5 Helpful Hints for Applying Constructivist Leadership in School Settings
Constructivism works under the assumption that things are not “right” or “wrong,” but rather effective or ineffective. A constructivist leader explores the way things were, then uses what he or she has learned to determine how things should be, and works on ways to move in that direction. All this is done in a context that everyone involved can relate to. Everyone in a school can perform an act of leadership under the constructivist leadership model.
Here are some things you might find useful to know about applying constructivism in school settings.
- Learning is based on interaction. As Paulo Freire wrote, “knowledge is not extended from those who are considered to know to those who do not know; instead it is built up in the relations between people.” For school stakeholders to develop their capacities for relating to one another, they should always engage in the processes of meaning-making, while living and working together in educational communities.
- The more exchange among collaborators, the stronger this leadership style becomes. Multiple forms of relationships in schools and differences among friendly, collegial, and individualistic relationships. As the cooperative nature of workplace culture changes over time, these relationships usually shift. Give-and-take is therefore a spiraling experience, gathering strength the more it is practiced. People usually generate information through interactions with others. This information becomes feedback, enriching existing information and creating new information.
- People are interconnected. The reciprocal process that enables us to construct meaning usually occurs within the context of relationships. Therefore, creation and expansion of the possibilities and capacities for relation only occur in communities that are rich in relationships. There is a need for school leaders to stop thinking of people as separate entities, but rather in terms of interconnected relationships.
The governance structures in most schools reveal a relationship pattern. Many such schools and districts form divided governance processes such as leadership teams, school curriculum committees, PTAs, and professional development committees. These fragmented processes tend to be independent of each other. The result is a decision-making process that becomes time-consuming, redundant, and disengaged from vital information and feedback systems.
- Relationships matter more than just about anything else. A study by Claremont Graduate Schools’ Institute for Education in Transformation identified the most important factor in schools: relationships. The study was carried out by teachers, and conducted as a series of dialogues. The participants, parents, students, teachers, administrators, and support staff, pointed out a lack of authentic relationships in which they were trusted, given responsibility, regarded with warmth and honesty, and treated with dignity and respect.
- The principles are the same for different types of individuals, but the practice is often different. The perceptions of caring varied among groups. Teachers viewed dedication to their work as an indication of caring. Students, though, saw caring from teachers in the form of direct, personal touch, use of their names, being asked or told personal things, and shared laughter.
Give-and-take relationships form the basis for humans to make sense of our world, by continually defining ourselves and growing together. Through relationships, predictability becomes potential. Potential is the possibility that develops within us, the personal passions and plans we use to build meaning and knowledge. It is unpredictable, limitless, relationship driven, paradoxical, and always renewing itself. New actions evoke other potentials, and new information and deeper meanings are created.