Jim Spillane’s Latest Book Offers New Approach to Diagnosis and Design for Leading School Improvement

Jim Spillane’s Latest Book Offers New Approach to Diagnosis and Design for Leading School Improvement

Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement
When professor Jim Spillane gave two keynote talks this month at the New Zealand Principals' Federation conference in Wellington, New Zealand, more than 700 principals heard him speak about the need for a new framework for thinking about school leadership and management. His talks highlighted the importance of diagnostic and design work for improving schools, the subject of his latest book.

Spillane’s new book, Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement: Using a Distributed Perspective to Lead and Manage Change, offers a fresh perspective for school leaders. Co-authored with Amy Coldren (PhD07), an alumna of the SESP Human Development and Social Policy program, the book is being released this month by Teacher’s College Press.

“In this book we argue that diagnosis and design are core aspects of leading and managing schools. Further, school leaders need to consider different sorts of data — not just student achievement data — in this endeavor,” the authors say. They maintain that although today’s school leaders are under pressure to improve student learning, they cannot simply adopt pre-packaged reforms but instead must understand how to diagnose the best solutions for their own schools and convert those diagnoses into effective designs and redesigns

Spillane's ideas are grounded in more than a decade of empirical research on the practice of leading and managing in various schools in the United States, and they provide specific strategies and examples related to using a distributed perspective to lead school improvement. “Here is a book that will help leaders go deeper and will equip them with ideas for thinking about and combating superficial solutions,” comments reviewer Michael Fullan, professor emeritus at University of Toronto.

Jim Spillane
Spillane is the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Chair in Learning and Organizational Change at Northwestern University and a professor in both the Human Development and Social Policy program and Learning Sciences program at the School of Education and Social Policy. He is principal investigator of the Distributed Leadership Studies, a program of research that investigates the practice of school leadership and management in schools. His books include Distributed Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2006) and Distributed Leadership in Practice (Teachers College Press, 2007).

Spillane's work explores the policy implementation process at the state, school district, school and classroom levels. He has worked to develop a cognitive perspective on the implementation process, exploring how local policy-makers, both administrators and teachers, come to understand state and national reforms. He is also interested in organizational leadership and change; his work conceptualizes organizational leadership as a distributed practice involving formal and informal leaders, followers and a variety of organizational tools and artifacts. His most recent projects include a social network analysis of mathematics advice structures in elementary schools, an evaluation of how kernel organizational routines can develop leadership practice and improve student achievement in schools, and an examination of the preparation, recruitment and retention of school principals. 

Coldren is an administrator and teacher at Frederick Community College in Frederick, Maryland. Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement is available through the Teachers College Press web site at www.tcpress.com.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 5/4/11