Reflecting on Sputnik:  Linking the Past, Present, and Future of Educational Reform
A symposium hosted by the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education

 Symposium Main Page

 

 Current Paper Sections Introduction
What we have learned
Where are we headed?
Developing Leadership
Conclusion

 

Other Papers J. Myron Atkin
Rodger W. Bybee
(George DeBoer)
Peter Dow
Marye Anne Fox
John Goodlad
Jeremy Kilpatrick
Glenda T. Lappan
Thomas T. Liao
F. James Rutherford

 

Symposium Agenda

 

Center's Home Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Symposium Main Page

 

 Current Paper Sections Introduction
What we have learned
Where are we headed?
Developing Leadership
Conclusion

 

Other Papers J. Myron Atkin
Rodger W. Bybee
(George DeBoer)
Peter Dow
Marye Anne Fox
John Goodlad
Jeremy Kilpatrick
Glenda T. Lappan
Thomas T. Liao
F. James Rutherford

 

Center's Home Page

 

Symposium Agenda

 

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Email questions or comments to csmeeinq@nas.edu

What we have learned and where we are headed: Lessons from the Sputnik Era (continued)
George E. DeBoer, Colgate University

Developing and Sustaining Leadership in Science, Mathematics and Technology Education

How can we build leadership to accomplish an agenda like this? There is a tendency when speaking of leadership in education to interpret it as the ability to implement reform, to educate teachers and administrators concerning some new program and the program's philosophy so that it can be effectively delivered to students. Staff development, organizational development, involvement of parents and other community members, and the reform of teacher preparation programs are cited as the tasks of educational leaders. Although these are important skills for leaders in education to possess, I believe there are additional qualities that should characterize educational leaders as well.

1. Leaders in science, mathematics, and technology education should be broadly and liberally educated.

Whether the field is law, politics, economics, business, medicine, education, or science, leaders in our society are broadly and liberally educated. They are cultured individuals in the best sense of that word because they understand and can communicate to others the place of their work in relation to the things the society feels are important. They understand the cultural norms of the society and the larger intellectual and social context of the field they represent.

To achieve this position, leaders in science, mathematics, and technology education must have the opportunity to develop multiple perspectives on their fields. Their own education should give them historical perspective, interdisciplinary perspective, and multicultural perspective. These multiple perspectives will help to make their insights more creative and wide-ranging, less technical and narrow. They should feel comfortable with the basic content and fundamental issues of each science field, with the important science-related questions that society is facing, and with the way that science, mathematics, and technology have affected our physical and intellectual experience with the world. They should be familiar with principles of democratic freedom and with broad philosophical and ethical issues that affect us all. They should be knowledgeable about the historical development of their fields so that they can make use of the lessons learned from the past. And they should be familiar with the psychology of learning and development.

2. Leaders in science, mathematics, and technology education should be critical and skeptical in their own work and model these attitudes for others.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a tendency in education for individuals to become too quickly enamored of new ideas and to accept them uncritically and without adequate scrutiny. Those who oppose the new ideas are dismissed as out of touch. "Inquiry teaching," "active learning," "constructivism," "mastery of the disciplines," and "SST" are just a few recent orthodoxies. It is extremely important that education for leadership have a critical dimension to it so that ideas and claims are examined carefully and adopted cautiously. It is important for leaders to follow the scientific way of thinking themselves, especially to reserve judgment so they can lead with intelligence. Educational leaders need the kind of education that encourages critical and thoughtful reflection on the most important questions facing us. Educational leaders should be taught to have the courage to oppose ideas that do not ring true to them and the conviction to suggest alternatives. There have always been individuals who are willing to take unpopular views of things so that critical debate is kept open, and it is essential that this attitude continue.

3. Leaders in science, mathematics, and technology education should think of education as a life long pursuit, both for themselves and those they are trying to lead.

Perhaps there is nothing more important than that education be viewed as a life long process. There is too much to learn in the short time that we are actually enrolled in school to view it otherwise. To even attempt to do so is to treat knowledge as a finished product, something that can be consumed within a discrete period of time. The only way educational leaders can develop the broad ranging educational background that produces enlightened vision and creative insight is to retain a continuous interest in learning themselves. Educational leaders should encourage the idea that formal education is one part of an ongoing process that encompasses one's entire lifetime. They should take this attitude toward their own educational development as they model their love of learning to others.

Conclusion


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