Smart People Learning: Self-Knowledge that Disrupts Practice in Meaningful Ways

Smart People Learning: Self-Knowledge that Disrupts Practice in Meaningful Ways

Edith A. Rusch (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-495-6.ch004
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This chapter highlights instructional practices informed by an Interactive Learning Model (Johnston & Dainton, 1996) that fosters retrospective sensemaking (Weick, 1995) and heightens reflective practice (Osterman & Kottkamp, 2004; Schon, 1987). This disruptive pedagogy reveals the symbiotic nature of theory and practice and teaches aspiring and practicing leaders that effective leadership is all about learning.
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Today, learning has a central role in conversations and research about quality leadership of organizations (Collinson & Cook, 2007; Crispeels, 2004; Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith Dutton, & Kleiner, 2000). In fact, Silverburg and Kottkamp (2006), in the premier issue of the Journal of Research on Leadership Education, argued that an essential skill for today’s leaders was “behaving as learners”. This view has also been fostered by the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) under the auspices of the Collaborative Leadership Learning project. The intent of the project is to engage Collaborative Leadership Learning Groups (CLLG) in collective learning that eventually leads to discussions about the actual experience of engaging in collective learning, an example of reflection on action. According to James, Mann, & Creasy (2007), the learning “design implicitly and explicitly parallels the elements of distributive leadership that top leaders are required to address in their own organizations” (p. 91) as they lead change efforts.

The CLLG project is one of very few examples of instructional approaches to collective leadership that engage students in sensemaking activities focused on learning. This chapter highlights pedagogical practices that are grounded in similar perspectives, practices that enlist the symbiotic nature of theory and practice to foster disruption that enhances collective learning. In this case, the instructional approaches connect to Weick’s notions of sensemaking (1995), Johnston’s Interactive Learning Model (1996), and Mezirow ’s adult learning theories (2000; 2000a). Thus far, these classroom practices heighten reflective practice (Osterman & Kottkamp, 2004; Schon, 1987) and foster more sophisticated sensemaking. A decade of findings from action research (Rusch & Horsford, 2008; Rusch, 2005; 2004, 2004a) indicate that a process of retrospective sensemaking (Weick, 1995), coupled with knowledge about individual learning processes and skills of reflective discourse, fosters qualitatively different responses and in some cases, deep and transformative insights into beliefs and actions of educators who want to be viewed as change agents.

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