Design Thinking in Educational Leadership

Design Thinking in Educational Leadership

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4144-2.ch007
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Schools, in today's world, are more special than other organisations since they combine organisation and community attributes. The old leadership paradigm is no longer appropriate due to the complexity of educational organisations. This chapter redefines educational leadership in the modern era and makes a case for educational leadership reform by looking at the history of educational leadership philosophy. The chapter discusses how to apply design thinking to the educational environment and support educational leaders at different levels in the education context by introducing design thinking, a mature design thinking process framework, and the application of idea generation, decision making, and educational leadership from the five stages of empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. The potential challenges and limitations of contemporary educational leadership are discussed in different sections. It also proposes future educational leadership research directions from the perspectives of three primary stakeholders: teachers, students, and schools.
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Leaders have a prominent role in stimulating society's development to a more sustainable and prosperous future. Many definitions of leadership, according to Cambridge University Press & Assessment (2017), imply that “international influence is exerted by one person or a group, over other people or groups, to structure the activities and relationships in a group or organization” (p. 1). Back in 1950, Stogdill (1950) had already suggested that “leadership may be considered as the process (act) of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts toward goal setting and goal achievement” (p. 3). Many scholars had suggested different views on leadership. Leadership theories can generally be divided into the following three views: leadership as a process or relationship, leadership as a collection of traits or personality characteristics, and leadership as specific behaviours (i.e., leadership skills). However, there is no doubt that leadership is “a process that involves influence with a group of people toward the realization of goals” (Amanchukwu, 2015, p.7). “Setting directions” and “exercising influence,” according to Leithwood (2005, p.1), are two critical aspects of leadership. Leadership theories are clearly important in the principles of influence, group, and objectives. Although these definitions and theories concentrate on identifying the activities and qualities of leaders, other academics believed that the term “leadership” does not always imply leader-centred. Leadership practices, according to Spillane et al. (2004), delegate leadership power and empower team members. It highlights that leadership philosophy is a network of leaders and followers in many situations, rather than one individual.

The application of leadership methods in the education setting focuses on describing how leadership occurs in educational institutions, including not only formal but also informal leaders. Schools are both organizations (with official leaders, such as principals and department heads) and communities charged with learning, education, and research (multiple stakeholders and informal leaders, such as teachers and lecturers who specialize in specific areas and share knowledge with other stakeholders). In this community, several groups are created to address problems or achieve certain goals. In these groups, there are both leaders and followers, while some members are both leaders and followers. The rights are not concentrated only in the hands of the leader, but are shared and divided among all. Schools in the current sense can no longer run themselves using the conventional or restricted notion of top-down linear leadership structure (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

The School as a Community System (English, 2006, p.575)


However, that traditional leadership methods are incompatible with today's educational environment. The modern education environment has been expanding from physical space to virtual space as a result of the continuous development of globalization, emerging technologies, and the COVID-19 worldwide MOOCs reform. This tendency indicates that the educational environment will involve an increasing number of stakeholders, leadership will be more diversified, and issues will become more complex and wicked. As a result, the reform and development of educational leadership are imperative.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Wicked Problem: Refers to the seemingly impossibly issues that Rittel and Webber mentioned in their 1973 paper. The factors involved in these problems are often incomplete, in flux, constantly changing, and difficult to identify.

Educational Leadership: Refers to two ways: a leadership approach and a teaching method. In an academic context, it is a relationship in which the roles of followers and leaders become equally important. Their behaviours and methods of thinking are closely related to the situation. It focuses on the process of influencing others in an educational context, which may be carried out by any member of the different systems that make up the comprehensive educational institution or school. It aims to provide a healthy and positive school learning environment in school.

Design Thinking: Refers to dealing with the issue and making the decision-making and problem-solving process easier. It is a non-linear, iterative process that designers utilize to gain a better understanding of their users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions for prototype and testing. Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test are the five stages that are most useful for tackling ill-defined or unknown problems.

School: Refers to the unique role that it plays in comparison to other organizations. It has both organization and community attributes. The role of the organization implies that the school has official leaders, such as school principals and department heads, who are in charge of the school's daily operations. The role of the community is concerned with learning, education, and research, and they have informal (even dynamic) leaders, such as teachers and lecturers who specialise in certain areas and share knowledge with other stakeholders, such as students, experts, and various roles useful for researching. The school members may have two identities at the same time: leaders and followers.

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