My major academic activities up to the present have focused on research, teaching and advising, and administrative academic involvement. As seen below, I have published in leading scholarly journals, collaborated with scholars and practitioners on various research agendas, taught in diverse graduate level courses, and led various academic programs. I will conclude with ongoing and future research avenues.
To facilitate a culture of continuous improvement, especially in an era of accountability and high-stakes standards, two of my main research interests are the professional learning community and organizational learning in diverse school settings (e.g., Schechter, 2008, 2012, 2014, Educational Administration Quarterly; Schechter, 2010, Teachers College Record; Schechter & Feldman, 2010, Journal of Educational Administration). Efforts to develop and sustain learning communities in schools, especially those facing ambiguous and turbulent environments, are receiving growing attention from policy-makers, educators, and researchers. To bridge theory and practice, my series of studies in this area explores the cultural, psychological, political, and contextual conditions that either foster or hinder learning communities.
Within the broader arena of developing school and community learning capacities, I developed a unique conceptual notion of collective learning from success, which contrasts to the deficit-based learning orientation that predominantly characterizes educational settings (please see my conceptual article in the Journal of Educational Administration, 2011: “Switching cognitive gears: Problem-based learning and success-based learning as an instructional framework in leadership education”). Educators’ primary focus on learning from failed past events and processes can skew school discourse in a negative direction and lead to the systematic loss of learning opportunities embedded in past successes. The collective learning-from-success orientation furnishes opportunities for school leaders’ transformational learning, especially in organizational contexts where achievement of successful outcomes is the exception rather than the rule. I was the first researcher to apply and research this innovative area in the educational realm (e.g., Schechter et al., 2008; Schechter, 2011, Teachers College Record; Schechter & Michalsky, 2014, Teachers College Record). My implementation and empirical study of this notion have supported the unique value of collective/reflective learning from success in various educational contexts spanning elementary schools, secondary schools, principal preparatory programs, and teacher education programs, including diverse systems such as special education and ethnic minorities. Importantly, these studies highlight the need to integrate both problem-based learning and success-based learning to develop visionary, effectual future leaders. It is important to note that my article on superintendents’ perceptions of collective learning from success (2011) was selected by the Editor to be reprinted in the Journal of School Leadership 25th Anniversary Special Issue: Volume 25, Issue 3, May 2015.
More recently, I have explored the conceptual framework of System School Leadership (SSL), an approach where principals address the challenges of leading schools and educational systems by utilizing the systems thinking concept and procedures. Identifying effective SSL characteristics facilitates the development of practical processes for nurturing SSL during school principals’ preparatory programs and throughout school leaders’ careers. Besides my various publications and presentations on systems thinking, my recent book “Systems-Thinking for School Leaders: Holistic Leadership for Excellence in Schools” (published by Springer Press, 2017, New York, Dortrecht, London, written with one of my Ph.D. advisees, with Foreword by Michael Fullan) is currently being taught in several U.S educational leadership programs. In future research, I plan to continue to delve into the process of learning SSL by identifying its evolving phases as well as factors that induce or inhibit it, while investigating possible differences between stages in the educational leadership career.
Policies are rarely implemented and sustained as written, or as policy-makers intended. Hence, the ability for education reform to transform schools depends not only on its conceptual foundations and proper design but also on its successful realization in schools, together with long-term sustainment. In a recent series of studies, I have concentrated not only on the role of principals but also on the crucial role of school middle-leaders in implementing and sustaining large-scale reforms through the framework of sense-making. In school leadership, sense-making involves imparting meaning to unclear or ambiguous experiences, especially when aiming to balance the tensions between autonomy and accountability. This line of research has pinpointed how school leaders primarily rely on their own previously constructed cognitive frames, professional experiences, and educational beliefs as a guide for challenging, contextualizing, and sustaining reforms in diverse school cultures and contexts (Ganon-Shilon & Schechter, 2016, 2017; Schechter & Ganon-Shilon, 2015; Schechter & Shaked, 2017; Schechter, Shaked, Ganon-Shilon, & Goldratt, in press; Shaked & Schechter, 2017b, 2017c).
As evidenced by my body of publications in leading peer-reviewed educational journals, I consistently utilize advanced quantitative and qualitative research methods to comprehensively investigate my areas of research interest. The quantitative scale that I developed and tested for measuring Organizational Learning Mechanisms in elementary schools (Educational Administration Quarterly, 2008, 44(2), 155-186; leading article, sole author, accepted with no revisions; see also Schechter & Qadach, 2012 article in Educational Administration Quarterly) was well received and has already been used and adopted by researchers in various countries. Another scale that I developed to assess organizational learning in secondary schools was published in Educational Administration Quarterly (Schechter & Attatchi, 2014). My expertise in qualitative research can be seen in my publications in various highly ranked journals, including five articles in Teachers College Record – Columbia University. I enjoy putting my proficiency in both quantitative and qualitative research methods to good use not only in conducting research for publication in leading peer-reviewed educational journals but also in advising-mentoring diverse graduate students in their research theses and dissertations.
My research endeavors have fortunately been well received by the broader scholarly community, earning me prestigious grants. In 2008, I was awarded the most prestigious academic grant in Israel – a two-year research grant from the ISF (Israel Science Foundation) for my study: Learning From Success as Leverage for Learning Schools: Exploring a New Perspective for School Improvement. In 2010, I was awarded another highly esteemed two-year grant by the Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Education for Developing and Field-Testing a Measure of Principal Learning Mechanisms. In 2012, again, I was awarded (with Dr. Michalsky) a two-year ISF research grant for the study of Teachers’ Capacity to Teach Self-Regulated Learning: Integrating Learning from Problems and Learning from Successes. Moreover, sponsored by the ISF, I co-chaired the First International Conference on Self-Regulated Learning. Recently, I was awarded a grant by the Spencer Foundation (Chicago, U.S) for Exploring School Middle-Leaders Sense-Making of a Generally Outlined National Reform.
Since 2017, I serve as the Editor-in-Chief (co) of the Journal of Educational Administration (JEA). JEA was founded in 1963, the first international refereed journal in the field of educational leadership and management. As the oldest and most respected leading international journal in the field of educational leadership and management, JEA has sought to publish research on educational administration conducted across diverse political, economic and socio-cultural contexts. Indeed, publications featured in JEA have both anticipated and traced the evolution of educational administration into a global field of research and practice.
I have been selected to be on the editorial board of the Journal of School Leadership and Leadership and Policy in Schools, as well as on the advisory board for the University Council for Educational Administration Center for the International Study of School Leadership. I serve as a peer reviewer of articles submitted for publication in most of the prominent journals in the field of educational administration, such as the Educational Administration Quarterly, Journal of Educational Administration, Journal of School Leadership, International Journal of Leadership in Education, Teaching and Teacher Education, and American Journal of Evaluation.
Currently, I serve as the Chair of AERA Organizational Theory SIG. The purpose of the Organizational Theory Special Interest Group (SIG) is to advance scholarly inquiry into conceptualizations of educational organizations by promoting the use and development of organizational theory in the context of educational research and practice.
Overall, I have published my research extensively in a wide range of highly ranked scholarly journals, including Educational Administration Quarterly, Teachers College Record – Columbia University, Journal of Educational Administration, Journal of School Leadership, Teaching and Teacher Education, International Journal of Leadership in Education, Policy and Leadership in Schools, and International Journal of Educational Research. In addition, many of the articles have been presented at highly esteemed international conferences (together with Ph.D. advisees), such as the American Educational Research Association and the University Council for Educational Administration.
Furthermore, I am engaged in writing and editing peer-reviewed scholarly books. I recently published a book titled “Let Us Lead! School Principals at the Forefront of Reforms” (Schechter, 2015, Tel-Aviv University Press), which discusses how principals interpret and make sense of large-scale education reforms in an age of accountability and high-stakes standards. As mentioned above, “Systems-Thinking for School Leaders: Holistic Leadership for Excellence in Schools” coauthored with Dr. Shaked, a Ph.D. advisee, was published by Springer Press (2017, New York, Dortrecht, London), with the Foreword by Michael Fullan. I am also co-editor of the 2017 NSSE Yearbook (National Society for the Studies of Education) titled “Self-Regulated Learning: Conceptualization, Contribution, and Empirically Based Models for Teaching and Learning,” published by Columbia University Teachers College. Self-regulated learning is an essential capacity for students, teachers, and leaders in the 21st century. To the best of my knowledge, I am one of only a few international scholars to edit this prestigious volume since the NSSE Yearbooks were initiated by John Dewey in 1904.Currently, I serve as co-editor of the upcoming “Leading Holistically: How Schools, Districts, and States Improve Systemically” (Routledge, 2018).
Teaching and Advising Activities
In the Department of Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy, I teach a wide range of courses and seminars at the graduate level, such as reform implementation and sustainability/educational change, leadership development, learning organizations, work relations, systems thinking for educational leadership, organizational theory, learning from success as leverage for school change, and creativity in educational administration. At the undergraduate level, I teach an introduction to research methods course focusing on philosophy and quantitative and qualitative research (including action research), as well as courses on organizational and leadership theories. In my teaching, I create scaffolding to provide opportunities for students to systematically link theory and practice. For example, I developed a unique work relations graduate course in a full online format to enable students to interact with peers in order to solve complex educational problems based on access to empirical research, theoretical readings, and authentic vignettes of school leaders’ problems on the ground. This online interactive environment thus models for preservice principals the experience of a professional learning community.
The graduate level courses I teach engage a diverse population of current and prospective educational leaders. Jews, Muslims, and Christians of varying degrees of religiosity from diverse formal and informal educational institutions learn collaboratively in the midst of cultural, political, and religious turmoil. Teaching diverse graduate students to link theory, research evidence, and practice in turbulent urban areas, while maintaining respectful and constructive peer dialogue through collective learning, epitomizes for me the complexity and importance of education.
Student evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive. I received high mean student ratings consistently over the years. In two recent academic years, I received the highest mean scores for excellent teaching of all the faculty in the School of Education, achieving a mean score of 4.6 out of 5 in the 2011-2012 year and 4.79 out of 5 in the 2012-2013 year. In the last two academic years (2015-2016 and 2016-2017) I was nominated for the University’s best lecturer award. Moreover, as a Guest International Professor, the full online course I taught in the Graduate School of Education at Michigan State University in the summer of 2009 was rated by students as superior (exceptionally good).
I also advise graduate students from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds in their research theses. In the last six years, 18 graduate students completed their theses under my mentoring, and all of them except one achieved grades of 90 or higher. Articles deriving from most of these theses have been published in leading peer-reviewed leadership journals. In addition, 5 Ph.D. students (from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds) completed their dissertations under my guidance (and another four students are currently in the writing phase), most of whom received distinguished scholarship awards. To empower a new generation of educational leaders, I ensure that doctoral students’ research is supported by the research grants I receive.
Academic/Administrative Involvement and Service
In addition to my productivity in research and my intense investment in teaching and advising, I hold several key academic roles. Currently, I serve as Chair of the Board of Directors at the Institute for the Advancement of Teaching, Learning and Social Integration in Education (Bar-Ilan University). I also serve as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Center for Science Education.
At Bar-Ilan University, from 2010 until 2014, I served as Vice Director (equivalent to Associate Dean in the U.S.) of the School of Education, which is the largest school of education in Israel.
I also headed the Teacher Education Department, which is the largest department in Israel, including 16 divisions of teacher education in various discipline areas, as well as the internship and professional development tracks. Altogether, the Teacher Education Department serves about 850 students. During my term, the curriculum underwent revision to adhere to the national reform in teacher education. To this end, I led the faculty in collaborative analysis, evaluation, and revision of both curriculum and pedagogy, reviewing syllabi and class evaluations as well as recruiting new faculty members.
From 2008 to 2013, I headed the Urban Principal Preparation Program, which drew an extremely diverse population studying together in a cohort group. Inasmuch as leadership programs around the world have been criticized for failing to effectively develop prospective principals’ leadership capacities, I led a thorough revision and reorganization of this program, which was successfully approved by the Ministry of Education. To develop an innovative leadership program that forges strong connections between theory, research, and practice, I collaborated actively with faculty members, students, and policy-makers.
In addition, I served as head of the David and Fela Shapell Holocaust Educators Initiative. I led the development and implementation of this program, which provides a unique framework for training future teachers in a variety of aspects of Holocaust education. As a son of Holocaust survivors, I was privileged to develop the first and only higher education program in Israel to train prospective teachers in teaching the Holocaust.
Another project under my responsibility was the development of our Education Simulation Center, the first such center to be constructed in Israel’s higher education. Simulating authentic case studies in a uniquely designed technological center enhances both teachers’ and administrators’ ability to overcome complex situations in school settings. Development of this technological simulation center was in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.
In addition, I volunteer to serve as the School of Education’s liaison to students who need special assistance due to various disabilities or to absences for military reserve duty, pregnancy bedrest, maternity leave, and so forth.
I also serve as committee member and academic and professional advisor in numerous Ministry of Education projects. For example, I served on the steering committee of an innovative national program for the Ministry of Education entitled Leveraging Learning: The Contribution of Learning from Successes to the Development of School Learning. Serving on the board of this national program and assuming consultant and researcher roles in both Jewish and Arab schools have elucidated for me the imperative to break down boundaries between the academic and practitioner communities. Engaging in cooperative outreach ventures with superintendents, administrators, and teachers illuminated the need to consider multiple perspectives in a multicultural environment. My research based on this national program appeared in Teachers College Record and the International Journal of Leadership in Education. Knowledge gained from this national program was disseminated and implemented in other schools nationwide. Currently, I serve as academic advisor in an effort to develop a national educational research and development federation, within the Department of Research, Development, Experiments, and Initiatives in the Ministry of Education.
In another outreach venture aiming to bridge academic knowledge – on problems and successes of leadership development – to the authentic needs of practitioners in the field, I evaluated-researched an innovative leadership program: the New York Principals’ Development Program (funded by the UJA Federation of New York). The New York Jewish day school (JDS) world lacks a strong culture of professional development, mainly because of intense competition among schools. As talented JDS educators work in isolation from the broader spectrum of the professional community, there is a growing need for a systematic and effective leadership program in which current and prospective leaders can learn and work cooperatively. This leadership preparation program for New York JDSs allowed me to collaborate with urban school leaders working in an extremely turbulent environment and afforded me close familiarity with the particular challenges facing educational systems in the United States.