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Beyond the Policy Memo: Designing to Strengthen the Practice of District Central Office Leadership for Instructional Improvement at Scale


by Meredith I. Honig — 2013

This chapter argues for the importance of design-based leadership research (DBLR) for advancing the research and practice of educational leadership, with a focus on school district central offices. DBLR, like other design-based research, calls on researchers to develop designs for practice. Unlike other such research in education that calls for designs for classrooms, DBLR focuses on designs for leaders. Researchers working in this mode develop designs for leadership practice that reflect the latest knowledge about how leaders matter for improved student results; they work alongside leaders to use that knowledge to design and engage in new forms of their own practice consistent with the knowledge and appropriate to their settings. Participants study the process to feed new knowledge into the partnership sites and the field. This chapter elaborates how such research differs from traditional scholarship on district central offices and forms of action research. Challenges to conducting DBLR include focusing practitioners on central offices (especially in tough budget times), capturing central office practice in DBLR knowledge-building activities, and growing and sustaining the work. Early experience illuminates how to address those challenges and advance DBLR partnerships that promise to significantly strengthen leadership practice in support of improved results for all students.


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This article originally appeared as NSSE Yearbook Vol 112. No. 2.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 14, 2013, p. 256-273
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18346, Date Accessed: 10/22/2017 7:54:21 AM

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About the Author
  • Meredith Honig
    University of Washington
    E-mail Author
    MEREDITH HONIG is associate professor of educational leadership & policy studies at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on how public policy making bureaucracies such as school district central offices innovate and collaborate to improve opportunities for all youth to learn. Recent publications include “School-Central Office Relationships in Evidence Use: Understanding Evidence Use as a Systems Problem” (2012, American Journal of Education) with Nitya Venkateswaran; “Autonomy and School Improvement: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go from Here?” (2012, Educational Policy) with Lydia Rainey; and “No Small Thing: School District Central Office Bureaucracies and the Implementation of New Small Autonomous Schools Initiatives” (2009, American Educational Research Journal). Honig recently launched the District Leadership Design Lab (DL2) to support design-based leadership research in districts across the country.
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