In response to the problems and opportunities identified in the field of educational leadership in Serbia, the project aims to develop a modern and flexible joint Master-level program in Educational Leadership. The program would be comprised of 60 ECTS and be primarily intended for current principals, vice-principals, school team leaders, aspiring future educational leaders, employees in state and private local, regional and national educational institutions, educational NGOs, and others. Select courses in the Master program would be also registered and offered as professional development courses. The first part of the project in regards to development WPs – needs analysis and state of art review, creation of the concept of the master program, development of syllabi, teaching methods and materials, as well as training of teacher/mentors – will be undertaken from M1 to M22. The program would be implemented from M23 onwards. In addition, the project will develop a network of collaborators that will work jointly on enhancing discourse and policy options in educational leadership in Serbia.
The project will be comprised of the following elements:
1) Assessment of the needs of current principals and other education leaders in regards to Serbian Standards of competencies, competencies established by research and the demands of their work will be undertaken. 100 principals and other leaders will respond to the questionnaire developed for this purpose, while 20 principals will participate in focus groups; the analysis of their responses will be taken as one strand of evidence in deliberations on the master program concept (WP1).
2) Review of current research on educational leadership and on the most effective educational leadership preparation programs will be undertaken, with implications for the development of the master program (WP1).
3) Based on the above, the concept and the structure of the program will be developed (WP1). The expertise of Consortium suggests that the program should satisfy the following:
a) Be built around standards (in addition to all NEC Standards for competencies of principals, additional research-based roles of effective principals and also other educational leaders will be addressed); the competencies will serve as the learning outcomes which will drive the creation of courses that will have properly assigned ECTS based on the required workload;
b) Intertwine strong theoretical foundation with practical placements in schools and in regional school authorities;
c) Rely on experienced mentors to be role models and professional support for the master program students;
d) Provide flexibility of learning pathways for different needs and roles of learners (e.g., school middle management; experienced principals, educational leaders in school governance; high school principals, elementary school principals, etc);
e) Utilize a wide variety of teaching methods.
4) Following the establishment of the concept and structure of the program, detailed syllabi and teaching materials and methods will be developed (WP2). This will be the primary task of the PC university staff, as that will ensure learning-by-doing and ownership on their part. Considering that the program will be a joint program, the strengths of each professor/university will be matched to the appropriate course, so as to ensure a very high quality of the program and enable a wide range of coursework to be offered.
5) In parallel to the development of syllabi, materials and methods, rigorous training of trainers (25 university professors and researchers as teachers, 25 experienced principals and 25 employees in local and regional school authorities as mentors) will take place (WP3). Trainings will be led by EU partners, but will be highly interactive. The trainings will be tailor-made to fit the concept of the master program, and will both raise teachers’ & mentors’ own leadership competencies and train them to be teachers & mentors to the Master program and PD courses students. The upgrading of skills and competencies will be also increased through mobility and exchange of good practices with EU partners during visits to NSO, UJ and SZTE.
6) Fifty students will be selected into the Master program and twenty-five for the PD courses based on their grades, prior experiences, potential to reach a large number of teachers and students, and other criteria. After the students are selected, the program will be implemented starting in M23 (WP4). To be able to satisfy the requirements listed under point 3, the Master program is envisioned to contain core courses, several elective modules, elective courses and a Master thesis. The division between the core courses, elective modules & courses, and master thesis will approximately be 18 ECTS: 24 ECTS: 18 ECTS (respectively), but this will be precisely determined in the first part of the project. Practical part of the program may be developed either as a component of several modules/courses, or as a stand-alone course. It will occur in regional school authorities, schools of principal mentors or students’ own schools (if they work), and be overseen by the mentors trained in WP3. Importantly, since each course will be developed to address certain competency(ies), or parts thereof, the students will be able to select exactly those courses that would allow them to acquire competencies they lack. Select courses in the Master program (likely totaling 24 ECTS) that are deemed most applicable to the general population of principals (and that, together, would fulfill all NEC Standards for competencies) will be also registered in the official Catalogue for professional development (as individual PD courses), so that they are visible to all teachers and principals in the education system and can be used in piecemeal fashion to build NEC-prescribed competencies of persons that do not desire to enroll in the entire Master program. The credit earned in this way can be later recognized should the person decide to enroll in the Master program. Additional select Master courses targeting school governance will also be registered and offered as PD courses to enhance LLL opportunities of educational administrators.
Topics in the coursework will preliminarily address: transformational, instructional and integrated leadership; roles of educational leaders; school-based management; school administration and finances; school improvement; school culture; adult learning; needs assessment and data analysis for improvement purposes; effective teaching practices; teacher professional development; teacher evaluation mechanisms; student assessment; classroom management; psychology of learning; interpersonal interactions; parental and community involvement; education policy; innovation, and entrepreneurship. Also essential themes are: equity; early interventions; giftedness, and ICT.
The coursework will consist of lectures, plenary discussions, workshops, case studies, management game, school visits, peer learning in small groups, problem-based learning, brainstorming, role play, personal feedback, reflection, assignments, personal development plans and independent study.
The courses will be offered by live video link between participating institutions, which will greatly enable use of ICT in teaching (e.g., video-clips, interactive web sites, online tools). This will increase student participation in and motivation for the coursework. In addition, this form of distance learning will allow students across Serbia, enrolled at any PC institution to attend any course in the program, enhancing equity and flexibility of learning pathways. Moodle – a free source e-learning software platform – will be used for discussion forums, file sharing, assignment submission, grading and announcements; this will increase peer learning and internal motivation of students.
An important part of the implementation of the Master program will be the internship of the 20 students at NSO, UJ and SZTE for which they will be awarded credits. This is expected to raise the internationalization of the higher education system in Serbia and help overall quality of the program.
7) In order to ensure wider development and visibility of educational leadership, the network of collaborators (partners in this project at first) will be established in order to tackle issues in educational leadership in Serbia (WP5). The network will bridge the theory / academia and practice / schools divide and utilize both to start examining a variety of issues in educational leadership in Serbia and suggest research- and practice-based recommendations for their improvement. It is also expected that participation in the network will increase intrinsic motivation of participants.
There will also be cross-cutting activities / WPs that will run over the entire project lifespan: Quality Assurance (WP6), Dissemination (WP7), Exploitation (WP8) and Management (WP9).
Formative evaluation of the project will be undertaken by the staff on an on-going basis, and quality of the project results specifically addressed at the Consortium meetings, so that immediate decisions can be made on how to correct any inadequacies. In order to ensure institutionalization of high quality QA procedures for the program in Serbia, current QA procedures in place at EU and PC institutions will be examined, discussed at meetings, and best practices, in line with Bologna principles, incorporated. Finally, quality will be also assured by the external expert who will evaluate the concept, syllabi, teaching methods and materials, QA procedures and training. Also, the expert will seek and analyze the information on the implementation process and success of the program from students and professors via questionnaires. Expert’s recommendations will serve as a basis for potential modifications of the program in future. The program’s QA procedures will be also assessed during the accreditation procedure.
Dissemination and exploitation work packages will ensure that the program is promoted, well received and sustained. In addition to promotion of the project to target groups at conferences/student info days organized by the project, dissemination will occur at conferences of local, regional and national authorities. Master brochure will be delivered both at conferences and via post and email. The partners will also produce the user-friendly, practice-oriented handbook “Best practices in educational leadership” and send it to principals and other educational leaders outside the program in order to transfer knowledge acquired in the project to the world of work.
Operational and financial management will be led by the UKG’s Faculty of Education (project substance, communication, organization), and the UKG Rectorate (necessary legal and financial activities). Nonetheless, management of the program will be participatory: contact person from each institution will be a member of the Steering Committee (SC) which will oversee the implementation of the project and deal with arising issues, including conflict resolution. The decisions will be taken by the majority of SC members and will be abiding for all partners. The SC will meet twice a year and regularly communicate in between meetings via email and Skype. The SC members will be responsible for communication with colleagues in their own institutions, and for ensuring that obligations of their institution are adequately fulfilled. Each institution will report on the activities and expenses to UKG every six months, prior to the next financial transfer. UKG will compile information from all partners and disclose these reports to everyone.
All the above mentioned activities will lead to the successful attainment of the project’s goals: to increase the competencies of educational leaders in Serbia, enhance discourse on educational leadership and ultimately improve learning of Serbian students.