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A Model for Educational Leadership in Rural Appalachia

2 March, 2015 - 11:07
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This section will briefly explore a model of educational leadership proposed for educators serving in rural Appalachia (Johnson et al. 2009). Johnson et al. proposed a model of leadership that is organized around three components: knowledge, people, and place. This model, while unique, includes components of cultural responsiveness and social justice. It has the dual goals of developing "leaders who can move forward educational goals while contributing to sustaining and revitalizing rural communities" (para. 6).

The first component of this model is knowledge (Johnson et al., 2009). Johnson et al. proposed a construct termed systemic knowledge. Systemic knowledge combines traditional academic or curricular knowledge with contextual knowledge. Contextual knowledge is that knowledge which is learned informally and connects with place and culture. Johnson et al. argued that systemic knowledge prepares students for the variety of contexts in which they will live their lives while honoring the culture of the student. Honoring their culture, the authors argued, teaches the students that they and their culture are important. Leaders must understand, according to the authors, that knowledge is power and that power can work to help marginalized students overcome inequities. With greater emphasis upon state academic standards and assessments, devoting time and resources to contextual knowledge will require strong leadership.

The second component of the model is place (Johnson et al., 2009). The authors argued that standard curricula and instruction have created a situation in which students from substantially different places receive substantially identical educational experiences. Johnson et al. acknowledged the need for basic skills, but pointed out that marginalized populations, such as those in rural Appalachia, may not connect with or have their needs fully met by the standard curricula. He argued that place based learning strategies that include standard academic content, but also emphasize the local community and service learning could better address the needs of students.

Johnson et al. (2009) argued for an expanded role of the school as a community center. They described the concept of place conscious capacity building as including three things to support community:

(a) professional development for educators that addresses the specific characteristics of a particular place,

(b) broadened, meaningful roles for community members within the school, and

(c) structures that lead to long term improvements in student and community outcomes.

Johnson et al. argued that this expanded role is especially important in rural Appalachia because of the lack of other "institutional places" (para. 13).

The third component of the model is people (Johnson et al., 2009). Johnson et al. described its people as "the primary asset to benefit schools and communities in rural Appalachia" (para. 14). They emphasized locating and building relationships with those outside the school who have legitimate, authentic leadership authority. Additionally, the authors argued that educational leaders should use their authority to empower and advocate for the people in their community.