Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Article Review: Leadership Through Instructional Design in Higher Education

I recently read an article by Kristi Shaw entitled Leadership Through Instructional Design in Higher Education. It introduced to me the suggestion that instructional designers have unique skills that enable them to have particular success in higher education leadership. She writes:
"The qualities of instructional designers and the necessary characteristics for leadership overlap. Expert instructional designers are highly educated and many possess advanced graduate degrees. Instructional designers are experts in problem solving and critical thinking. Designers demonstrate high levels of professionalism and believe in a learning mindset. In addition, instructional designers commonly have backgrounds that enrich their leadership and design toolkit. For example, many designers have backgrounds in training, technology and education. "
I will discuss each of these concepts below. Shaw lists several key skills for higher education leadership and describes how instructional designers already possess many of these skills and abilities as a result of their education and the nature of their work.
  • Problem Solving - Leaders must have the capacity to solve complex problems, and instructional designers are in the practice of solving complex problems in their work. I have personally found that the capacities I developed as a designer and in my PhD studies in instructional technology and learning sciences can be transferred and applied to problem solving in many areas.
  • Critical Thinking - Critical thinking involves analysis (taking the whole apart), evaluation (placing value on something), creativity (synthesizing for highly contextualized solutions) and reflection (metacognition, consideration of different approaches and strategies). Designers by default take knowledge apart to make it more easily learned. They continually evaluate their own work, the work of others, and the learning of their students. They create solutions to design problems and have the capacity to consider their own processes and actions and take new approaches to their work.
  • Model Ethical Behavior - I've personally committed to ethical behavior through my commitments of faith (no lying, cheating, misrepresenting, stealing, etc.). In addition, I have committed to live by the 10 Standards espoused by the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), which standards guide me toward ethical contribution to the organizations I work for. 
  • Constant Adaptation and Learning - This means establishing a habit of continual improvement. It has been shown that higher degrees earned in higher education facilitate the habits of lifelong learning. I am continually learning in my instructional design work - I read dozens of books and many scholarly articles each year, and I attend one or more academic and professional conferences annually.
  • Analyze where an organization lies in comparison to institutional goals - This is the concept of gap analysis - identifying where goals are not being met so that improvement can be made. This is a fundamental task for instructional designers, and bridging this to organizational goals makes sense. I've bridged my analysis skills to organization and program performance issues with some success.
  • Background in the facilitation of learning and an advanced degree - This makes an individual well-suited to lead in higher education. Designers clearly have this kind of educational background. I have personally designed courses for and taught at multiple universities, and these experiences have helped me to understand the processes of learning and instruction.
Again, this was a great article, and I appreciate Dr. Shaw's insights and ideas.


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