James Spillane, professor of human development and social policy and professor of learning sciences, has been named Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor in Learning Organizations at Northwestern University. Spillane also is a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research.
Spillane’s research explores the policy implementation process at the state, district, school and classroom levels. It explores the substantive ideas about education reform that local policymakers – administrators and lead teachers – come to understand from state and national reforms.
Spillane is principal investigator of the Distributed Leadership Studies, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation, which is doing an empirical investigation of school leadership practice in urban elementary schools working to improve mathematics, science, and literacy instruction.
A former elementary school teacher, Spillane believes schools often fail because of inadequate leadership and management of instruction. He examines leadership as a practice that extends beyond the school principal, conceptualizing organizational leadership as a practice involving formal and informal leaders and followers in interaction with a variety of organizational tools and artifacts.
Spillane is principal investigator of the Distributed Leadership for Middle School Mathematics Education Study, a four-year NSF-funded research program designed to develop and validate instruments for identifying and measuring leadership for mathematics in middle schools. He is co-principal investigator of a randomized evaluation of the National Institute for School Leadership, a school principal development program funded by the Institute for Education Sciences.
He is the author of “Standards Deviation: How Local Schools Misunderstand Policy" (Harvard University Press, 2004) and “Distributed Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2005).