Values, vision and action at Texas Tech University
“A shift in mindset reconditioning our brains.”
That’s how a site coordinator, who has been at Texas Tech for 11 years, described the remarkable change that has occurred in the university’s teacher-preparation programs over the past five years. The programs had been struggling — relationships with partner districts had weakened, and data on graduates suggested that they weren’t prepared for their jobs.
That changed when a new dean came to town. Dean Scott Ridley was hired in 2011. Just a year later, Texas Tech launched a pilot of Tech Teach, a clinically-intensive model of teacher preparation, adapted from the iTeachAZ model Dean Ridley helped to design and implement while at Arizona State University. By 2013, all teacher-education candidates were participating in the new model.
Dean Ridley had a supportive university administration and an existing teacher-preparation model from which to draw. But he also needed faculty and staff on board, as they were the ones who would be transforming his vision into a reality.
As we’ve worked with educator-preparation leaders through our Impact Academy, this question has come up frequently: How can leaders engage faculty and staff so they all row in the same direction? After spending time at Texas Tech, what stood out as an important aspect of Dean Ridley’s leadership was the alignment between his values, vision, and actions.
Values. Or, why are you in the boat?
Dean Ridley is from Texas, and he took the job at Texas Tech because he wanted to improve the lives of children in his home communities. He is driven by issues of equity and has pushed for all programs to be anchored on serving kids, families, and communities effectively. Dean Ridley never lets his team forget why they’re engaged in the transformative work, nor the sense of urgency that is driving them. Every conversation our team had with him returned back to the K-12 students in the districts with which Texas Tech partners.
Vision. Or, where is the boat headed?
Dean Ridley’s vision for the College of Education stems directly from his deeply held values and beliefs: he wants the College to produce the measurably best educators, to develop programming that meet the specific needs of schools and communities, and to produce applied and useful research that can benefit those communities. And he’s been clear about that vision, even before he was hired. During the search process, he kept telling people who interviewed him, “Don’t hire me if you don’t want me to actually do these things.” Ridley’s ability to consistently link his values to his vision helps to define the direction in which faculty and staff need to row.
Action. Or, let’s row. Together.
Dean Ridley is certainly more interested in action than words. That initially surprised people at Texas Tech; one faculty member told us, “Deans don’t usually do what they say they’re going to do. He did.” And he expects the same sort of action from others. A site coordinator told us, “Dean Ridley said, ‘We’re going there. We have to go there.’ We didn’t go halfway.”
Dean Ridley has not only communicated his values and laid out a vision for his team — he’s in the boat right alongside them. He’s delivered on the promises he made during the hiring process, securing funding for the work, raising the national profile of the College, and recognizing and validating the hard work of his faculty and staff. And he has picked up an oar, engaging in the same new learning he’s asking of his team:
- Tech Teach focuses on developing in candidates a set of competencies defined by modified version of the TAP rubric. The rubric has created a common language around excellent novice teaching, which has begun to create coherence within programs. To develop norms around this common vision and language for teaching, all of the College’s faculty and staff got trained on the TAP rubric…and Dean Ridley got TAP-certified as well.
- Texas Tech created regular Data Days for site coordinators to explain how they used data to improve their coaching of student-teachers. In these meetings, they presented directly to Dean Ridley, who signaled through his presence that using data to improve practice was critically important. Now Texas Tech is pushing to define how data should be informing the practice of all members of the unit, from teacher-candidates all the way up to Dean Ridley, and how that data use will be made visible to all.
- Many teacher-preparation programs I’ve visited struggle with shifting from using data for compliance to using data to learn and improve. “Compliance” wasn’t mentioned once on my visit to Texas Tech. Ridley told me, “I never talk about compliance. Compliance strangles innovation.” And that attitude has permeated throughout the organization.
The educator-preparation leaders we work with think a lot about they can move people from vision to action. As Dean Ridley has shown, a leader that aligns values, vision, and action can demonstrate what’s most important to the organization – and that change requires new learning of everybody, no matter what seat you’re in. And this can spur a dramatic transformation in an educator-preparation program.
If you’re a dean interested in participating in the next Impact Academy cohort, sign up for more information here.