Faculty in the School of Education believe we must create a learning community in which stakeholders collaborate to improve programs.
The construct of stakeholder collaboration to strengthen programs has a solid conceptual base in two converging streams of thought: what is right and what is effective.
What is right is anchored in the principles of participatory democracy. From as far back as our Constitution, we have precedent for stakeholder collaboration: “…the question of who should be involved in decisions and in what ways can only be resolved by weighing the interests at stake and endeavoring to create a mechanism for taking those interests into account and balancing them against each other. The Constitution of the United States is an excellent example of such a mechanism” (Schlecty, 1990). Historically, Dewey’s work gave voice anew to the belief in a participatory democracy (Dewey, 1916). Most currently, many of our contemporary leaders in the field of organizational change argue for the ethic of community, an ethic that is sustained over time by involving people in the decisions that affect their professional lives (Sergiovanni, 2000; Fullan, 2001; Kanter, 1997; Darling-Hammond, 2003; Barth, 2002; Wandersman et al, 1996). Sergiovanni captures the spirit of contemporary writers when he says that we should think of schools (and other organizations) as:
Learning communities where students and other members of the school community are committed to thinking, growing, and inquiring…
Collegial communities where members are connected to each other for mutual benefit and to pursue common goals by a sense of interdependence and mutual obligation
Inclusive communities where economic, religious, cultural, ethnic, family, and other differences are brought together into a mutually respectful whole (Sergiovanni, 2000, pp. 59-60).
A second stream of thought about stakeholder collaboration focuses on what is effective. Although research in the private sector has a long-standing track record documenting the effectiveness of stakeholder involvement (e.g., Baldridge and Deal, 1975; Kanter, 1983; March and Olson, 1976; Weick, 1976), within the public sector stakeholder collaboration is a relatively new concept, particularly in relation to organizational effectiveness. In their ground-breaking work, Reinventing Government, Osborne and Gaebler (1992) cite numerous documented examples from city sanitation departments to school districts and universities that organizational effectiveness is improved if stakeholder involvement becomes a norm for planning, organizing and communicating within the organization. One of the first studies of stakeholder participation in school districts was launched by the Rand Corporation in 1989. A team of researchers studied five major urban and suburban school systems that had adopted stakeholder participation in the form of shared decision-making. The findings support the effectiveness of shared decision-making in order to better serve students’ needs and to take responsibility for results (Hill and Bonan, 1991). Recent studies corroborate the finding that involving stakeholders in the decision-making process will lead to better decisions on how to improve our programs (Fullan, 2001; Johnson, D. & Johnson, R., 1989).
Because we believe it is the right and effective thing to do, the School of Education is committed to taking the necessary steps, such as seeking feedback concerning the performance of our graduates, inviting stakeholders to serve on various boards and committees, and soliciting feedback from students regarding the quality of our programs, all of which is directed toward improving the quality of our programs, which in turn will improve student learning.