University of Rochester

Warner School Expands Curriculum for School Leaders

November 20, 2001

A $44,000 grant to the Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the University of Rochester will improve the teaching of decision-making skills in its school administration programs. The grant is supported by the Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds.

The Warner School project will use the existing body of research and effective "best practices" borrowed from a variety of fields to create new coursework and internship experiences, and to develop an alternative problem-solving capstone experience that students may select instead of the more traditional doctoral dissertation project.

"We believe that better decisions by leaders will eventually result in more effective schools and greater learning opportunities for students," says Raffaella Borasi, dean of the Warner School. Mary Lee Fitzgerald, director of education programs at the Wallace Funds, agrees. "We are pleased to offer these awards that will bring innovative approaches to the way we view and respond to the crisis in educational leadership."

The local program's designer and director, Tyll van Geel, is Taylor Professor at the Warner School and has served for more than 10 years as chair of its Educational Leadership program. Van Geel is an expert in education law and is an attorney. He has taught several courses on strategic planning and problem solving and sees the grant as an opportunity to build upon the successful leadership development experiences that are already part of the program.

The subject matter, van Geel explains, is complex and will demand a multifaceted approach to designing new course components. "Decision making is far more than a single educator making a choice among alternatives; it also involves accurately defining problems, avoiding the psychological pitfalls we can all fall into, and working with others to reach a decision."

In the first year, in consultation with experts from business, education, and the social sciences, program staff will investigate a variety of successful decision-making models. New curriculum and internships will be designed, pilot-tested, and refined. At the end of the two-year project, the program will be documented so that it can be shared and replicated elsewhere as well as becoming a permanent part of the Warner School educational leadership programs.

The Ventures in Leadership grant is part of LEADERS Count, a national initiative created by the Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds to place quality leadership at the core of school reform and to build a new field of knowledge. The objectives of LEADERS Count are to attract and place a broader pool of able candidates for school leadership, to strengthen the abilities of principals and superintendents to improve learning, and to create conditions that allow principals and superintendents to perform as effective leaders.