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 my recent book The Collective Wisdom of Practice: Leading Our Professional Learning from Success (joint publication of Corwin and Learning forward, 2019), providing new, assets-based framework to shift leaders’/educators’ minds from focusing in isolation on failure to continuously deliberating together, sharing past experiences and best practices, and solving problems related to teaching and learning.
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. Also I served as co-editor of the “Leading Holistically: How Schools, Districts, and States Improve Systemically” (Routledge, 2018). 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 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 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. 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. I serve as co-editor of the “Leading Holistically: How Schools, Districts, and States Improve Systemically” (Routledge, 2018). Recently, I authored The Collective Wisdom of Practice: Leading Our Professional Learning from Success (Joint publication of Corwin and Learning Forward, 2019).