Special Education Director Thesis

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Special Education Director

Leadership styles in K-12 have been studied using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Compare and contrast the underlying assumptions, strengths and weakness, and practical considerations that would lead to a choice of one or the other method to study a special education supervisor's or special education director's leadership style. Locate in the literature or develop one example of each approach to leadership.

Appreciative Inquiry

The work of Mason entitled: "Research Methods for Learning and Teaching: Introduction and Resources" states that research into learning and teaching can be used for the purpose of informing teaching as well as for formal reports and published studies. (2006)

Mason states that in terms of mixing methods that the logic used most commonly is that when researchers desire to add "some breadth or depth to their analysis. This is often done by researchers who have primarily either a quantitative or qualitative orientation, but also a sense that their methods and data are partial in some respect." Mason reports that the "big picture' which is realized quantitatively while being rigorous and "based on representative or statistical forms of sampling and analysis…" may as well "feel superficial or lacking in 'real life' resonance." (Mason, 2006)

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The use of qualitative approaches (such as an in-depth case study) "can be illustrative and evocative, and provides a more close-up view. Conversely, for a researcher with a primarily qualitative orientation, which focuses on social processes in rich and proximate detail, the inclusion of some background quantitative material, perhaps in the form of local or national demographic data, can help in making the research part of a bigger set of observations." (Mason, 2006)

Thesis on Special Education Director Assignment

The work of Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, and Dodge (nd) entitled: "Appreciative Narratives as Leadership Research: Matching Method to Lens" reports that a well-known intervention strategy is that of "Appreciate Inquiry" and is a "way of joining with others to explore the world." The argument stated by Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, and Dodge is that "given the roots of appreciate inquiry in constructionism and an emerging trend to see leadership as a social construct, appreciative inquiry emerges as one of the most appropriate methodological frameworks to pursue empirical work on leadership." (nd)

Schall, Ospina, Godsoe and Dodge state that the majority of leadership research operates from a positivist frame on a set of implicit assumptions that does not explicitly address the logic of the relationship between theory and methods." (nd) The constructionist view indicates that "…leadership understanding is socially constructed over time, as individuals interact with one another." (Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, and Dodge, nd) Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, and Dodge state that the lens chosen "has clear implications for both focus (what to study) and stance (who defines what is important and does the research)." (nd) Social construction lens is stated to lead the researcher to "pay attention to the collective work of leadership in context, more than to the behaviors of people called leaders." (Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, and Dodge, nd)

Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, and Dodge relate that each research method "has a tradition of its own, separate from appreciative inquiry" and they additionally state that in their work rather than to enter into the debate of the definition of leadership that they explore leadership "as a social construction…that is created through dialogue among groups of people in context, not as a fixed attribute of individuals." (nd) Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, and Dodge relates that the idea that leadership emerges "from the constructions and actions of people in organizations" has been researched by Pfeffer (1997),

Smircich and Morgan (1982), Tierney (1987, 1997), and Smircich (1983) and from this perspective "leadership becomes a reality when one or more individuals in a social system succeed in framing and defining how the demands of the group will be taken up and what roles, including the 'role of leader' will be attributed to whom." (nd)

Drath and Palus (1994) present an interesting strand of constructionist thinking about leadership "that can be used as a foundation upon which a powerful research agenda can be built. In their view, leadership is a type of meaning and sense making that can be understood as happening over time and in community. It is a social process in which everyone in the community participates." (cited in: Schall, Ospina, Godsoe and Dodge, nd)

Drath refers to this process as the 'knowledge principle' and is the dominant or underlying, and taken-for-granted set of assumptions a community holds about how to best approach the work of leadership." (1994) The knowledge principle framing the work of a group is linked directly to the context of the group referred to as personal dominance which is emergent in the situation where individuals comply in understanding leadership as the leader's personal quality used in the interactions with others or followers. The interpersonal influence principle is one which results in a negotiation process among various actors with differing views until someone in the group becomes positioned as the most influential among the various actors and takes on the leadership role.

Drath (1994) notes that the relational dialogue is a principle that occurs when various actors with their differing view utilized collaborative learning and dialogue for the creation of spaces in which a common and shared purpose is effectuated and the various views are valued and then leadership is vested instead of in a person in a social system. Drath (1994) additionally notes that the relational dialogue is the knowledge principle that has been the least developed in theory and in practice in the areas of leadership. Through use of the constructionist lens one is able to grasp an understanding of mental models of leadership that exist and that have a tendency to be "…individualistic and positional -- emerged out of collective processes of meaning making developed in context, and have then taken on a life of their own." (Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, and Dodge, nd) There are three critical shifts in leadership study noted in the work of Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, and Dodge:

(1) One that allows for attention to shared leadership and the collective

Meaning-making processes that shape the experience of leadership;

(2) A second that encourages researchers to step back and look at the tasks that groups face as they attempt to take action rather than look at the behavior of individuals; and (3) The third is one that pushes the researcher to seek leadership in new places. (Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, and Dodge, nd)

The work of Yukl (1999) holds that leadership is fluid and that the various dimensions of leadership may be distributed among several individuals in the group rather than vested solely in only one individual. Kaczmarski and Cooperrider holds a view of leadership as being the "art of creating contexts of appreciative interchange" in which "differences are embraced rather than being a source of dominance and conformity pressures. (1997) When it is examined from this perspective, leadership is an effort that is collective in nature. Shared leadership is considered a critical aspect of leadership because of the process which is inherently characterized by 'group work' and 'group authorization' of individuals in acting on its behalf. (Schall, Ospina, Godsoe and Dodge, nd paraphrased)

It is noted in the work of Drath (1994) leadership occurs when "people in a community create a shared understanding of their mutual and moral obligations so that their common cause is realized. Therefore, "…any group of persons that attempt to accomplish goals collectively face three crucial tasks:

(1) Setting direction;

(2) Creating and maintaining commitment; and (3) Adapting to the challenges that appear on the way. " (Schall, Ospina, Godsoe and Dodge, nd)

Heifetz refers to this as "adaptive challenges." In the case where the group does not respond to the challenges calling for leadership then the group has failed in serving its purpose. (Schall, Ospina, Godsoe and Dodge, nd, paraphrased) This shift in perspective of viewing leadership which draws the focus away from the single leader and brings it to rest on the "collective work of leadership in social change efforts" is not to demean the importance of the leader's role but instead "calls for a shift in the role they play in research and a shift in the scholar's stance as well. Given our focus on the experience of leadership in context, we believe that we can best understand how leadership happens "by entering into the community and inquiring into the shared meaning-making languages and processes of the community" (Drath, 2001: in Schall, Ospina, Godsoe and Dodge, nd)

Schall, Ospina, Godsoe and Dodge state that after coming to the conceptualization of the way in which appreciative and participative inquiry enhanced and complemented the process of inquiry and as they entered the field and worked collaboratively with other researchers, even researching across disciplines with other researchers that they realized that if they had:

"…used only a participatory approach, we would have been missing a powerful dynamic. Our appreciative approach has helped us overcome some of the challenges associated with participatory research by making the task of research less threatening… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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