The Open University Advanced Diploma in Educational Management (DO2): A Study of the Effectiveness of the Course in Preparing Senior Managers in Schools for their Role in the 1990s

Willis, Jennifer (1993). The Open University Advanced Diploma in Educational Management (DO2): A Study of the Effectiveness of the Course in Preparing Senior Managers in Schools for their Role in the 1990s. MPhil thesis The Open University.



The study investigates the motivation of a small group of students from the Greater London area in undertaking the Open University Advanced Diploma in Educational Management. Four questions are posed:

a. Why some middle and senior managers in schools chose this course at a time when the demands made of senior managers were increasing.

b. Why they persevered with the course in a contracting market for promotion.

c. How successful the course was in preparing them for promotion.

d. Whether, and is so how, the course had improved their effectiveness as senior managers.

The research was conducted over a period of intense educational change, both locally and nationally, as the Education Reform Act (1988) heralded unprecedented changes in the nature of senior management and in the relationships between schools, parents, local and central government, in its quest to raise standards and increase accountability. Whilst the initial focus of the study was on the career development of individuals, the evolving political context was to redirect attention towards the role of senior staff in managing these changes and enhancing the quality of learning. The value of the Advanced Diploma emerged to be its effectiveness in preparing senior managers for this role, enabling them to cope with the stresses of an ever-changing situation, and developing vital analytical and communicative skills.

Students are found to be motivated by a sense of professionalism. They choose distance learning as a means of acquiring new skills and knowledge which hold the promise of meeting their immediate, higher order, needs for self-actualisation, as well as offering the longer-term possibility of career development. Whilst most students do achieve promoted positions during or after their studies, this is not their prime expectation, and their success cannot be attributed definitively to the course. The value of the Advanced Diploma lies primarily in promoting a sense of achievement and recognition. This is found to sustain students when career aspirations are blocked by institutional or personal circumstances, and when they might otherwise fall into a state of professional stagnation.

By developing more effective individuals, the Advanced Diploma thus achieves the Open University's aims of improving the quality of school management, yet simultaneously satisfying students. The compatibility of meeting personal and individual needs is thereby demonstrated.

Recommendations are made which recognise the value of distance learning and its ability to appeal to teachers' professionalism without any need to resort to more formal means of accountability or inducement to undertake training for the changig role of senior managers in schools.

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