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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Sustained organizational learning for comprehensive school reform: A sensemaking perspective
by Callan, Mary B., Ed.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2009, 187; 3365708
Abstract (Summary)

Organizational sensemaking is the attempt to understand complex events that occur in organizations (Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005). This study focuses on the sensemaking leadership capabilities of a leadership team promoting comprehensive reform. The cross-school leadership team engaged in organizational sensemaking in order to successfully lead change initiatives across their middle and high schools. The cross-school leadership team also demonstrated sustainable leadership as members shared responsibility for creating a diverse educational environment in a professional community (Hargreaves & Fink, 2006).

Sensemaking leadership represents overlapping aspects of organizational sensemaking and sustainable leadership. This study reveals six sensemaking leadership practices demonstrated by the cross-school leadership team: reflective dialogue, creative/adaptive problem solving, collaboration, a shared sense of purpose, openness to feedback, and organizational learning (Anacona, Malone, Orlinkowski, & Senge, 2007; Weick, 2001; Weiss, 1999).

The source of data for my study was the Maranacook Learning History (MLH), part of the reflection/evaluation phase of an ongoing action research project. The MLH describes the effects of the change process and organizational learning in the school system. It is told from the perspective of 24 individuals affected by the change efforts.

My interest, as a member of the leadership team and principal of the middle school involved in the change efforts, was to identify the leadership behaviors leading to comprehensive and sustainable school reforms. I used the framework analysis approach (Ritchie & Spencer, 1994) to conduct a secondary analysis of the MLH for six elements of sensemaking leadership behaviors.

The analysis revealed strengths and challenges relating to the principles of sensemaking leadership practices. The leadership team demonstrated all six of the identified sensemaking leadership capabilities with particular strengths in collaboration, organizational learning, and a shared sense of purpose. Challenges included broad-based communication and maintaining momentum. The results of the study will inform those interested in school reform regarding the sensemaking leadership aptitudes necessary for sustaining organizational learning during an era of high stakes accountability measures such as the No Child Left Behind mandate (US Department of Education, 2001).

Keywords: action research, school leadership, school leadership teams, organizational sensemaking, sustainable leadership, sensemaking leadership comprehensive school reform, learning history, organizational learning, secondary analysis, framework analysis, No Child Left Behind.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Watts, Joyce G.
Commitee: Arbuckle, Margaret, Beaulieu, Rodney, Goldberg, Lisa, Gordon, Sue
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: The School of Educational Leadership and Change
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: School administration, Organizational behavior
Keywords: Action research, Leadership team, No Child Left Behind, Organizational learning, School reform, Sensemaking, Sustainable leadership
Publication Number: 3365708
ISBN: 978-1-109-25864-6
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