Meet the Faculty: Barbara Weschke, Doctoral Faculty Chair
Barbara Weschke, PhD is a distinguished leader with expertise in educational administration, teacher leadership, and curriculum development, and we’re proud to say she’s one of Concordia University-Portland’s faculty chairs for our EdD program. Read on to learn about her work with educators, her advice for doctoral candidates, and more.
As an instructor who has also led programs at the university level, what do you love about working in higher education?
I truly enjoy overseeing and guiding doctoral students in their research and work toward the EdD. Working in higher education has allowed me to provide guidance and information that fosters my candidates’ professional development. It also has allowed me to advise and instruct doctoral candidates from an inclusive, multicultural, and transformative perspective.
You’ve worked with educators using the scholar-practitioner model of learning. Can you tell us a bit about this approach and how it helps educators advance their practice?
I have taught in and led programs at the university level, as well as worked with educators to design, implement, and assess curricula to help promote the scholar-practitioner model of learning. This model fosters the educator as a professional who not only knows the state-of-the-art teaching/learning strategies, but also the “whys” relative to theories in the classroom. This is why scholarship is critically important for doctoral candidates, for it is the culmination of finding and implementing research-based practices and strategies for themselves, and others, in education.
What do you think it means to be a teacher leader today and how do you think that role has evolved?
As a teacher and leader, I have witnessed major changes in education over the course of my years of experience, which have affected how a leader must perform. For years now, I have subscribed to Greenleaf’s principles of servant leadership, for a true leader must know that whom one serves are those whom one leads. The leader’s role from prior decades in that respect has changed, in terms of the partnerships, and collaborations among leaders and faculty are more important than ever. The evolution of a leader’s role has led good leaders to doff the authoritarian mantel and to respect and value the contributions of those whom she or he serves.
How has your professional background shaped the way you guide and mentor doctoral candidates?
My educational philosophy is one that guides me as I work with candidates, and is based on my many years of teaching and leading educators. It is relatively simple: Educators have an obligation to foster positive social change in their respective communities, in their classrooms, their schools, or their communities at large, even one person at a time. To imbue students with the knowledge and skills to contribute to society is an educator’s fundamental obligation.
What do you enjoy most about your work as a doctoral faculty chair for Concordia University-Portland?
I truly love and appreciate my interactions with candidates, especially exploring potential research topics. I also love those “aha” moments when candidates realize the significance of their chosen topics, based on the gaps in the literature that their research will fill. It always is about one’s contribution to scholarship and practice that is placed in the heart of education.
When it comes to the dissertation, what qualities do you think doctoral candidates need to have in order to be successful?
The most important quality is tenacity, never to give up. This is an iterative process, a marathon, not a sprint, as we say. Doctoral candidates must understand the importance of this process is right up there with their professional and personal obligations, for it is a commitment as significant as their jobs and families.
What’s your number one piece of advice for doctoral candidates?
Make sure they have a strong support system in place. This is a time when they need help, whether it is with children or professional obligations. No one can accomplish this milestone without relying on someone for support, even if it means for the family to allow a parent to have some quiet time and space.
What are some interesting dissertation topics that you’ve seen?
I have worked with candidates who have researched teacher efficacy when working with African-American male students; acculturation experiences of second-generation Hispanic students; the International Baccalaureate program; teaching elementary school struggling readers; effective practices for teachers of ELLs; and longevity and retention of teachers in turnaround schools, to name a few.
What book do you think everyone working in education should read and why?
Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel. This book demonstrates the importance of imbuing critical thinking in students, and everyone for that matter. In this digital and standardized-testing age, there is a fear that teachers may place these skills aside for the rote memorization of facts for students to recall on such tests. As for the digital age, information is at everyone’s keyboard; however, it is what we all do with this information that is most important.
If I may add one other source, it is Discovering and Exploring Habits of Mind by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick. There are also additional, subsequent publications. No other work has influenced me more as an educator and human as did this one. Working to address problems critically and successfully, this set of dimensions is a must for all teachers.