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James Spillane Named Ver Steeg Research Fellow

Award supports research that enhances Northwestern's reputation

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April 8, 2013 | by Wendy Leopold

James Spillane

James Spillane

EVANSTON, Ill. --- James P. Spillane, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor in Learning and Organizational Change at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP), has been awarded the 2013 Ver Steeg Research Fellowship.

The  $36,000 annual award supports research and scholarship by a tenured Northwestern professor that enhances the national and international reputation of the University.

An expert on school policy implementation, Spillane is internationally known for his work on distributed leadership, a framework for studying school leadership and management involving formal and informal leaders and followers.

A former schoolteacher, Spillane believes schools often fail because of inadequate leadership and management of instruction. His recent research projects include an examination of the preparation, recruitment and retention of school principals.

Spillane gives workshops and lectures around the world to researchers and educators about the day-to-day practice of leadership and the impact that distributed leadership can have on teachers’ practice and instruction.

His work explores the policy implementation process at the state, school district, school and classroom levels and focuses on intergovernmental and policy-practice relations. In 2007, Spillane co-edited “Distributed Leadership in Practice,” an influential volume in the Critical Issues in Education Leadership Series from Teachers College Press.

In 2010, Spillane co-founded Social Interaction and Organizing at Northwestern (SION) with colleagues in SESP, the Kellogg School of Management and the School of Communication. A truly multidisciplinary group, SION explores how organizations both shape and are shaped by the interactions of people, communities and markets. He received the School of Education and Social Policy’s Outstanding Professor Award from students in 2006.

An elected fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Spillane served as a member of Chicago Public School’s Professional Development Steering Committee in 2001.

Spillane is author or editor of “Standards Deviation: How Schools Misunderstand Policy” (Harvard University Press, 2004), “Distributed Leadership” (Jossey-Bass, 2005), “Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement (Teachers College Press, 2011) and numerous journal articles and book chapters.

Spillane was the principal investigator of the Distributed Leadership for Middle School Mathematics Education Study, a four-year National Science Foundation research program to develop and validate instruments for identifying and measuring mathematics leadership in middle schools.

The Ver Steeg Research Fellowship was established and endowed by the late Clarence Ver Steeg and his wife, Dorothy. Clarence Ver Steeg was a faculty member in the department of history from 1950 until 1992 and served as Dean of The Graduate School from 1975 to 1986. The first endowed award for excellence in research by a faculty member, the fellowship is administered by the Office of the Provost.

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