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Impact Academy supports Purdue University dean in leading ed-prep innovation

Deans for Impact

Category: Leadership

When Dr. Nancy Marchand-Martella committed to Impact Academy, she knew the leadership development experience would be her secret weapon to address the biggest challenge she faced as dean of the College of Education at Purdue University: a total program redesign termed “innovation initiative.”

Impact Academy brings together leaders in educator-preparation, creating space for them over the course of a year to ask and answer their big questions. And Dr. Marchand-Martella had a big question: How do I lead the college through an innovation initiative that will impact the learning and preparation of teacher candidates?

The teacher-preparation program at Purdue University needed a redesign to better prepare teacher candidates for the challenges of current and future classroom environments. Teacher-candidates needed more hands-on, clinical experiences in classrooms and opportunities to explore the landscape of the local community. Ideas that used to work — such as the premise that teaching would always occur in person — needed to be updated with fresh strategies.

Some programs opt to do this work through our Learning by Scientific Design Network, which brings together cohorts of educator-preparation programs in two-year cycles to redesign their coursework and instructional approach. But Dr. Marchand-Martella knew that in this case, change needed to start with her.

One of the first steps in Impact Academy is to examine the self. Leaders consider questions such as,“Who am I, and what do I value? How do others perceive me? What’s my role as a leader?

That self-assessment, combined with feedback from her leadership team, helped Dr. Marchand-Martella to reaffirm her areas of effectiveness and locate potential blindspots.

After this self-reflection, Dr. Marchand-Martella moved into contextual analysis, exploring questions such as, “Who are our partners? What values do we share? What kind of teachers do we want to prepare together?” These questions helped her identify faculty and staff, current students, alumni, school district personnel (e.g., teachers, principals, superintendents), and legislators as important partners to engage during the reinvention process.

With a firm sense of the lay of the land, she then moved into strategic thinking, asking the “how” and the “why” questions: “How do I energize and involve people to take action? Why is this work urgent?

As she wrestled with these questions, she found her coach, Dr. Bill McDiarmid, to be an invaluable resource.

The innovation initiative took a full two and a half years to complete, as Dr. Marchand-Martella led her team to negotiate tough questions, seek solutions, and redefine educator-preparation for a new generation. The updated program will launch in the fall of 2021.

As she leads the college into the future, Dr. Marchand-Martella will use the skills she learned at Impact Academy to sustain improvement, helping the team to define success and continue to iterate based on new data and evidence.