Using a range of methodological approaches and anchoring our work in appropriate conceptual tools, we engage in applied research that generates actionable and consequential findings for the field of education as well as for practitioners and policy makers. CUEL also designs and enacts program and intervention evaluations for school districts and other educational organizations. These evaluations are used to examine the fidelity and impact of programs and interventions and to inform refinements to existing programs and interventions.
Current Research and Evaluation
EXAMINING THE COACHING OF PRINCIPALS AS EARLY CHILDHOOD LEADERS
Funded by the Children’s First Foundation and with additional funding from the Finnegan Family Foundation and beginning Spring 2022, Cosner and a team of CUEL-researchers are examining the coaching of principals as early childhood leaders. Findings from their research will be used to evaluate and redesign an existing leadership coaching intervention in Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
EXAMINING ORGANIZATIONAL CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF K-8 MATHEMATICS INSTRUCTION AND STUDENT LEARNING THROUGH PROJECT CASPIR
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and beginning Summer 2019, Cosner and an interdisciplinary team of UIC-researchers (CUEL, College of Education, Learning Sciences Research institute) are enacting and testing a multi-level (district, school) intervention designed to develop the kinds of organizational capacities of consequence for the improvement of mathematics teaching and student learning.
Examining National School Leader Development Contexts and Programs/Approaches in the Global South
EXAMINING ASPIRING AND PRACTICING SCHOOL LEADER COACHING
Funded by the US Department of Education the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, and the EdPrepLab and using tools, routines, and social networks, and learning processes as anchoring conceptual frames, Cosner, Whalen, and team are examining the design and impact of leadership coach tools, data systems, and routines on clinical experiences and on leadership coaching practices and outcomes.
First phase publications from this work include the following:
Cosner, S., Walker, L., Swanson J., Hebert, M., & Whalen, S. (2018) Examining the architecture of leadership coaching: Considering developmental affordances from multifarious structuring. Journal of Educational Administration, 56(3), 364-380. Access this article here.
SOCIAL JUSTICE LEADERSHIP AND LEADERSHIP FOR COMMUNITY ACTIVISM; UNDERSTANDING PRACTICES AND CHALLENGES IN LARGE MARKET-ORIENTED CONTEXTS
Using literature on leadership for social justice, community activism, education markets, and critical urban theory as conceptual tools, Salisbury, Cosner, and Richard are examining an assortment of issues that relate to understanding and strengthening social justice and community activism practices by school leaders and about the kinds of context factors that challenge and shape this work in larger urban school districts.
First phase publications from this work include the following:
Richard, M., Salisbury, J., & Cosner, S. (2021). Examining social justice leaders in educational market contexts. In C.A. Mullen (Ed.), Handbook of social justice interventions in education. Springer Nature. Find this book here.
Richard, M. (2021). Socially just school leadership: Putting theory into practice. Principal Leadership, 22(10). Read this article here.
Salisbury, J., Richard, M., & Cosner, S. (2020). Merging schools and communities: Engaging in activist leadership beyond your school walls. In J. Brooks, T. Watson, & A. Heffernan (Eds.), The school leadership survival guide: What to do when things go wrong, how to learn from mistakes, and why you should prepare for the worst (pp. 131-153). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Find this book here.
Richard, M., Salisbury, J., & Cosner, S. (2020). The school-community connection: Social justice leaders’ community activism to promote justice for students. International Journal of Leadership in Education. Access this article here.
Salisbury, J., & Richard, M.(2020). Anti-racist activist leadership. In A.D. Welton, S. Diem, & D. R. Owens (Eds.), Strengthening anti-racist leaders: Advocating for racial justice in turbulent times. NY: Bloomsbury. Find this book here.
Key Past Research and Evaluation
EXPLORING EDUCATIONAL ECOSYSTEMS THROUGH THE LENS OF INTERMEDIARY ORGANIZATIONS: INSIGHTS FOR POLICY AND PRACTICE
Funded by the Qatar Foundation, a team of researchers from the Center for Urban Education Leadership led by CUEL’s Director Shelby Cosner spent 2021 examining a set of more mature non-system intermediary organizations that work directly with schools to generate important insights about their work in forging relationships within and gaining vital resources from these expansive and diffuse ecosystems. In doing so, CUEL recognized a growing global trend that has positioned “intermediary organizations,” and particularly non-system intermediary organizations, or those not involved in the formal governmental education system, in an oversized ecosystem role. Through their direct work with schools, especially the most vulnerable schools, these organizations straddle the larger ecosystem and the local schoolhouse, becoming a primary and proximal conduit of external leadership resources to schools. Examining the ecosystem from the vantage point of these organizations has potential for helping non-system intermediary organizations to better consider and gain access to the kinds of ecosystem relationships and resources that are likely to prove important to their work, to schools, and to students. It also sheds light on broader issues relevant for ecosystem-building efforts. View study findings here.
INVESTIGATING THE CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT APPROACHES OF A “BIG CITY” CEO
Funded by the Fry and Crown Foundations and undertaken from Summer 2019 to early Fall 2020, this study used organizational learning and continuous improvement as tools to conceptually frame this study. Whalen led this investigation into the leadership practices associated with, impacts of, and challenges encountered from a “big city” Chief Executive Officer’s continuous improvement approach to system-level leadership. Read the executive study here. Read the full report here. Read additional background about this work here.
Examining Affordances of Active Learning Leader Development Designs
Funded by the US Department of Education and using situated learning theory, Cosner and team examined the situational learning resources harnessed through an active learning leader development design and identified authentic leadership considerations and actions that are enabled.
Examining Aspiring and Practicing School Leader Coaching
Funded by the US Department of Education and the Fry Foundation and both situational learning and social network theories, Cosner and team examined the design and impact of leadership coach structuring on leadership coaching practices and outcomes.
Cosner, S., Walker, L., Swanson J., Hebert, M., & Whalen, S. (2018). Examining the architecture of leadership coaching: Considering developmental affordances from multifarious structuring. Journal of Educational Administration, 56(3), 364-380.
Examining Collaborative Data Practices by Teacher Teams and Leadership for Collaborative Data Practices
Funded by Chicago Community Trust, Cosner in collaboration with Susan Goldman (subject matter learning, instruction, assessment) and Taffy Rafael (literacy), examined grade-level collaborative data use and the administrative and teacher leadership supports of data use in urban elementary schools.
Cosner, S. (2011). Supporting the initiation and early development of evidence- based grade-level collaboration in urban elementary schools: Key roles and strategies of principals and literacy coordinators. Urban Education, 46(4), 786-827.
Cosner, S. (2011). Teacher learning, instructional considerations, and principal communication: Lessons from a longitudinal study of collaborative date use by teachers. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 39(5), 568-589.
Cosner, S., Walker, L., Swanson J., Hebert, M., & Whalen, S. (2018). Examining the architecture of leadership coaching: Considering developmental affordances from multifarious structuring. Journal of Educational Administration,56(3), 364-380.
Evaluating the Ounce’s Professional Development Initiative
Beginning in fall 2011 CUEL conducted a three year evaluation of the Ounce of Prevention Fund’s new Professional Development Initiative (PDI), with funding from the US Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) Initiative (See Executive Summary). The project expanded our capacity to study education leadership in early childhood settings and led to a scale-up of PDI across Illinois.
Investigating Effective Principal Practices
With funding from Chicago’s Fry Foundation as well as the U.S. Department of Education, CUEL has sustained a program of case study and documentary research to inform the preparation of school leaders in Chicago and across the country.