictionLong
3: Microcosm and Real world ProjectCollaborative and ParticipativeDiscovery and Ownership of New IdeasVery long

Specifically, "directive" (the leadership style of ordering people what to do using formal and other forms of coercive power) and "transactional" (I will do this for you in exchange for you doing this for me) map to Level 1, while "participative" and "collaborative" (the leadership styles of supporting and enabling) map to Level 3.

What is interesting is that, as consistently reported in the leadership literature, using the style of "directive" only gets you short term results (which are sometimes necessary). Students in a directive style education program at best passively comply. You get a blip in test scores, but without any long term impact. It is only the "participative" and "collaborative" educational programs, meanwhile, consistent with leadership models, that actually develop positive long term behaviors.

Ordering people what to do, such as using talking-head school programs, often results in the opposite long term behavior of what the stake-holders wants. Most of the industrial education complex, including most K-12 programs, is currently focused on a directive leadership/education style, overly relying on extrinsic threats and rewards, which is why it fails. The successful educators (if they are interested in long term behavior improvements) have to be collaborative and participative.

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