Ready to Lead: Using Competency Models to Build and Assess Leadership Competency in Pre-Service School Leaders

Ready to Lead: Using Competency Models to Build and Assess Leadership Competency in Pre-Service School Leaders

Jess R. Weiler (Western Carolina University, USA) and Heidi B. Von Dohlen (Western Carolina University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8353-0.ch008
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This chapter shares the way in which one principal preparation program builds and assesses leadership capacity through the use of a tool called Core Competencies for School Leaders or CCSL. The CCSL tool views competencies as actionable behaviors that can be observed and measured in both quantitative and/or qualitative ways. Competencies cross several leadership domains, determined primarily by established state and national leadership standards. The CCSLs provide relevant, contextually responsive, standard-based, and research informed field experiences. The authors purport the CCSLs and the wrap-around processes of which learning is dependent (e.g., reflection, collaborative dialogue, feedback), advance awareness, and capacity across leadership domains. Competencies serve to both build and evaluate leadership capacity. In conjunction with other research informed practices for leadership preparation, competencies can play an integral role in the development and growth of aspiring school leaders.
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It turns out that leadership not only matters: it is second only to teaching among school-related factors in its impact on student learning… - Christine DeVita, President of the Wallace Foundation, 2004

School leadership preparation programs across the country understand the immense task to which they have been charged: to develop school leaders prepared to meet the 21st Century needs of students, communities, and the larger society. Although leadership preparation programs share a collective commitment to this critical work, little collaboration occurs across programs, inhibiting networked learning. This chapter is intended to alter that pattern by sharing the way in which one leadership preparation program builds and assesses leadership capacity through the use of a competency-based education framework called, “Core Competencies for School Leaders”, or CCSL. Following a brief history of competency-based education models across disciplines, we present a literature review on the use of competency-based models in the preparation and assessment of school leaders. We then describe the CCSL, provide a rationale for using a competency framework in leadership preparation, and discuss its connection to state and national standards. We close with a discussion about its effectiveness as both a capacity/competence-building instrument and an evaluation tool for determining the readiness of pre-service school leaders and how an instrument like the CCSL could be utilized for teacher leaders or in teacher preparation programs. For the sake of clarity and focus in writing, the authors do not point out cross-relevancy between principal preparation programs and teacher preparation programs in all circumstances. However, the reader is encouraged to consider application across teacher pre-service, teacher leadership, and principal preparation programs.

Competency-Based Education: A Brief History

A journey into the literature reveals a wide range of definitions for, and conceptualizations of, competency-based learning models. Parry (1996) suggested competencies are “…a cluster of related knowledge, skills and attitudes that affects a major part of one’s job (a role or responsibility), that correlates with performance on the job, that can be measured against well-accepted standards, and that can be improved via training and development” (p. 50). Behaviorism, with its focus on observable behavior, serves as the theoretical foundation for competency-based education models (Watson, 1913). Social and educational scientists like Bloom (1956) moved the concept further by categorizing behavior into “knowledge, skills, and attitudes” and supporting the notion of mastery learning. Bloom’s ideas and Mager’s (1997) recommendation for instructional objectives led to the development of actual competency models within disciplines. For example, Lendburg (1999) developed COPA (competency outcomes and performance assessment) to assess the competency of nurse candidates. Different than traditional nursing preparation programs, Lendburg was interested in going beyond the “knowing” of nursing toward the identification of specific and observable behaviors necessary for the practice of nursing. Other disciplines followed suit (e.g. psychology, physical therapy, etc.), many of which included a “clinical” learning experience, tailor-made for competency-based supervision. Despite concerns that competency-based or outcome-based education (OBE) models erroneously focused on training over education (Stenhouse, 1975), many found great benefit including Harden, Crosby, and Davis (1999) whose findings were summarized by Morcke and colleagues (2013) who reported that such models provided “. . . relevance; controversy; acceptability; clarity; provision of a robust curriculum framework; accountability; encouragement of self-directed learning; flexibility; guidance for assessment; participation in curriculum planning; curriculum evaluation; and continuity” (Morcke, Dornan, & Eika, 2013, p. 853). For many, competency-based models in education served as the bridge between theory and practice.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reflection/Reflective Practice: To look back on experiences and critically connect the experiences to oneself including personal and/or professional beliefs, possibly as a way of learning for future, similar experiences.

Principal/Leadership Preparation Programs: Graduate-level, university-based leadership preparation programs designed to prepare school leaders (administrators) primarily as assistant principals and principals.

Collaborative Dialogue: A discussion between two or more people that responds to individual and reciprocal reflection from the participants.

Competency Models: A framework that includes competencies (actions) determined necessary by field experts, for successful performance of a designated position within a designated field.

Field-Experiences/Competencies: Actionable behaviors that can be observed (and possibly) measured in quantitative and/or qualitative ways to demonstrate one’s ability to successfully perform the duties for a designated position within a designated field.

Leadership Competency: Demonstrating the competency to lead.

Internships: Students (aspiring leaders) in principal/leadership preparation programs serve a period of time as a part-time or full-time trainee/apprentice alongside a working principal who serves as their mentor.

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