Thursday, April 16, 2015

A model for collaborative leadership: Empowerment evaluation

I'm beginning to feel like a broken record (is that idiom out of date?) in my administrator prep classes because I keep coming back to the same strategies and principals in every discussion and on every paper or project. One of them is Michael Fullan's concept of the wrong drivers for education reform, but an even bigger one is empowerment evaluation.

Empowerment evaluation is a strategy for evaluating programs and organizations that involves all (buzzword alert!) stakeholders in the process. I first read about in Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon's text, SuperVision. The idea is that by including all stakeholders as part of the process, you get  widespread buy-in while tapping into the power of collaborative problem solving. Basically, it's a kind of democratization of leadership.

My own vision of this process has gone through several iterations, but here's my latest:

You start by forming small representative groups (like focus groups or committees) of stakeholders: students, parents, teachers (PLCs would work well here), staff, business people from the community, senior citizens, etc. You provide some training to each on how to look at data, then provide each with an appropriate summary of some data and a problem to be solved--the recent school climate survey results and the question of how we can improve the climate of the school.

Each group looks over the data, individually and as a group, and comes up with a summary and recommendations and/or further questions for the administration.

Each summary goes to a central "committee," also made up of representatives from each group, which then reviews all of the summaries and recommendations and condenses them into their own summary, which it sends to the stakeholder groups and the administrative team.

The administrative team reviews the report and either develops a preliminary plan or a new set of data and questions, which they send to the stakeholder groups for feedback. This cycle continues until the administrative team is ready to move forward with implementation.

This process is leaves enough control in the hands of the administration to prevent gridlock, while at the same time giving everyone a real voice. It goes beyond just evaluation to real collaborative governance. And it should also go a long way toward breaking down barriers between stakeholder groups and opening everyone's eyes to the perspectives of the others. And this is the real power of empowerment evaluation.

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