2012 Doctoral Marshal: Jennie WeinerBy newseditor
Doctoral candidate and new mom to twin boys Jennie Weiner, Ed.M.’03, likes to joke that she gave birth three times this year. “The hardest was the dissertation,” she quips. Even though Weiner’s dissertation has been complete for many months, she still can’t believe that her time at HGSE is coming to an end. “I can’t tell if it’s Stockholm Syndrome,” she says. “I’ve been here longer than any other place since college.”
After working as a middle school and high school ancient history teacher, the New York native enrolled in the Ed School and graduated with her master’s in 2003. She went on to work at the Teacher Advancement Programs at the Milken Family Foundation, where she found herself asking many questions about organizational structure and the career ladder of teachers, particularly the support of teacher leaders and the growth of the profession. This prompted her return to HGSE to earn a doctorate.
Her dissertation, Investigating Instructional Leadership Teams in Action: The Impact of School Context on Team Functioning and Authority, explores the introduction of Instructional Leadership Teams (ILT) and the factors that affect their processes and approaches to implementing strategy in schools. Weiner’s studied and interviewed members of four ILTs in four, in-district charter schools in a large, northeastern city.
“These teams and schools have myriad goals to improve teacher instruction,” Weiner says. “But despite that being a goal that is not what they are doing.”
Through Weiner’s research, she discovered that often ILT members are not authorized to make decisions that impact instruction. Instead these decisions are left in the hands of principals. Therefore, ILTs provide a place for discussion but ultimately leave team members unable to truly capitalize and make decisions that would positively impact teacher instructional practice.
“There is a number of things school and district leaders want to consider before implementing leadership teams,” Weiner says. “These include the degree to which traditional professional norms in education persist in the school; for example, the degree to which the principal tends to utilize a more hierarchical model of leadership, as well as why and how members are selected to the team. Offering alternatives to these traditional modes of operating may make it more likely that these teams will be capable of leading and implementing instructional reform thus improving educational outcomes for kids.”
Weiner plans to continue her research in this area in the coming months. As she prepares to participate as marshal in this week’s Commencement ceremonies, she is finding her final farewell bittersweet. “The cohort experience was the most powerful experience,” she says. “I’ve learned so much from them. I am flabbergasted and honored. It’s been a privilege to work with so many amazing people who are passionate about education. It’s invigorating, exciting, and I will miss that.”