Assessing School Technology Leadership Practices: Perceptions from 1-to-1 Schools in the Context of Continuous Improvement

Morgan, Melissa Anderson, Administration and Supervision - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Dexter, Sara, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Increases in access to technology and the rise of digital integration within the field of education have led to new implications for school leaders. Further, technology initiatives focused on the deployment of portable devices such as laptops, netbooks, or tablet computers at a 1-to-1 device per student ratio, or 1-to-1 programs, are increasingly on the rise in schools (Penuel, 2006; Richardson et al., 2013; Sauers & McLeod, 2011). The complex web of factors necessary for effective implementation of 1-to-1 programs, such as those in the two middle schools studied here, calls for a system of targeted leadership practices. In spite of this, the school leaders in these two schools lacked a data-driven, systematic approach to examining their own technology leadership practices in order to plan for, implement, and sustain their school’s 1-to-1 programs in the context of continuous improvement.

This mixed-methods, exploratory case study of two 1-to-1 middle schools used a school technology leadership assessment instrument to provide leaders multi-rater perspectives about their leadership. The schools were in a district where the superintendent was known for her technology leadership, the district practiced continuous improvement, the participating schools had 1-to-1 technology deployments across at least a full grade level, and the district was considering an increase in 1-to-1 technology deployments, all of which helped to define this as a problem of practice with each school serving as a unit of analysis in this study. In the context of this study, the researcher conceptualized school technology leadership as a set of leadership practices distributed across multiple members of the school team and aligned to three broad categories of setting directions, developing people, and redesigning the organization. The researcher presented results from the school technology leadership assessment to members of the school leadership team at each school using a three-level rubric report and conducted focus groups to explore their reactions to the feedback and to the instrument, itself.

Findings from this study addressed (a) revelations about school technology leadership practices in two schools, (b) reactions to an assessment of leadership practices, and (c) intended uses of feedback from an assessment of leadership practices within the context of continuous improvement. The researcher found enabling and constraining factors impacting school technology leadership practices as well as varying areas of strengths and challenges aligned to eleven specific leadership dimensions. Emergent areas included the use of data to monitor performance related to technology-supported teaching and learning as well as the use of formal processes to promote professional learning. Regarding the assessment instrument, while leaders identified benefits from both taking the survey and reviewing the results, the findings uncovered potential barriers to its use related to content, process, and technical functionality. Finally, the findings indicated that school leaders intend to use the data within the context of their four-step, iterative continuous improvement model, Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA), in conversations with teachers regarding both current and future 1-to-1 deployments.

Findings from this study informed the creation of three action communication products targeting different audiences including: (1) a recommendation report to the district leaders, aligning the use of data about school technology leadership practices to their school improvement planning processes using the continuous improvement model already operationalized there; (2) a deployment guide for principals to reference when framing the school technology leadership assessment data collection process with their teachers; and (3) a user feedback summary report for instrument developers to consider in the validation and future development of the school technology leadership assessment instrument.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
school technology leadership, 1-to-1, continuous improvement, PDSA, leadership assessment
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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