Leadership Styles: Thoughts on Transformational Leadership in Education

Charisma is not a required trait for leaders, but it certainly helps.  A leader with personal qualities that positively and effectively influences others to achieve goals lessens the likelihood of objectors, grumblers, complainers, whiners, and protesters.  Unfortunately, many (if not most) educational leaders lack this convenient quality.  (Present company included.)

There are, however, some virtues of the Transformational or Transactional Leadership styles that make it a very effective construct for leading schools in ways that help communities deal with tensions, detractors, and force-fields impacting education.  James McGregor Burns analyzed leadership across disciplines and formulated the basic framework for Transformational Leadership.  This leadership style is guided by two important principles.  First, what a leader does must be aligned with collective goals held by the leader and the followers.  Second, the role of the leader and follower are conceptually united by a relational-interchange or interaction between power and conflict (Stewart, J., 2006.)

In Transformational Leadership, followers are consulted by leaders and allowed to participate in decisions and solutions that affect them.  Leadership decisions/actions are developed through a bottom-up process that both includes contributions from followers and aligns with collective values.  Leaders and followers are motivated by shared wants, needs, and aspirations.  The four factors that characterize Transformational Leadership were later described as the “four I’s.”  They are individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence.  Transactional Leadership, closely associated with Transformational Leadership, further expresses this branch of leadership theory with a focus on reciprocity or mutually beneficial trades.  The transaction occurs when leaders give something to followers in exchange for something received from followers.  Generally speaking, the Transactional concept focuses on trading to accomplish goals, while the Transformation concept focuses on achieving change (Marzano, R, Walters, T., & McNulty, B., 2005.)

Transformational leaders are best equipped to help communities deal with tensions, detractors, and force fields impacting education because this framework includes all stakeholders in the solution process.  School and community members work toward shared goals and are motivated to achieve mutually beneficial results.  Transformational leaders view stakeholders as contributing members to achieving solutions.  Each stakeholder is given individual consideration for their ideas, wants, and needs.  Each stakeholder is intellectually stimulated by evaluating information, reflecting, and sharing insights and ideas for potential solutions.  Each stakeholder is inspired and motivated by shared goals and the determination to achieve them.  Finally, each stakeholder experiences idealized influence because transformational leaders seek and value contributions from all participants toward the collective development of solutions to resolve problems and/or manage change.


Marzano, R. J., Walters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005).  School leadership that works: From research to results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Stewart, J. (2006).  Transformational leadership: An evolving concept examined through the works of Burns, Bass, Avolio, and Leithwood.  Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, #54, 1-29.

On Intellectual Property and Plagiarism

I remember the moment very well in second grade when Mrs. Johnson confronted me for cheating on a math test.  In my heart, I knew it was wrong because my parents had taught me much better.  I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t know the material or whether it just seemed easier to copy off the girl sitting next to me.  Regardless, I immediately acknowledged what I had done and accepted the consequences.  My parents had applied no pressure to get high grades for their instructions sounded like this, “We don’t expect you to have an A in every subject, and we expect you to do YOUR best.  But, we know you’re capable of at least a C in your worst subject.”  Fact is, they were right.  Truth was, I was capable of an A in every class but sometimes didn’t work as hard as possible.

I don’t share that uncomfortable memory because I’m proud of it.  Rather, to illustrate the innocence in which some kids make mistakes.  If children are not taught the values of honesty, self-reliance, self-determination, hard work, and integrity then they will not understand them when they are most needed later in life.  While I regret the mistake made so many years ago, I am so glad that lesson was learned back then.

I remember several years ago when I first heard the term “intellectual property.”  I reflected for a moment and then quickly understood that what is produced from one’s brain should belong to them.  The issues of pirated music on the internet seemed minor until I realized that what was being stolen was indeed an intellectual product.  (Just to note, I’ve never pirated music off the internet.)  Like music, people’s ideas and how they are expressed (their words) should enjoy the same protection as music.  The creator should be credited and their work should be attributed to them.  I like how Gerhard (2006) pointed out that the “fair use” provisions in the United States Copyright law does not prevent a person’s intellectual property from being used as long as that information is strictly limited in scope/quantity, and the copyright holder is appropriately documented/credited.  She went on to note that both Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliette) and Thomas Jefferson (Declaration of Independence) capitalized on ideas from previous authors.  In both cases, they “recycled” previous ideas; they further developed and refined them into new conceptualizations; then they expressed them in their context.

The idea of protecting intellectual property must be approached from both a scholarly and a marketing perspective.  It would be extremely difficult to trust scholarship with a high level of integrity and honesty.  In a very real sense, we could not identify the primary sources of ideas with any certainty unless scholars establish a strong commitment to a high level of integrity.  It is vital that researchers credit their sources and work within high ethical guidelines to preserve the cognitive property of others, to establish the integrity of their current work, and to maintain a clear path of evolutionary thought in the various threads of scholastic progression.

The marketing perspective of intellectual property is equally important.  If we define intellectual products in terms of property then we have to realize the legitimacy of ownership.  If these cognitive products are owned, then the owner has certain rights and privileges that others do not.  Free use of that property only belongs to the owner.  Since we attribute value to property, reasonable remuneration should be expected for use of that property.  Remuneration could be described in several ways.  It could be simply crediting or attributing who owns the intellectual property we’ve chosen to cite.  It could also include financial payment.  In either case, the owner of the property should under all reasonable assumptions have the right to offer or withhold that property.  For instance, the author may choose not to publish the work so it remains outside the public domain.  Or she/he may choose to publish and sell their property.  Whether referring to the scholarly approach or the marketing perspective, it is important that we allow the creator to receive appropriate attribution for their work and we allow them to determine how their intellectual products will be distributed to others.

Capitalizing on those ideas, I am a strong believer in maintaining the integrity of myself and others.  Craig (2010) offered excellent ideas on how to teach academic integrity to high school students.  I completely agreed with the idea that academic integrity is learned.  As with so many things we teachers assume, we often expect that students know what plagiarism is and that they would automatically choose to produce their own work.  Unfortunately, they often don’t.  It is important that we teach the ethics we expect.  We have to explain what plagiarism is and model the integrity we expect from students.  I was fortunate to have parents with strong Christian morals and clear views on “right” and “wrong.”  I need look no further than my parents to see people of the highest moral integrity.  Fortunately, they modeled those principles and I have learned them.  To that end, doing the “right” thing is a powerful motivator in my life.  I model those ideas in my life and in the classroom.  I was committed to and achieved high academic integrity in past academic settings, and I will sustain that commitment and success in all future ones.


Craig, P. A., Federici, E., & Buehler, M. A. (2010).  Instructing students in academic integrity. Journal Of College Science Teaching, 40(2), 50-55.  Retrieved from:  http://ezp. waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=54564701&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Gerhardt, D. R. (2006). The rules of attribution. Chronicle Of Higher Education, 52(38), B20.  Retrieved from:  http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost. com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=21076202&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Thoughts on Common Core 12/4/2011

This piece was originally written in December of 2011.

The adoption of Common Core Standards has been a topic of issue with the introduction of Obama’s “Race to the Top” (RttT) educational funding initiative.  Of course, there are many other issues involved, but this issue has some educators scratching their collective heads.  While I believe the standards movement needs to be reinvented in ways that I’m not sure I fully understand, the current efforts are clearly an attempt to reform the American education system.

The essential idea behind the creation of Common Core Standards is to make standards uniform across the country.  Given that we have 50 states in our nation, historically, each state was required to develop content standards for each content area taught in public school systems within each state.  While it is important that educators (and students) identify the specific content knowledge and skills necessary for proficiency/mastery of each content area, the leading driver of this “standards movement” was and has always been driven by federal mandates tied to federal funds.  As an extension of that movement, the collective wisdom of current educational policy-makers is that a “common” set of content standards would bring equality and consistency to each state.  And, RttT requires universal adoption of these common standards for the opportunity to apply for additional federal funding.

There is certainly nothing wrong with having common standards in a common country.  Some may argue that standards could or even should be unique as they reflect the varying cultural diversity of our country.  And while that may have some merit in specific content areas (art, music, history, etc.) that is unlikely to be the case for the four primary academic areas (LA. MA, SS, SC.)  The first Common Core Standards to be implemented are Math and English-Language Arts.  One would be hard pressed to argue against having a uniform standard in these content areas.  One might argue that these standards could be too difficult for some groups, or too easy for other groups.  However, this is likely unrelated to geographic location or cultural group as much as it is traditional/historical precedent of what states or parochial districts determined to be appropriate content standards for their populations.  In the 21st century, this thinking must be changed.

Common Core Standards must focus on objective academic content.  Policy-makers should be careful to develop and implement core standards in consideration of local populations.  Perry (2009) reminded us of five key concepts to consider when developing common standards.  They are:  Diversity, Participation, Cohesion, Choice, and Equality.  Common standards should reflect achievable academic criterion for all students.  Standards should be accessible by all students regardless of cultural background; they should be developed by a diverse group that is reflective of the population; they should connect logically; they should allow for choice in how proficiency is demonstrated; and they should support educational equality for all students (Perry, 2009).

The purpose of Common Core Standards is to produce students with the necessary academic abilities to be successful in college.  Easley, II (2011) presented compelling information that standards themselves are much less a factor of student success/achievement than are other factors.  He states:

Data from this study seem to support the notion that the highly politicized achievement gap is exacerbated by a parallel gap in access to the vital social and economic resources needed to advance a large-scale and sustainable jump in academic attainment among racial minority and low income student populations (Easley II, p. 232.)

He suggested that content standards have much less of an impact on student success than do quality curricular resources and both the presence and consistency of student instruction by experienced teachers.  Thus, we should acknowledge that although common core standards may level the field in terms of criterion consistency across state lines, they do not guarantee the elimination of achievement gaps nor do they promise that schools will automatically improve after their adoption.

The present educational policy-makers brought forth a common core curriculum to help ensure that every student has the skills needed to be successful as they begin a career or enter college.  They believe that by reforming the standards movement to include the addition of uniform content standards, that schools, educators, and parents will “know what they need to do to help them” achieve those standards and attain future success (NEA, Common Core Standards).  This goal, as in other reform initiatives, supports the aim to improve schools and instructional practices in ways that help produce students who are academically prepared for higher education or immediate employment.  While a reform of this measure may provide some clarity to content standards in a geo-political sense, it is not a radical change or transformation of what schools teach or how they teach it.



Easley II, J. (2011).  What do students know anyway? High school graduates’ examination of standards and the responses of expert educators for educational equity.  Improving Schools 14.  223-238.  DOI: 10.1177/1365480211422285

National Education Association (2011).  Common core state standards.  Retrieved from:  http://www.nea.org/home/46653.htm

Perry, L. (2009).  Conceptualizing education policy in democratic societies.  Educational Policy 23.  423-450.  DOI: 10.1177/0895904807310032

Cyber Learning Day. Lesson 1

Today, our school system initiated its first “Cyber Day” for students because of inclement weather.  Instead of attending school and going to each class, students were able to stay home and do their work online.  It’s interesting that many children –and I mean school-aged humans- dislike school.  They say learning should be “fun,” not “boring.”  “Why can’t we stay home and learn on the internet?” they say.  Today, they had that opportunity.

I had my 8th grade Georgia Studies “Cyber Day Assignment” posted by 9:15AM (45 minutes early) for my middle school students.  I explained that I would be available via email or they could post questions to the “Cyber Day Questions Discussion Thread.”  I shared with them that I would check these locations every hour until 4PM.  It’s 4:57 as I write,  and no students have posted their work.

Admittedly, I only have 10 students in this particular class.  Two of them logged in and reviewed the assignments.  One for 1m, 57s and the other for 1m, 8s.  Yes, neither student reviewed my online class for more than 2 minutes.  ZERO students completed the work as of 4:57PM.  Looking forward to discovering the results from my colleagues on my co-taught classes.

Interestingly, my wife is a career & technical education teacher at the local high school.  She teaches classes in Teaching as a Profession and Business Law.  She has 75 students assigned to her in today’s classes.  (Her school has block scheduling so she has a different group tomorrow.)  Of those students, 59 actually logged in with 17 of them completing and posting their assignment (28.8% of those who logged in).

So there you go.  “Learning on the internet is fun,” they say.  “I wish we didn’t have to come to this boring school,” they say.  “We’ll never need the stuff we’re learning,” they say.  So as you can see, our children have just as much difficulty being motivated to learn at home as they do at school.  Let’s be honest.  The best thing about school is the teachers.  They struggle everyday to motivate and challenge children to become better people and better thinkers.  They push them to become successful members of society.

Lesson 1:  Teachers have value.  Never underestimate the importance of people who challenge and inspire you to become the best version of you.  So as they say, “If you can read, thank a teacher.”