Here's How Successful Educators Can Balance Creativity and Compliance

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July 13th, 2014 No Comments Creativity, Other

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Ever get the feeling you’re working for a corporation instead of a school? Well, you’re not alone. According to researchers, Australian higher education is suffering from a “corporate management paradigm” that prevents teachers from balancing creativity and compliance and fulfilling their roles as educational leaders.

Dr. Fay Patel, Director of Education Management at Monash University Malaysia, says university management today more closely resembles a stakeholder organization than a republic of scholars.

“Higher education agendas are fraught with mixed messages about what role teachers are expected to play in enhancing learning,” she told InformED. “Teachers are required to…demonstrate leadership in teaching and learning on the basis of…innovative learning solutions. At the same time, teachers are expected to comply with ongoing regulated external and internal compliance processes that have little to do with learning impact.”

In her international experience with six higher education systems over the last couple of decades, Dr. Patel has observed that teachers’ critical autonomy has “slowly eroded to the point that there is lack of respect for and recognition of the valuable insights they bring to learning enhancement.”

In recent years, she says, greater emphasis has been placed on the ability of teachers to manage administrative tasks and to comply with regional and national regulatory frameworks. Instead, the system should “embrace humanity and respect teacher autonomy and disciplinary expertise, allowing teachers to flourish in their quest to inspire learners.”

So what type of leadership model simultaneously meets the demands of regulation and eables creativity and innovation? Does such a thing even exist?

Patel thinks so. It was this alarming trend that prompted Patel and her colleague, Tania Aspland of the University of Adelaide, to propose an alternative leadership model at the World Universities Forum in Hong Kong. The model includes two strategies based on the VIEW framework of leadership and the Cambridge Network.

The VIEW framework, which has been around since 2003, recommends the following strategic actions: attention through vision; meaning through communications; trust through positioning; and deployment of self through positive self-regard and wisdom. In their academic paper, Patel and Aspland highlight wisdom as being an especially important quality. Educational leaders should be “administratively adept but also capable of upholding a leadership commitment based on the wisdom of scholarship.”

The Cambridge Network has five principles: maintaining a focus on learning as an activity; creating conditions favorable to learning; creating a dialogue about the connections between leadership and learning; sharing leadership; and fostering a shared sense of accountability. Educational leaders should focus on self-evaluation; evidence-based review of professional practices; and congruence between vision, values, and practices.

Patel says it’s time for university leaders and academics to reclaim the traditional mission of the university: to improve the public good.

“The quality of scholarship is in jeopardy if academics are expected to respond purely as corporate employees without recognition of the critical and creative nature of their academic work,” Patel and Aspland write. “In Australia, a new form of leadership based on the wisdom of scholarship is required if the creativity versus compliance dilemma is to be overcome.”

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Saga Briggs is Managing Editor of InformED. You can follow her on Twitter@sagamilena or Facebook.

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