Professionals in education are responsible for children’s opportunities to acquire knowledge. With that in mind, leaders are to do their best to deal with challenges surrounding decision-making processes. This synthesis statement describes critical ideas related to the topic and links the found themes to issues and problems in everyday practice. The most common challenges reported by educational leaders include teachers’ attitudes to work, access to technology, knowledge gaps, and time management.
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The modern academic literature offers a range of perspectives that can raise the knowledge level of people fulfilling socially responsible jobs. For instance, in their qualitative study on issues surrounding data-based decision-making in school contexts, Reeves and Burt (2006) attempt at summarizing school principals’ opinion about the problem. The selection of the specific topic results from a thorough analysis of themes and research questions that are popular in educational research.
As of 2006, such themes included the applications of systematic data in education, competencies expected of principals in the age of information, and challenges faced by educational leaders (Reeves & Burt, 2006). Particular challenges, including principals’ need to create links between loosely coupled systems and ensure flexibility at the systems level, were identified in prior research conducted in the 1990s (Reeves & Burt, 2006). There are clear consistencies between these themes and the results of the cited study.
The source adds to the body of knowledge by classifying decision-making challenges. Based on qualitative interviews with school principals in Michigan, these issues are associated with four themes. Firstly, they are linked with “little common understanding” between principals and teachers that is often caused by knowledge gaps in professional communication, data analysis, and other spheres (Reeves & Burt, 2006, p. 67).
Secondly, there are issues involving teachers and students, such as the ineffective use of test results and students’ inability to see the pragmatic value of tests (Reeves & Burt, 2006). The third theme, “data overflow and similar barriers,” refers to factors that prevent effective decision-making, including scarce options to use data, large amounts of unstructured and uncertified data, and access to modern and effective technology (Reeves & Burt, 2006, p. 68).
Fourthly, task overload reduces the amount of time that teachers can devote to data analysis, implementation, and intraprofessional collaboration, thus affecting their morale and responses to stress. Based on that, targeted education on data collection, the development of problem-solving competencies in teachers, and schedule restructuring are to improve the situation.
The main theoretical points distinguished by the researchers are highly applicable to everyday practice in teaching. Working as a special education teacher in an elementary school in Virginia, I understand the practical importance of four types of decision-making challenges identified by Reeves and Burt (2006). At the moment, my professional experience with both special needs children and juvenile offenders prevents me from making significant mistakes in decision-making.
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However, I am aware of the way that challenges listed by Reeves and Burt (2006) affect educational leaders’ work. The first factor that should be considered in this regard is the development of information technology and data analysis tools. In 2019, technology allows collecting and analyzing large amounts of data, including information on students’ academic progress, teachers’ workload, and similar issues in a prompt manner. It makes the issue of flexibility and the third theme outlined by Reeves and Burt (2006) go into the background.
In the beginning of my career at the Yorktown Elementary School, I encountered some of the problems mentioned in the study. For instance, the “teacher and principal knowledge” theme was present in the form of minor disagreements between the school leader and the teachers related to the most crucial aspects of academic performance (Reeves & Burt, 2006, p. 67).
Concerning the second theme, problems involving students and teachers, I always try to link test results to particular pupils’ talents and weaknesses to come up with specific recommendations to be shared with parents and other school staff members. In their study, Reeves and Burt (2006) problematize teachers’ unwillingness to perceive knowledge tests as an information source. Regarding professional dispositions and competencies, to me, being able to extract valuable data from test results is among the key characteristics of successful teachers.
Finally, the fourth theme referring to time encourages me to single out some areas for improvement. Apart from the provision of instructional support, my current responsibilities include collaborating with administrative staff and other decision-makers to develop and improve IEPs. In some instances, arriving at a consensus takes more time than it should, thus leading to task overload. To improve the situation, I am planning to perfect my negotiation and communication skills, as well as pay more attention to the understandability of conclusions that I present to other parties. Therefore, the most effective communication strategies in aided education contexts will be among my research interests.
In conclusion, decision-making in school settings involves a variety of challenges, ranging from professionals’ knowledge level to the effective use of time. To stay successful, educational leaders are expected to be good at communication, technologically literate, and ready to learn. Working with special needs students, I experience time management difficulties due to the need for intraprofessional communication. The development of new communication and negotiation competencies can help eliminate such problems.
Reeves, P. L., & Burt, W. L. (2006). Challenges in data-based decision-making: Voices from principals. Educational Horizons, 85(1), 65-71.