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Learning, Learning Organizations, and Leadership


The nations that lead the world into the next century will be those who can shift from being industrial economies based upon the production of manufactured goods to those that possess the capacity to produce and utilize knowledge successfully. The major issue that confronts educators in America is whether or not we can transform education and create schools that can successfully prepare our nation's students for life in the year 2050. This process calls for leadership at all levels, but those who are responsible for America's schools must take the time to seriously consider the kinds of changes that are needed. If they do, they will come to realize that schools, as presently organized and operated, are incapable of addressing the needs of students and teachers and that a fundamental transformation of American education is needed. The transformation of American education does not suggest a diminished role for school administrators. It does suggest that what it means to be a leader needs to be fundamentally altered.

Here is Edward Bear coming
downstairs now, bump, bump, bump,
on the back of his head...
It is, as far as he knows,
the only way of coming downstairs,
but sometimes he feels that
there is another way...if only
he could stop bumping for a moment
and think about it.
-- Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne, 1926 


The nations that lead the world into the next century will be those who can shift from being industrial economies based upon the production of manufactured goods to those that possess the capacity to produce and utilize knowledge successfully. The major issue that confronts educators in America is whether or not we can transform education and create schools that can successfully prepare our nation's students for life in the year 2050. Unfortunately, however, most of us live our professional lives like Winnie-the-Pooh and seldom stop what we are doing long enough to ask what it is that we need to do. This paper is a preliminary attempt to describe some of the kinds of changes that are occurring around us and present a conceptual model of leadership that can help make that transformation a reality.

The very definition of what it means to be educated has changed. Historically our educational system has been based upon providing students with the basic skills that would prepare them to work in an industrialized manufacturing based economy. Today's students -- tomorrow's work force -- have an entirely different set of requirements than students in the past. These needs must be recognized and addressed if students are to possess the knowledge and skills that will make it possible for them to access information, work harmoniously with those around them, and utilize the higher order thinking skills that are needed in knowledge based economy.

In 1983 the Carnegie Commission issued A Nation At Risk which stated if the quality of American education had been forced upon us by another nation it would have been viewed as an act of war. Since that report which characterized public education as "a rising tide of mediocrity" there has been an almost continuous series of reform efforts designed to "fix" the schools in the United States. The first wave of reform tried to solve the problem by mandating increased standards and most states passed legislation that increased graduation requirements, longer school days, and longer school years.

The second wave of reforms focused upon restructuring. The premise behind this effort was that the basic pieces of the schooling system were all right and what was needed was to rearrange the pieces so that they fit together in a different way. For instance, moving the decision making responsibility closer to the point of implementation was supposed to increase teacher commitment to change and result in greater productivity (i.e., academic achievement). This has also proved to be illusory. Ten years later what is clear is that little has changed. What is also clear is that if the kinds of changes that are needed are ever going to occur there must be fundamental changes in every aspect of education. Present efforts to reform public education in the United States have been compared to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and, increasingly, we have to come to the realization that we will not be able to restructure schools and obtain the kinds of results that the public is demanding as long as we are unwilling to consider every aspect of the educational process.. In short, what is required is the fundamental transformation of schools. Stated in the simplest terms America's schools, as presently organized, are incapable of providing the kind of education that our children will need to live productive lives in the 21st century.

While the magnitude of the task facing us is great the picture is far from hopeless. During the past decade much has been learned about how the brain works and how students learn. We have also learned that how schools can be organized in what that can enhance the quality of learning that students experience and we know a great deal about the kinds of conditions that are necessary for change to occur. The issue for American education is to find a way to create the conditions that will encourage the kinds of risk taking that is needed to use this new knowledge to transform America's schools.

What is also clear is that leadership is a critical component of the transformation of education. However, the kind of leadership that is needed is fundamentally different than what has traditionally been the case and the third section of this paper will provide a brief description of the "new work" that leaders must be able to do in order to transform America's schools.

This paper will describe briefly some of the research that describes how the brain works and how students learn. In the second section there will be a brief description about the conditions that are needed for change to occur including what we know about the needs of the people who work in schools. Finally, it will also present a conceptual framework that describes the new form of leadership that will be needed if the transformation of schools into learning organizations is to occur.

Students and the Nature of Learning

One of the most exciting changes that have occurred in education during the past decade has been the increase in knowledge in the areas of brain research and cognitive science. This research has produced a wealth of knowledge about how the brain functions and the kinds of conditions under which it learns most effectively. This new knowledge has significant implications for pedagogy and curriculum, and also for how schools are organized because the reality is that the kinds of conditions that are needed to promote learning do not exist in most schools.

No teacher goes into the education profession with the goal of being ineffective or mediocre. However, there is clear evidence that many teachers utilize pedagogical methods that are based upon how we were taught when we were in school. A major contributing factor to poor pedagogy is the lack of training about promising practices in curriculum and instruction that are based upon research.

However, what often goes unrecognized is that among the biggest obstacles to the adoption of new pedagogy are the current beliefs that one holds about how people learn. One way to think about these "beliefs" has been described by Peter Senge. In The Fifth Discipline (1990) Senge describes these beliefs as mental models--invisible assumptions that determine how we view the world and also how we make decisions. In education such "theories-in-use" not only govern how we view our students ability to learn, they also impact the decisions that we make about the most effective way to instruct them.

The importance of recognizing the existence of these mental models is not so that we can replace our present mental models with new ones. Rather, what is most important is to recognize the power of mental models to limit our ability to think differently about what it is that we are doing and why. As educators we must develop the capacity to suspend our mental models long enough to seek out new knowledge which may cause us to revise our beliefs about what we do and why. As an example, a tremendous amount of research in cognitive science has occurred during the past decade that has significant implications for the kind of education that is most appropriate for students. The findings from this research are that we have been utilizing instructional strategies that are now known to be inappropriate. As educators we need to make a personal commitment to pursue such knowledge and be willing to allow that knowledge to influence what we believe and what we do as educators.

Brain Research

A major factor that influences how we educate students is the traditional belief we hold about how they learn. Historically, those beliefs have included the beliefs that 1) intelligence is fixed and 2) that learning occurs sequentially from the simple to the complex. During the past 10 years there has been a significant increase in our understanding of the brain and how it works. At the same time there have also been substantial changes in our understanding about the kind of environment in which it functions most effectively. Both of these bodies of knowledge have significant implications for pedagogy and the organization and structure of the curriculum Space does not allow for an extensive discussion; however, the following excerpt from Teaching and the Human Brain (Caine and Caine, 1991) summarizes some of what we now know about how humans learn and some implications about what this means to educators.

The brain is a parallel processor: Thoughts, emotions, imagination, and predisposition's operate simultaneously and interact with other modes of information processing and with the expansion of social and cultural knowledge. Implications: Good teaching means that teachers must utilize methodologies that enable them to orchestrate the learner's experience so that all aspects of the brain's operation are addressed.

Learning engages the entire physiology: Learning is as natural as breathing; however, its performance can be negatively impacted by stress and threat (Ornstein and Sobel, 1987). Implications: Awareness of the need for stress management, nutrition, exercise, and relaxation must all be built into the learning process. In addition, there can be a five-year difference in maturation between any two children of the same age. Expecting equal achievement on the basis of chronological age is inappropriate.

The search for meaning is innate: The search for meaning (making sense of our experiences) and the need to act on our environment are automatic. Implications: The learning environment needs to provide stability and familiarity at the same time provisions must be made to satisfy the brain's need for curiosity and hunger for discovery and challenge. Lessons need to be exciting, meaningful, and offer students abundant choices. The more lifelike, the better. For many programs for gifted children these implications are taken for granted and they are provided with a rich environment with complex and meaningful challenges. These strategies should be applied to all students.

The search for meaning occurs through patterning: The brain is both artist and scientist. It is designed to perceive and generate patterns, and it resists having meaningless patterns imposed upon it (Hart, 1983; Lakoff, 1987). Meaningless patterns are isolated pieces of information that are unrelated to what makes sense to a student. Implications: Learners are patterning, or perceiving and creating meanings all the time in one way or another. We cannot stop them, but can influence the direction. Although we choose much of what students are to learn, the ideal process is to present the information in a way that allows brains to extract patterns, rather than try to impose them.

Emotions are critical to patterning: What we learn is influenced and organized by emotions and mind sets based on expectancy, personal biases and prejudices, degrees of self-esteem, and the need for social interaction. Emotion and cognition cannot be separated (Halgren, Wilson, Squires, Engel, Walter, and Crandall, 1983; Ornstein and Sobel, 1987; Lakoff, 1987; McGuiness and Pribram, 1980). Implications: Because it is impossible to isolate the cognitive from the affective domain, the emotional climate of the school and classroom must be monitored on a consistent basis, using effective communication strategies and allowing for student and teacher reflection and metacognitive processes.

The brain processes parts and wholes simultaneously: There is evidence of brain laterality, meaning that there are significant differences between left and right hemispheres of the brain (Springer and Deutsch, 1985). In a healthy person, the two hemispheres are inextricably interactive whether a person is dealing with words, mathematics, music, or art (Hand, 1984; Hart, 1985; Levy, J., 1985). Implications: People have enormous difficulty in learning when either parts or wholes are overlooked. Good teaching necessarily builds understanding and skills over time because learning is cumulative and developmental. However, parts and wholes are conceptually interactive. They derive meaning from and give it to each other.

Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception: The classroom setting, including every sound and every visual signal, contains meaning. Implications: In addition to traditional concerns with noise, temperature, and so on, peripherals include such visuals as charts, illustrations, set designs, and art, including great works of art. The subtle signals that emanate from a teacher have significant impact. Our inner state shows in skin color, muscular tension and posture, rate of breathing and eye movements. Teachers need to engage the interests and enthusiasm of their students through their own enthusiasm, coaching and modeling so that the unconscious signals relate to the importance and value of what is being learned.

Learning always involves conscious and unconscious processes: Most signals that are peripherally perceived enter the brain without the learner's awareness and interact at unconscious levels. Thus we become our experiences and remember what we experience, not just what we are told. For example, a student can learn to sing on key and learn to hate singing at the same time. Implications: Much of the effort that we put into teaching and studying is wasted because students do not adequately process their experiences. What we call "active processing" allows students to review how and what they learned so that they begin to take charge of learning and the development of personal meanings.

We have at least two different types of memory: A spatial memory system and a set of systems for rote learning: We have a natural, spatial memory system that does not need rehearsal and allows for "instant memory" of experiences. It is always engaged and is inexhaustible. We also possess a set of systems designed for storing relatively unrelated information. The more separated information and skills are from prior knowledge and actual experience, the more dependence there needs to be upon rote memory and repetition. Implications: Teachers are adept at teaching that emphasizes memorization. Sometimes memorization is important and useful; however, teaching devoted to memorization does not facilitate the transfer of learning and probably interferes with the subsequent development of understanding. By ignoring the personal world of the learner, educators actually inhibit the effective functioning of the brain.

We understand and remember best when facts and skills are embedded in natural, spatial memory: Our native language is learned through multiple interactive experiences involving vocabulary and grammar. It is shaped by internal processes and by social interaction (Vygotsky, 1978). That is an example of how specific "items" are given meaning when embedded in ordinary experiences. All education can be enhanced when this type of embedding is adopted. Implications: The embedding process depends upon all the other principles. Spatial learning is generally best invoked through experiential learning. Teachers need to use a great deal of real-life activity, including classroom demonstrations, projects, field trips, visual imagery of certain experiences and best performances, stories, metaphor, drama, and interaction of different subjects.

Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat: The brain downshifts under perceived threat and learns optimally when appropriately challenged. The central feature of downshifting is a sense of helplessness. The learner becomes less flexible and reverts to automatic and often more primitive routine behaviors. Implications: Teachers and administrators need to create a state of relaxed alertness in students--low in threat and high in challenge.

Each brain is unique: Although each of us has the same systems they are integrated differently in every brain. Moreover, because learning actually changes the structure of the brain, the more we learn, the more complex we become. Implications: Teaching should be multifaceted and allow all students to express visual, tactile, emotional, and auditory preferences. To accomplish these things it needs to be recognized that there may need to be fundamental changes in schools themselves.

Schools as Learning Organizations

In The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform (1991), Seymour Sarason wrote that there was little likelihood that the current efforts at educational reform would have any lasting effect until there was a recognition that the kinds of conditions that we seek for students must also become a reality for the adults who work in schools. Sarason's comments about educational reform were echoing what Peter Senge described in The Fifth Discipline (1990) when he wrote that the businesses that will be most successful in the future will be those who can become "learning organizations"--places in which everyone is a learner.

The unfortunate reality is that at present very few schools are "learning organizations". However, if educators are serious about the business of educating children we must transform schools into learning organizations in which everyone is a learner. This is no minor task in a heavily bureaucratized environment and some have compared it to trying to build an airplane while it is rolling down the runway. By their very nature schools are bureaucratic, hierarchically organized institutions that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The following section briefly describes some of the kinds of changes that must be addressed if educators are serious about transforming schools into places that value learning for everyone.

Knowledge of Current Reality

Increased knowledge about new research related to pedagogy and curriculum is vital to making decisions about new strategies or innovations. However, as important as this knowledge is, educators also need a clear understanding about why change is needed in the first place. Perhaps the simplest way of characterizing the need for a clear understanding of "current reality" is that until educators understand where they are there is little reason for them to be concerned with trying to figure out which way they ought to go.

It is only when those who work in schools possess such clarity that they are able to develop a shared commitment to change. Deming (1988) refers to this kind of knowledge as "profound knowledge" and explains that it is only as the individuals who work in organizations acquire profound knowledge that continuous improvement will be possible.

One of the things that has been learned from the research on the implementation of change is that, when innovations are imposed from the outside, they do not last (Fullan, 1982). It is also clear that when educators are provided with information about what they are doing in a non-threatening, non-coercive environment they are much more likely to make changes that are beneficial to students. In other words providing teachers with information about the school's level of performance increases the likelihood that they will be willing to use that information to make the changes that are needed.

One cautionary note is that any effort to provide information about "current reality" must be perceived as an effort to empower those who work in the schools to understand how well the school is doing and to produce a shared understanding of what is and is not working. If the information that is collected is used to point fingers or place blame the effort will be doomed to failure.

School Climate

Underlying any discussion about change is the assumption that the climate of the school is supportive of such efforts. However, the sheer amount of conversation that occurs in schools does not mean that the presence of communication skills is a reality. For instance, it would be both shortsighted and foolhardy to have a school undertake efforts to identify their current reality or implement innovations unless substantial attention is given to making sure that the people who work in the school possess the communication skills that will allow them to engage in dialogue with each other.

The conditions that must exist if change is to occur are complex. Listed below are just a few of those conditions and a brief discussion their importance. What is important to remember is that before the transformation of education will ever become a reality the climate of the school must support the risk taking that supports such changes. The transformation of education is a systems change, however, change occurs within schools and it occurs to people.

Communication: When communication is identified as a necessary condition for change, educators tend to disengage from the conversation. Because they spend their entire day talking to people, the assumption is that communication is the one thing they do well. In a way, such behavior is precisely why the issue of communication needs to be discussed. The realities of schools are that:

Nowhere in the training and professional preparation of teachers or administrators is a significant amount of time invested in preparing them to work with adults.

Teachers spend the bulk of their time working in isolation from each other.

The kinds of verbal interactions adults do have with each other tend to be short and usually focused upon resolving an immediate problem or crisis.
If these statements are accurate, the implication is that it is possible for teachers to go through entire days without engaging in significant communication with each other. As a consequence, the issues that need to be addressed may never come up for discussion.

In Improving Schools From Within (Barth, 1991), the author describes the interactions that occur between educators as typically being driven by the need to maintain the norm of congeniality. For instance, there is little likelihood that teachers will ever confront each other about educational decisions that are not in the best interest of students if those conversations will impact the norm of congeniality. I am reminded about how a high school math department assigned teachers. The department head, who served in that capacity because he had the most experience and the most years of college education, decided what he wanted to teach. Then the schedule was passed to the next senior member of the department, who made his choice, and so on until everyone had been assigned. The question of whether such a strategy was in the best interest of students was never a topic for discussion because of the potential for disagreement, even though everyone knew that the result of such a decision was that the most experienced teachers taught the best students and the least experienced teachers taught the most difficult ones.

In contrast to "congenial" conversations, Barth suggests that the kinds of conversations that schools need to have should be based upon the norm of "collegiality". Collegial conversations focus upon what is occurring in the school and, in particular, upon what needs to be done to improve the quality of education for students. Barth recognizes that such conversations may, by their very nature, cause the people who work in a school to come into conflict with one another on occasion; however, he also believes that until educators move beyond the need to get along and begin to act as professionals, they will continue doing themselves and their students a grave disservice.

Team Learning: Senge states that when groups of people in organizations get together to make decisions what passes for communication is advocacy. What he believes needs to occur before real team learning can occur is something he calls inquiry. He explains that when a group of people come together, they typically come to the meeting with a position or viewpoint that they are prepared to advocate or defend. In those situations very little actual learning occurs.

In contrast, if the same group of individuals could come to that meeting in a spirit of inquiry--the willingness to suspend one's own position long enough to listen to the other person--then something very different could occur. In that kind of communication everyone grows in understanding, and, when the time comes to make a decision, the participants have a much greater understanding about what they are making a decision about.

The collegiality that Barth describes would not be rancorous or create ill will if it occurred in the spirit of inquiry. One should not assume that there is no place for advocacy in the decision making process. The issue is that, by beginning with inquiry, advocacy can be less adversarial because everyone involved in making the decision is better informed about the other viewpoints and is more aware of commonalties that exist.

Many of the issues that confront schools are never really addressed precisely because the climate of the school (i.e., communication and team learning) is not conducive to addressing them. Any discussion about changing educational practices that negatively impact student performance is not an easy conversation to have. Until the skills of effective communication exist and team learning is valued, there is little likelihood that changes in teachers' behaviors will occur.

Shared Vision: When writing for educators, one hesitates to even bring up terms like shared vision because what often passes for a school's vision is nothing more than someone's personal vision that is superimposed upon the school. All of the preceding topics described in this section presuppose that the school does in fact seek to develop a shared vision. The key word in the phrase "shared vision" is the word "shared". The reality is that everyone in a school has a vision of what they think the school should look like and the kinds of things it should do. The problem for schools is not the lack of vision, but that there are probably several visions all strongly held and all competing with one another.

Educators need to develop the internal capacity to engage in inquiry and advocacy based upon the norms of collegiality. This attitude leads to the ability to develop a shared understanding of "current reality". It is only then that those who work in schools will be able to sit down and create a "shared vision" of what they want the school to look like and what they want it to accomplish.

Rethinking the Role of Leadership

Senge (1990) states stating that many of the problems that face organizations can be traced to the lack of leadership. W.E. Deming (1988), leading advocate for Total Quality Management (TQM), is even more adamant about this point. He states that 85-90% of the problems that an organization experiences are due to the lack of leadership. There is little reason to think that education is any different. If significant changes in schools are to occur, then it is imperative that those who are responsible for providing leadership in education possess the vision, knowledge, and skills that are needed to bring about that transformation.

During the past sixty years the role of school administrators has undergone changes which parallel those that have occurred in how we view the role of leadership in organizations generally. Beginning in the 1930's and extending into the 1960's school administrators were expected managers to provide the technical skills that were needed to run schools as hierarchically structured, rationally organized, bureaucracies. This view of "leadership", copied from business and industry, was driven by the belief that schools were similar to business organizations and that the way to improve them was to introduce was to apply the same managerial skills that appeared to be working so well in business and industry. Fundamental to this view was the belief that there was a clear distinction between leaders and those who were being led. Those at the top of the organization (principals and central office administrators) gave the orders and those at the bottom (teachers) followed the orders.

In the 1970's organizational theorists, partially in reaction to the concept of leader as manager began writing about and promoting the great man view of leadership. According to this view, the organizations that were most successful were those that were led by someone who possessed the managerial skills described earlier and a also possessed a clear vision of where the organization ought to go, and who made the decisions that guaranteed that it would get there. Simply put, this model of leadership was the "great man" theory of leadership. In education this view was particularly evident in schools of thought which argued that if a school or district was not successful(however success was defined) it was the fault of the leader because it was the administrator's sole responsibility to insure the success of the organization. What is now painfully clear is that in organizations that are as loosely coupled as schools such a view of leadership, while heroic, is not appropriate.

Recently a different perspective about leadership has evolved. This new notion of leadership is based upon a recognition that not only are we no longer a manufacturing economy, we are not even a information based economy. Rather we are becoming a knowledge production economy and the organizations that will be most successful in the future will be the ones who possess the capacity to access information and use it to produce new knowledge. In education this has led to the realization that schools also need to become places which the same kinds of activities occur. In essence, schools need to become learning organizations in which everyone is a learner. This new model of education requires a different kind of leader that possesses skills that are substantially different than either of the previous models of leadership (Senge,1990; Sergiovanni, 1992).

Senge proposes that in learning organizations the leader's "new work" should include a commitment to:

being the organization's architect;
providing stewardship; and
being a teacher.
Leader as Architect: To explain why leaders need to be architects, Senge uses the analogy of trying to turn a large ship. He asks the question: Who is most important in ensuring that it can be turned successfully? The captain, the first mate, the navigator, or the engineer down in the engine room? Senge suggests that the single most important person in making sure that a ship can be turned successfully is the architect who designed the ship. If it is not well designed it will be virtually impossible to maneuver. Such a ship, regardless of its other features, will be virtually useless. It is vital that the design be done with a clear understanding of the "ship's" purpose. If the purpose of schools is to provide a quality education for all students, then leaders need to design the organization with that purpose in mind. There is considerable evidence that schools as currently designed are not operating in the best interest of either the students they seek to educate or the people who work in them. This is certainly the case in our urban schools.

If, as Senge suggests, many of the conditions that impact organizations are beyond their control perhaps what is needed is to transform organizations. Nowhere is this more true than education. The factors and conditions that led to the present organization structure of schools no longer exists. What is needed is the fundamental transformation of schools as we know them so that they can be more responsive. If this is so, then leaders have a responsibility to get on with it.

Leader as Steward: The second dimension of leadership is that of providing stewardship. By stewardship Senge means that someone (or perhaps some group) within the organization needs to accept responsibility for ensuring that everyone who works in the organization is clear about why it exists. In schools, much lip service is given to the belief that "All children can learn". In the learning organization Senge describes we need to go beyond just viewing students as learners and begin to think of everyone who is connected with the school as a learner. As Sarason (1991) has stated we will not be able to create the kinds of conditions that we need for students until we are committed to creating the same kinds of conditions for our teachers. Such a vision is very different from how schools have been organized in the past. As steward it is important to make sure that this new vision be put into practice and that the decisions that are made on a day-to-day basis be consistent with such a vision.

The act of stewardship means being entrusted with the responsibility for something. In education, one cannot assume that everyone has a clear picture of the school's purpose; therefore, the act of providing stewardship of this new vision is critical.

Leader as Teacher: The central premise of The Fifth Discipline is that the successful organizations that will exist in the future will be those in which everyone is a learner. There is a powerful message here for education. If we are truly committed to learning for all, the word "all" has to mean just that--everyone.

For schools to become learning organizations, the school's leader(s) must accept responsibility for creating conditions that promote and enhance that learning. Principals must create opportunities for teachers to acquire information about what is occurring in the school and engage them in finding solutions to the problems that occur. A fundamental difference between the old view of leadership and that proposed by Senge is that the leader has a responsibility to create opportunities for teachers to learn about current research and apply that research in their classrooms in an environment that promotes learning. Perhaps most important of all, principals need to create a climate that promotes risk taking and eliminates the fear of failure. If these things can be done successfully schools will then possess the capacity to develop a shared vision about what needs to be done and engage in the kinds of activities that are needed to make their shared vision a reality.

Implications for the Year 2050

There is little doubt that if the America is to be successful in bringing about the kinds of changes that are needed it will be unable to do so by "rearranging the deck chairs on the educational Titanic". As we approach the year 2050 the kinds of changes that are called for will only occur as a result of the complete transformation of public education. It must break with the belief that the purpose of education is to promote the acquisition of basic skills and it must move towards the belief that schools have a moral and ethical, as well as economic, responsibility to transform schools into learning organizations.

Learning organizations will be places in which the activities that occur are based, not upon traditional views of knowledge and learning, but rather upon what is now known about how the brain functions and the kinds of conditions under which people learn most successfully. Learning organization must be organized in ways promote the belief that everyone is a learner and they must create those kinds of conditions that promote learning for everyone.

What does this mean for school administrators? In The Fifth Discipline (1990) Senge describes one of the five "disciplines" as personal mastery. By personal mastery the author means that before someone can provide leadership for others they must possess a clear personal vision for themselves and they must be clear in their own mind about what the fundamental beliefs that drive that vision. It is important to note that Senge does not suggest that personal mastery is just something for those who are "in charge" of the organization. For Senge, leadership is not based upon one's place within the organization, and personal mastery is something that everyone, regardless of their position ought to strive for. Before you can provide leadership to anyone you must be clear in your own mind about what it is that is important to you.

While Winnie-the-Pooh is a children's story it also describes the professional lives of many administrators. The transformation of American education will not occur until and unless those who are responsible for America's schools stop bump, bump, bumping along and take the time to really think about the kinds of changes that are needed. If they do, they will come to realize that schools, as presently organized and operated, are incapable of addressing the needs of the students (or the teachers) and that a fundamental transformation of American education is needed.

The transformation of American education does not suggest a diminished role for school administrators. It does suggest that what it means to be a leader needs to be fundamentally altered.

The only way that the children who attend school in the year 2050 will be assured of receiving the kind of education they need and deserve is if we ask ourselves if the schools we seek to create are based upon a vision of the future or of the past. As educators we have a responsibility to embrace a view of education and of educational leadership that will make such a vision a reality for those children.


Barth, R. Improving Schools From Within. Jossey-Bass, 1991.

Caine and Caine, Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain, ASCD, 1991.

National Commission on Excellence in Education. The Nation At-Risk The Imperative for Educational Reform. Washington, D.C.: National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983.

Deming, W. E. Out of the Crisis. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1988.

Fullan, M. What's Worth Fighting For In The Principalship? Regional Laboratory for Educational Improvement of the Northeast and Islands in association with the Ontario Public School Teacher's Federation, 1988

Halgren, E., Wilson , C.L., Squires, N.K., Engel, J., Walter, R.D., and Crandal, P.H. "Dynamics of the Hippocampal Contribution to Memory: Stimulation and Recording Stories in Humans". In Molecular, Cellular, and Behavioral Neurobiology of the Hippocampus, edited by W. Seifert. Academic Press, 1983.

Hand, J.D. "Split Brain Theory and Recent Results in Brain Research: Implications for the Design of Instruction." in Instructional Development: The State of the Art. Vol. 2, edited by R.K. Bass and C.R. Dills. Kendall/Hunt, 1984.

Hart, L. Human Brain, Human Learning, Longman, 1983.

Hart, L. How the Brain Works: A New Understanding of Human Learning, Emotion, and Thinking. Basic Books, 1975.

Hilliard, A. "Do We Have the Will to Educate All Children?", Educational Leadership, 49:1, pp 31-36, 1991.

Lakoff, G. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Levy, J. "Right Brain, Left Brain: Fact and Fiction". Psychology Today, 19:38, 1985.

McGuiness, D. and Pribram, K. "The Neuropsychology of Attention: Emotional and Motivational Controls" in The Brain and Psychology, edited by M.D. Wittrock. Academic Press, 1980.

Milne, A. Winnie-the-Pooh, 1926.

Ornstein, R. and Sobel, D. The Healing Brain: Breakthrough Discoveries About How the Brain Keeps Us Healthy. Simon and Schuster, 1987.

Sarason, S. The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform. Jossey-Bass,. 1991

Senge, P. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Doubleday, 1990.

Sergiovanni, T. Moral Leadership: Getting to the Heart of School Improvement. Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Springer, S. and Deutsch, G. Left Brain, Right Brain. (2nd ed.) W.H. Freeman. 1985.

Vygotsky, L. Mind in Society. Harvard University Press, 1978.

About the Author

Jerry Bamburg is Director of the Center for Effective Schools at the University of Washington. He can be reached at (206) 543-3999, or via e-mail at

Copyright © 1997 New Horizons for Learning, all rights reserved.

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By Judy Willis | Purchase

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