Restoring Human Agency to Educational Administration: Status and Strategies

Adem Bayar (University of Missouri‐Columbia)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 5 July 2011




Bayar, A. (2011), "Restoring Human Agency to Educational Administration: Status and Strategies", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 49 No. 4, pp. 450-453.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Fenwick English and Rosemary Papa's Restoring Human Agency to Educational Administration: Status and Strategies fills an important gap in the literature that rests in the hazy space between thinking (theory) and doing (practice) in leadership. The authors criticize the relationship between theory and practice of leadership and they ask some sophisticated critical questions such as how do we know if we know enough, and how do we know if what we know is true? Although the book basically talks about improving leadership practice, it differs than most previous viewpoints and argues that practice is not improved by engaging in a pursuit of the unknown. The authors note that their interest in this topic starts after the Walter Cocking Lecture at the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration in San Antonio, Texas. This book analyzes the quality of dissertation research between 2006 and 2008, and argues that much more need to be done to improve knowledge and research in the educational administration/leadership field. They contend that when educators re‐harmonize the pursuit of the unknown and the practice of the known as a current trend in educational administration, schools will be have more effective leaders in the twenty‐first century.

Restoring Human Agency to Educational Administration: Status and Strategies consists of 24 chapters, organized into two parts. Part I includes 14 chapters and is written by English. The title of Part I is “The restoration of human agency in educational administration/leadership theory, research, and practice”. In the “Introduction”, English provides a brief overview of Walter Cocking's life. He shortly discusses the connection of the work of the university (theory) and educational leadership practice (practice). In Chapter 2, “Where are we now? Locating the present: a period of scholasticism, standardization and stagnation”, English states that he is interested in how ideas locate themselves and become part of practice and discusses scholasticism, standardization, and stagnation. In Chapter 3, “A portrait of the half face of leadership that dominates our mindscapes and our work”, English juxtapose two sides of leadership, (i.e. A bricolage of two sides of leadership). The right (light) side is most visible and it is the dominant ideological side. On the other hand, the left (shadow) side is not visible and it is the subordinate side.

In Chapter 4, “Understanding the dominant ideological face: Foucault's apparatus”, Foucault's apparatus is introduced with an examination of dominant ideologies. In Chapter 5, “Understanding the subordinate/ shadow side of educational leadership”, English revisits the two sides of leadership with much more details about the shadow side of leadership. In Chapter 6, “The national apparatus for educational leadership”, English depicts the national Foucauldian apparatus in educational leadership by Figure 2 and gives a brief explanation in order to help readers understand. In Chapter 7, “The conservative intertextuality of the university”, English draws Figure 3 and describes how graduate students start a doctoral intertextual practice in a typical university program in educational administration/leadership. To explain this, he explicates all the components of Figure 3. In Chapter 8, “The restoration of human agency: the current cosmogony of educational leadership as a field of study and preparation”, English creates Figure 4 (i.e. The official cosmogony of educational leadership) and explains step‐by‐step that how our ontology (the known world), ideologies, and epistemologies work all together to build a cosmogony in educational leadership. In Chapter 9, “The restoration of human agency: towards the re‐emergence of the arts and humanities in preparing school leaders”, English talks about the effectiveness of leadership and emphasizes the importance of the schools of business or MBA in education in particular for today's preparation of school leaders. He also reminds readers of the two sides of educational leadership and then advocates for what is needed to weave them both for improving the effectiveness of leaders. In Chapter 10, “The need for competing research paradigms”, English discusses the interlocking epistemologies and viewpoints in Figure 4, and uses paradigm terms to illustrate its over‐usage. He especially informs that Kuhn (1962) started to use paradigm which has overwhelmingly been used since 1962. In Chapter 11, “A synoptic manifesto for change in educational administration/leadership”, English questions: “What does it mean to restore human agency in preparation, practice, theory development and research?” (p. 28). He argues that they make up a synoptic manifesto for change in educational administration. He then talks about changes in education and advocates that significant changes come from internal forces. In other words, external forces are not effective as internal forces for educational changes. Finally, he mentions the restoration of human agency and King's version of human agency. In Chapter 12, “A consideration of the false premises which serve to negate the need for a restored perspective of human agency in educational leadership”, English briefly talks about false promises in the preparation of educational leaders and identifies three fallacies that exist.

In Chapter 13, “Steps to restore human agency in theory, research, and practice or good leadership is a total package”, English focuses on the importance of knowledge and understanding in educational administration as a whole and discusses the ideas of efficiency in business and industry and their connection to education. Later, he addresses important innovations and attempts in educational administration such as the principles of scientific management (Taylor, 1911), total quality management, theory movement, organizational theory and so on. He believes that a good leader can make changes in education and this idea must be re‐established in preparation programs, theories and research in educational administration/leadership. He makes some recommendations to conclude the chapter.

In the conclusion chapter of Part I, English claims that there might be some people who would disagree with his ideas and asserts that “we should acknowledge we will face the same assortments of opponents with vested interests and agendas for retaining their own political power and social privileges as educators before us have faced” (p. 46). In this context, he cites Mann: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity”.

Part II of the book focuses on current doctoral dissertations in the field of educational administration. This part includes ten chapters and is written by Papa and English. The title of Part II is “The good, the bad, and the ugly: a critical review of trends in dissertation research in educational administration/leadership 2006‐08”.

In the “Introduction: the ugly”, Papa and English state that they have looked at 1,027 doctoral dissertations (between the years 2006 and 2008 in educational leadership) and examine in‐depth six dissertations in the field of educational leadership. Also, they state that “Our purpose is not to continue bashing the field, but to offer instructive criticism to better ourselves as a profession” (p. 49).

In Chapter 16, “History of the dissertation”, Papa and English shortly talk about the history of PhD/EdD in the field of education. Also, they briefly mentioned the current categories and new designations of institutions. They acknowledged that they used ProQuest (2009), which is a database search engine, in this study. In Chapter 17, “The review criteria”, Papa and English talk about the criteria recommended by AERA scholars and Levin's (2006) six questions in order to increase the qualification of research in educational leadership. Then, they clarify their criteria throughout the chapter and draw upon them to examine the quality of dissertation research in educational administration/ leadership. These criteria are explicit theoretical grounding, differentiated, defined concepts and terms, advances the content and/or boundaries of the field, rigorous methods, and strong implications for improving practice. In Chapter 18, “The approach to assessing current dissertation research”, Papa and English examine the types of dissertation research in the years 2006‐2008, and show the outcomes of their analysis with 2 tables. The title of Table 1 (p. 56) is “Methodological classification and dissertations 2006‐2008 in educational leadership”. In this table, they separate dissertations into mainly three methodological classifications, which are quantitative, qualitative and mixed, and provide some statistical information about them. The second table (p. 57, 58, 59) is entitled “Degrees awarded by Carnegie classification”. In this table, they list some universities and the numbers of EdD and PhD students who have graduated in the field of educational administration/leadership through 2006 to 2008 years. In Chapter 19, “Academic and institutional production centers”, Papa and English talk about the study of Baker et al. (2007) and discuss the change in the production sites of advanced educational degrees in the USA (Academic drift). According to them, the number of degree programs of the profit and online institutions will increase, and therefore most school leaders and even future professors will be prepared by less selective educational institutions. In Chapter 20, “Academic drift or academic riptide? The bad?”, the writers distinguish academic drift and academic riptide. They also talk about profit universities and online institutions, and criticize their qualification. In Chapter 21, “Some examples of dissertation writing”, Papa and English give some sample dissertations for readers. In Chapter 22, “What the dissertations reveal”, Papa and English purport that “The quality of a dissertation is connected to the use of vetted prior research, solid theoretical grounding, and rigorous methods” (p. 73). Furthermore, they criticize that the lack of a well‐built theoretical framework cannot be overshadowed by sophisticated methods and rendered a high quality dissertation. They claim that doing a dissertation research on topics that are less known is much more valuable than doing a research with well‐known topics, and working with new methodologies are better and more useful than common methodologies in the field. In Chapter 23, “Improving doctoral research: avoiding knee jerk solutions”, Papa and English continue their discussion of Chapter 22, and contend that most of the 1,027 dissertations repeat the existing practices of well‐known topics. To change this dichotomy, the writers suggest that institutions need to change their curriculum in the field of educational administration/leadership, and offer new courses instead of traditional ones. In doing so, institutions will open new perspectives in the field. The book ends with Chapter 24, “A comment for the good”, In this final chapter, the writers give their advices to doctoral students on how to write a good dissertation. Also, they briefly describe the chapters of a traditional dissertation and then talk about a line of research within an epistemocratic framework. Finally, at the end of the book, they mention that most graduate students work superficially do not consider epistemocratic suppositions in their research.

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