A Study of the Condition of "Good Work" in Educational Leadership in Iowa
Stilwell, G. Douglas
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Extending the research of Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi, and Damon (2001) in the fields of genetics and journalism and pursued because "we are convinced that the challenge of good work confronts every professional today" (p. ix), this study focuues on the question of what it means to carry out good work - "work that is both excellent in quality and socially resposible - at a time of constant change" (p ix) in the field of educational leadership. This study is qualitative in nature, combining features from the traditions of grounded theory and ethnography to provide a thick and rich description of good work in educational leadership in Iowa. One central research question, "What does it mean to carry out 'good work' in the professional realm of educational leadership in Iowa today?" guided the study. Over 120 pages of data were collected from semi-structured interviews of 10 high-profile, influential educational leaders from the state of Iowa. These leaders were specifically selected through a collaborative identification process with School Administrators of Iowa. Data analysis and verification included searching for themes through the processes of open, axial, and selective coding; triangulation; member checks; and interpreting the data to make sense of the findings. The resulting findings were written in an ethnographic narrative style to present a meaningful, contextual description of the discoveries and to provide the opportunity for authorial "voice". This study found that good work (defined in terms of excellence and ethics) exists for these 10 educational leaders through the building of relationshps, leadership, focusing on student need and achievement, moral purpose, decision-making, transparency of processes, and accountability. Their efforts to carry out good work are supported by professional organizations, strong relationships, influential individuals, high expectations, effective communication, integrated personal belief systems, and personal efficacy. Efforts to do good work are challege by resource limitations, political mandates and accountability systems, systemic and societal changes, and subtle shift to a market based educational system, and the continual struggle to determine the "greater good" in any given circumstance. Fundamentally, those who choose educational leadership as a profession do so for a greater good; to make a difference in the lives of children, subsequently shaping the future of our society and even the world. It is the conclusion of this study, that despite the incresing challenges, prominent educational leaders in Iowa are engaging in high quality work in a socially responsible manner. As a result, the perception prevails that the future of educational leadership is an optimistic one.
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