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The Lead Learner
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The Lead Learner
Improving Clarity, Coherence, and Capacity for All

Foreword by Douglas Fisher, Epilogue by Peter M. DeWitt



June 2018 | 240 pages | Corwin

To make a lasting impact, start with your own learning. 

What’s better: a rigorous system that emphasizes traditional academics, or an innovative one that prepares students for tomorrow’s world? With McDowell’s new model of educational leadership, you don’t have to choose. You can create an impactful system that ensures growth for all students in both core academic content and 21st-century skills. 

The Lead Learner shows you how starting with your own professional learning helps you plan for and meet the unique learning needs of staff and students—while getting the biggest impact from your limited time. You’ll also find ways to: 

  • Ensure clarity in strategic planning
  • Establish coherence throughout the system
  • Enact system-wide capacity-building processes
  • Craft your personal leadership skills  

With practical examples, stories from the field, and numerous activities and reflective questions, this insightful book takes you step-by-step through the work of the learning leader—so you can ensure engaged learning for all.


The enduring contribution of this book is in the guidance it provides leaders to recognize that they are part, an important part, but just a part, of a networked system.  As such, their decisions and actions send messages throughout the system about what is valued and what is not.  Take heed to McDowell’s advice and you’ll have a healthy, growth-producing system that will be the envy of those around you.  The work is possible, the information is available, and the results are clear. 
Douglas Fisher 
San Diego State University

 
Foreword
 
Preface: Lead the Learning
 
A Perspective From a Lead Learner
 
Author's Acknowledgments
 
About the Author
 
Chapter 1. Setting the Stage
Are We as Leaders Ready to Prepare All Learners for the 21st Century?  
The Driving Question: Are Our Decisions Leading the Learning?  
A New Leadership Focus  
Ensuring Clarity, Coherence, and Capacity: Crafting Improved Leadership Skills  
Conclusion  
Reflection Questions  
Activities  
Next Steps  
 
Chapter 2. Clarity: Strategic Planning
Three Questions That Ensure Clarity in Strategic Planning  
Conclusion  
Reflection Questions  
Activities  
Next Steps  
Resource  
 
Chapter 3. Coherence (Part I): Learning System Infrastructure
Setting the Stage for Coherence  
Establish Progress and Proficiency Expectations  
Establish Standardized and Customizable Features  
Coherence: Bringing It All Together  
Conclusion  
Reflection Questions  
Activities  
Next Steps  
 
Chapter 4. Coherence (Part II): Ensuring Inspired and Passionate Teachers in Schools
Linking Learner-Centered Beliefs and Behaviors  
Unmasking Beliefs and Behaviors  
Hiring and Developing Educators for Impact  
Conclusion  
Reflection Questions  
Activities  
Next Steps  
 
Chapter 5. Capacity: Community Learning
Building Capacity Through Continuous Improvement  
Standardized Success Criteria  
Customizable Organizational Routines for Learning  
Conclusion  
Reflection Questions  
Activities  
Next Steps  
 
Chapter 6. Crafting: The Lead Learner
Facing Competing Beliefs in Learning  
Lead Learner Practices That Move Learning Forward  
Establishing Common Agreements for Learning  
Leverage Protocols for Dialogue  
Model Current Initiatives in Daily Practice  
Conclusion  
Reflection Questions  
Activities  
Next Steps  
 
Chapter 7. Conclusion
Moving Beyond Stark Differences  
Influencing Educators  
Recognizing the Rate of Change  
 
Epilogue
 
References
 
Appendix
Sample Strategic Plans  
Protocols  
Sample Evaluation Tools  
Sample Unit Plan  
Demonstration Scenario  
 
Index

The enduring contribution of this book is in the guidance it provides leaders to recognize that they are part, an important part, but just a part, of a networked system.  As such, their decisions and actions send messages throughout the system about what is valued and what is not.  Take heed to McDowell’s advice and you’ll have a healthy, growth-producing system that will be the envy of those around you.  The work is possible, the information is available, and the results are clear.

Douglas Fisher
San Diego State University

As the rules governing the practice of education evolve, educational leaders must be at the forefront of learning to be able to lead effectively. Through my experience in research, professional development and as a school district administrator, I know firsthand that the evolution of any practice – including education – must be informed by those on the frontline who are thought leader practitioners. In his book, The Lead Learner, Dr. McDowell, provides a case for why it is important for the leaders of learning organizations to continue their learning and to be at the forefront of discovery. He provides practical examples though empirical research and storytelling of ways that educational leaders can achieve the status of the Lead Learner.  

Bernadine Futrell, Director, Leadership Services at AASA, The School Superintendents Association
AASA

It is great to pick up a book that puts learning first. This book offers an elegant set of resources that make leading learning so much easier. This is an essential resource for practicing and aspirant school leaders.

Neil MacNeill, Head Master
Ellenbrook, Western Australia

These tools, ideas, and resources will help you develop a shared commitment to improved learning for all. This book builds upon the work of respected researchers and practitioners, with the goal of achieving the outcomes that are most essential for ALL students.

Lynn Macan, Visiting Assistant Professor
University at Albany - SUNY

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