5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership

Leadership is clearly more than seniority, a title and power. It’s a multi-faceted topic that leaders themselves are interested in studying, including Teresa Goode, faculty member at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. Here, she shares tips on how she’s been able to apply a modern model of leadership to real people.

5 Practices of Exemplary LeadershipWhen scanning stories about Angelina Jolie over the last few months, a question occurred to me. How did she transform from a wild young starlet, known for wearing her husband’s blood in a vial around her neck and kissing her brother on the lips, into a world-renowned humanitarian, movie star, mother of six and spokesperson who bravely announced her mastectomy? As I pondered this, I realized that Jolie is actually what I call a “transformational leader” and clearly demonstrates one of the transformational leadership models that I teach here in the Masters of Science in Leadership program at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. The model is called the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

While I knew this leadership model, developed by James Kouses and Barry Posner and described in their work The Leadership Challenge, applied to organizational leaders, Jolie helped me understand how it can apply to people in all walks of life.

Let’s explore the five practices as they relate to all kinds of leaders:

Model the Way

Leaders who model the way, exhibit two key behaviors. They “Clarify their Values” and “Set an Example.” Their actions are aligned with their values. When Jolie, one of the sexiest women in the world, announced that she had a double mastectomy and wanted to use her experience as a teachable moment to help other women, it was a powerful example of modeling the way.

Inspire a Shared Vision

Kouzes and Posner identify “Envisioning the Way” and “Enlisting Others” as two ways leaders can inspire a shared vision. Bill and Melinda Gates immediately come to my mind. They’ve established for their foundation a clear vision focusing on five areas: Global Development, Global Health, U.S. programs, Global Policy and Advocacy. They’ve also convinced other wealthy people, such as warren Buffet, to donate part of their fortune to their foundation.

Challenge the Process

How many of you reading this blog have an iPhone, iPad or Apple computer? Or perhaps the devices you use are enabled by the technology Apple developed.  The transformation in technology wouldn’t be available if Steve Jobs had not “Searched for Opportunities” and “Experimented and Taken Risks”—two behaviors of exemplary leaders.

Enable Others to Act

Nelson Mandela, the iconic South African leader, exemplifies this. By “Fostering Collaboration” and “Strengthening Others,” he was able to successfully lead South Africa through the dismantling of apartheid while encouraging racial reconciliation.

Encourage the Heart

Leaders encourage the heart by “Recognizing the Contributions of Others” and by “Celebrating the Use of Values and Victories.” When thinking about his practice, I glanced at the Mighty Mouse trophy I won during one of my favorite jobs. I have long forgotten the accomplishment we celebrated, but I clearly remember the spirit of community and appreciation I felt when I won the award.

How about you? Can you think of a leader, friend, peer or family member who exhibits one or more of the practices of Exemplary Leadership?…

Survey Says: Analog-centric Academics and Popular Perceptions

We do hope you’re sitting down for this one, folks. A recent story in the Higher Education section of The Economist is blowing the lid off a secret that has been kept tight for centuries. Ready? The world of academia does not always enthusiastically rush to embrace change.

Now, listen—if your pulse is still racing, you might not want to read the story itself; we’re happy to provide a summary. The piece is called “Learned Luddites,” with the subhead, “Many professors are hostile to online education.” But before you lunge for the panic button, allow us to provide some context from the story itself.

A recent study of faculty attitudes to technology by the online publication Inside Higher Ed found much skepticism about MOOCs…

Survey Says: Analog-centric Academics and Popular PerceptionsThis will come as little surprise to anyone who’s been following the increasingly wide inroads that MOOCs and online education have been making into traditional curricula—or to anyone who has spent time in higher ed. The San Jose State and UMass Amherst stories in particular will be familiar to regular Aspire readers, as will our perspective on the benefits offered by online higher ed, such as web-based tools for instructors and integrated experiential learning.

In any case, it looks like the title of the Economist story is on the mark—so far. However, let’s pick up that sentence where we left off.

…but also that staff who have actually taught on them are far more positive about their quality.

Seems like the jury is still out. Here’s another excerpt:

Nishikant Sonwalkar, the editor of MOOCs Forum, says professors do not want to teach on courses they did not create. At the same time they are concerned about “academic marginalization.”

The piece goes on to note that UMass President Emeritus Jack Wilson compares online courses to textbooks; after all, most instructors use textbooks, but very few of them write their own. Which is a fair point, but on the other hand, one text does not an entire semester make: Textbooks and other resources are what instructors combine to create their own courses and curricula. (A fairer comparison might be to a recipe; different cooks may use the same tools and ingredients to make the same dish, yet can come up with vastly different results.)

In other news, while the Economist equivocates, a post at the Chronicle of Higher Education on a recent Gallup poll indicates—at first glance, anyway—that opinion isn’t so evenly divided.

In early October, Gallup asked two groups, each composed of more than 1,000 adults, whether they thought “online education is better” in a series of categories. In terms of “providing a wide range of options for curriculum” and “good value for the money,” online education got slightly better scores than traditional classroom-based education.

But online education scored much worse in four areas: delivering “instruction tailored to each individual,” providing “high-quality instruction from well-qualified instructors,” offering “rigorous testing and grading that can be trusted,” and—finally, worst of all—dispensing “a degree that will be viewed positively by employers.”

The story doesn’t stop there; traditional bricks-and-mortar colleges (from, as far as we can tell, the Ivy League to the local community college) also came out looking better than their digital counterparts:

Only a third of the respondents rated online programs as “excellent” or “good,” while 68 percent gave excellent or good ratings to four-year colleges and universities, and 64 percent gave such ratings to community colleges.

All of this would seem daunting to anyone invested in the future of online education, except for one thing—here’s an excerpt from the Gallup survey’s notes on methodology:

Results from the Oct. 3-6, 2013, Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both and cellphone mostly).

It looks pretty exhaustive, but what’s missing? Any indication of the participants’ familiarity with higher …

Observations on Online Experiential Learning

The following are excerpts from a paper I’ve been writing with my colleague Anne Hammer at the Northeastern College of Professional Studies (CPS).

Experiential education is a holistic philosophy with carefully chosen experiences supported by reflection, critical analysis and syntheses. In more simplistic terms, experiences are structured to require the learner to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for the results. This is done through active inquiry, investigation, experimentation, problem solving, assuming responsibility, demonstrating creativity, constructing meaning and integrating previously developed knowledge.

Many colleges, including Northeastern University, offer co-ops and experience in the real world, meaning students get real jobs where they apply what they’re learning in school directly to the workplace.

In some situations, like those of post-traditional graduate students who already have jobs, families and other time-consuming commitments, this kind of workplace immersion is challenging to organize and may be unfeasible. Given that challenge, we’ve been looking at ways students can gain that invaluable online experiential learning (OEL) experience while they’re taking a fully online course.

(For details, see our post on CPS’ new online experiential learning pilot project, which is pushing the concept forward.)

An optimal experiential learning environment is one in which students are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, politically, spiritually and physically in an uncertain environment—one where decision-making and risk-taking result in success or failure, which then provide opportunities for reflection. My initiative in fixing copy machines is legend around these parts—borne of experiential learning!

Learning usually involves interaction: between learners, learner and educator, and learner and environment. It challenges the learner to explore issues of values, relationship, diversity, inclusion and community. The educator’s primary roles include selecting suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries, supporting learners, insuring physical and emotional safety, facilitating the learning process, guiding reflection and providing the necessary information. Concrete learning plus abstract thinking is key: If I can fix the copy machine, then the coffee maker exploding is unlikely to faze me.

The following diagram represents the development of successful experiential experiences. It looks a little dry and academic, but when printed out it makes a lovely drinks coaster.


As we consider the transition of courses and curricula from the face-to-face traditional campus to hybrid and online markets, we have to consider how well “experiential” can become online experiential learning  and what we need to bring about to make it a focused concept.

In order to review the effectiveness of OEL, we reviewed the literature, interviewed colleagues at schools with reputations for “experiential” and developed a tool to critically assess current online courses. As we put together recommendations for Northeastern’s foray into OEL, we focused on the design and delivery components of OEL.

Experiential Matrix

In an attempt to quantify a course’s “Experiential Value” (EV), rating we developed a set of questions assessed by independent advisors using a 1-5 Likert scale. While our review illustrated inherent strengths of the model as currently implemented, it also indicated areas where we can improve.

The assessment criteria were:

1) Are the materials appropriate/suited to the context of the course?
2) Is the main task and its outcomes aligned with stated course objectives?

3) Does the student play an active, rather than a passive part in the task or problem?

4) Does the activity involve a cognitive dimension?
5) Does the activity involve interpersonal and other non-cognitive skills?

6) Does the student interact with other students (applied experiential)?
7) Does the student interact with client(s) or other outside entities?

8) What is the degree of authenticity? (real-world or real-world-like interaction)
9) Is there a propensity for adversity, glitches or other real-world-like unexpected events?

10) Does the experience require abstraction or reflection on the experience: successes and failures?
11) Is there a discussion or other activity involving stimulating questions pertaining to the experience?

12) Is the student encouraged to apply abstractions or non-cognitive skills learned to novel problems?
13) Is the student encouraged to apply new cognitive skills based on the main task to novel problems?

Our analysis proved that online education does have intrinsic advantages on the experiential front given the nature and format of class discussions, including a multitude of varying life experiences and reflections. Now’s not

Is there really such a thing as a nontraditional student?

Every so often, a really bad name for something is contrived and somehow becomes acceptable. That is, until years later, when its legitimacy is eventually questioned and, ultimately, changed. In the breakfast cereal world, for example, Golden Crisp suffered from the ultra-sweet name of Super Sugar Crisp for nearly 20 years before parents began to question whether giving “super sugar” to their children was the best idea. The cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. provide another good example. From 1963 to 1997, the region’s professional basketball team was named the Bullets until the team’s ownership advocated for a less violent name.

I’d like to add another example from the higher education realm to this list: the phrase “nontraditional student”—a long-used naming convention to describe a category of students attending postsecondary education who are not like the “normal” college students. But unlike Super Sugar Crisp and the Washington Bullets, the name may be more than a just poor choice: it’s more of a complete misnomer.

“Nontraditional student” is commonly used to describe an enormous category of undergraduate college students who are unlike the “traditional” students who enroll in college full-time immediately after completing a high school education, are dependent on parents for financial support and don’t work full time. The term is widely used in the press—the Washington Post even used “nontrads” in a recent article—as well as by universities and even by the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics in its reporting and research initiatives. In short, the name is a widely acceptable and an officially codified way to describe a group of students. It’s also a name that needs to be changed.

There are two main reasons why it needs to be exiled to the Island of Bad Names. First, the name is not even remotely accurate. Super Sugar Crisp may have been really sugary and Mister Salty Pretzel Twists (another terribly named product) may have been really salty. And MOOCs (another horrible name that’s sprung from the higher education world) may be online, massive and open. But “nontraditional students” are not actually nontraditional.  On the contrary, they are the established norm in higher education. The Department of Education has reported that 73 percent of undergraduate college students fall into the nontraditional category, and the Council of Graduate Schools has documented the continued rise in the numbers of nontraditional graduate students. Second, and perhaps more important, is that the phrase nontraditional is a terrible way to describe someone. Who, really, wants to be labeled as nontraditional? Is this a label that anyone would embrace?

How have we gone for so long thinking that it is a good idea to label a category of our students as non-traditionalists? There are few others in society that seem to widely embrace this adjective. Google “nontraditional” and you’ll find that eight of the first 10 search results all reference “nontraditional students.”  You know what this tells me? No other industry sector besides ours thinks it’s a good idea to label something (worse yet, someone) as nontraditional. In using this term, we are unintentionally marginalizing the population of individuals we seek to recognize.

It’s time that higher education stop using the term altogether. If students are at the center of what we do and we want to make our students—regardless of their age, enrollment status or financial standing—feel like a welcomed part of our institutions, then let’s agree to use more flattering ways to describe them. Let’s put our minds together and think about how students we seek to enroll, retain and graduate would like to be identified. If we want to encourage students of all types to enroll in our programs, let’s show them that we value them by giving them a proper name. I’ve got a few ideas that have nothing to do with breakfast cereal or professional sports teams, and I’ll share those in a future post.

If you have a suggestion, please share it here. In the meantime, I’ll continue to find ways to provide educational access for nontraditional students at Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies while watching old highlights of the Washington Bullets and eating a bowl of Super Sugar Crisp cereal.…