Book by: Snowden, P.E. & Gorton, R.A. (Eds.).
Review by: Sue Weaver
|Dean of University College
Northwestern State University
Administrators, especially new ones, can find responding to challenges and problems in schools a daunting experience. In this text, editors Snowden and Gorton present the theoretical concepts that undergird effective leadership behaviors and provide a variety of exercises to stimulate theory application. Although this text’s target audience includes instructors and trainees at the pre- and in-service stages of the principalship, the editors have crafted a book that may be equally useful for those in fields such as business management, social work, the military and medicine.
The text addresses leadership theory within role and setting, i.e., the knowledge and skills needed for the role of organizational leader. Chapters focus on important conceptual tools including decision-making, communication, group leadership, conflict management, organizational culture, and school improvement. Authors present clinical materials and learning experiences for practical application of the knowledge base, or the behaviors and performances needed by a principal. Seven cases studies, linking back to previously presented conceptual tools, include beginning challenges, student problems, administrator-staff relationships, school-community relations, role and organizational problems, race and drug issues, and problems of change.
The editors have added several new features to this edition including an updated organizational culture and climate survey instrument, case studies of current challenges, and additional material on diversity, ethics, professional development, school improvement, and communication of the school’s mission. Some very specific strategies for leading schools effectively are offered including ways to involve others in decision-making (Quality Circles, Delphi Technique, Nominal Group Technique), how to lead group meetings from agenda to follow-up, when and how to deal with or avoid conflict, how to audit school culture (sample assessment instruments included) and to shape culture (techniques given).
The conceptual tools are useful in college preparation programs or in principal induction programs. The well-written material was useful as a supplement in the organization and administration of public schools course that I teach. Case studies and simulations are well-chosen to stimulate individual and group analysis, problem-solving, and “big picture” critical thinking. These scenarios provided rich, objective examples that were interesting and relevant to those not yet in school leadership roles. They also were highly conducive to lively Blackboard discussion among graduate students and principal inductees at a distance.
The authors are aware of the 1994 Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards of school principals. These and state and agency standard sets i.e., NCATE Educational Leadership Constituent Consortium (ELCC), routinely comprise the tools used to evaluate today’s school leaders. However, concepts and cases in this book are not related to the at least six of these standards. It would be helpful if editors would either overlay the standards on the text’s conceptual tools or otherwise organize the material to be standards-relevant.
Chapter authors are primarily concerned with the problem situations of principals but also show awareness of the mission and vision imperative of leaders. Because this role is stressed more today than ever before, a chapter devoted to theories and strategies of visionary leadership (Standard 1) would add an important conceptual tool to the principal’s knowledge and skills. Were materials and strategies on leadership for curriculum and instruction (Standard 2) also included, this book would be my textbook of choice for the organizational leadership course.
School leadership and administration
ed.). (2002). Book by Snowden, P.E. & Gorton, R.A. (Eds.). Review by Sue Weaver. Boston: McGraw-Hill.