The Embelgasse School of Administration: Teaching and Learning Spaces and the Administrative Aesthetic

Originally published on March 31, 2017 on Valentine Academia.com

We have a lot to learn from the built environment. Buildings designed for educational purposes convey meaning through structure and form, and none more so than the Embelgasse School of Administration. Located in Vienna City, Austria, this school was built by AllesWirdGut architects to educate future public administrators. I chose to highlight the Embelgasse School of Administration in this blog post because I think there is a lot we can learn as educational administration + leadership researchers about the aesthetic of our teaching and learning spaces.

I came across an article on this school on the architecture website ArchDaily while searching for an art exemplar from within the field of educational administration. With so few artistic representations in this field, architecture is one of the few aesthetic forms of expression that is cited in the literature around aesthetic administration - an interesting niche world I dove into and have never left. I searched for hours on architecture websites trying to find a building built for the purposes of educating future educational administrators, and found the Embelgasse School of Administration, a school dedicated to educating future public administrators, a closely-related field and one that I thought we could learn a lot from as educational administration + leadership researchers.

Form, Meet Purpose

What first struck me about the Embelgasse School of Administration is how closely the form and design of the building aligned with its purpose. The building’s large windows invite onlookers to view the activities going on within the building, emphasizing the importance of transparency and openness. The building truly sets the “stage” for the performance of administrative praxis.

...the close connection between administration and the public finds positive architectural expression.
— AllesWirdGut Architektur

Brief Review of Educational Administration + Aesthetics

There are a few contemporary scholars who have written extensively about how an aesthetic theoretical perspective can provide creative solutions to some of the well-documented challenges that promote dysfunction within the field of educational administration and leadership today, such as the serious disconnect between theory and practice. Perhaps one of the best known scholarly works in this niche is a collection of essays titled Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration and Leadership, edited by Eugenie A. Samier and Richard J. Bates (2006), which posits that an aesthetic framework is an alternative lens through which we can better know and understand the field of educational administration and leadership.

In her chapter on charismatic leadership, Samier (2006) uses Weber's comprehensive Theory of Charisma to demonstrate the three forms of expression of administrative aesthetics: the architectural, the theatrical, and the literary. And while there isn't enough space here to discuss each form at length, the architectural is the most relevant in a discussion about this particular exemplar because buildings are "used as a popular stage" for the performance of administration, in this case, administering public policy (p. 169).

Architecture has a close association with organizational form. A city's buildings communicate messages, whether consciously or unconsciously, with the people of the city about who holds power and authority. This is clearly expressed, for example, by inaccessible government buildings layered with cubicles of protective staff and aimless telephone directories that defend policymakers from actually ever having contact with other people.

In a study of university campuses conducted by Dutton and Grant (1991), architecture was found to reproduce the dominant ideologies and social relations of society, which undermines diversity and reinforces disciplinary divisions (cited in Samier, 2006, p. 163). The researchers found that the design of open space schools in particular represented "an attitude predisposed against bureaucratic power and authority, designed instead to overcome the conventional isolation and subjugation of teachers in separate classrooms inhibiting their politicization" (p. 163).

A theoretical understanding of the field of educational administration is crucial in the examination of the construction of educational spaces, particularly administrative spaces, which tend to be more contentious. Even in a brief review of the literature, it becomes clear that buildings, including their furnishings "are never neutral, but carry social and political value, empowering some, silencing others" (p. 164). I have chosen the Embelgasse School of Administration as an exemplar of powerful and intentional structural design that re-imagines what a space for educating public administration could (should?) look like.

About the Embelgasse School of Administration

AllesWirdGut Architektur, the successful firm who won the commission with the City of Vienna to build a vocational school in which to train public administrators, was asked to build a school that would "make learning part of public life" (AllesWirdGut.cc). The open concept features of the Embelgasse School of Administration levels traditional power relationships between public administrators and the public.

The large, grid-like windows convey a sense of openness and transparency. The school is enclosed only by the natural perimeters of the block on which it is built; doing away with the physical (and metaphorical) walls that usually separate public administrators from the people they are supposed to serve. A shady inner courtyard and open access to terraces via the second and top floors of the school allows students to have constant contact with the outdoors, which also reinforces the connection between the students and the city. Furthermore, learning about public administration in an open and transparent environment prepares students to work under the constant gaze of the public eye. Each design decision made by the architect is intentional and the openness of the school invites a broader dialogue that renegotiates power dynamics between public servants and the public.

A Citizen-Friendly School of Administration
— AllesWirdGut Architektur

The Embelgasse School of Administration demonstrates the importance of context in the built environment. Though I could not find an example of a building dedicated to the training of educational administrators specifically, educational administration is a type of public administration that deals with many of the same criticisms, such as a lack of transparency and a lack of confidence by those of whom administrators are supposed to serve. The architectural has the potential to teach us a lot about the field of educational administration and leadership and how we can more consciously construct spaces that convey messages of openness and transparency to the public. The City of Vienna wanted to commission a building that would make learning a part of everyday life, and in my opinion, AllesWirdGut Architektur accomplished this difficult task by building a vocational school in which the building's form beautifully complements its function.

All photos © AllesWirdGut / Guilherme Silva Da Rosa and are displayed with the express written permission of AllesWirdGut Architektur.

C. Valentine

Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy: A Framework for Improving Educational Administrator Preparation Programs

How can we improve administrator preparation programs? It might seem like a daunting question, and one that’s hard to solve in a single blog post, although I do have some ideas. I recently learned about Bloom’s Taxonomy in school, and more importantly, a newly revised version in which technology is incorporated to support students creating original work.

But first, this article might be for you if you’re…

  • An educational administration + leadership student interested in researching how we might improve administrator preparation programs

  • A teacher who is designing or building their own courses and want to incorporate technology and get students creating new kinds of projects

  • An administrator or curriculum developer looking to improve the curriculum in your own school or for an administrator preparation program

  • Government employee assessing new program proposals to ensure that they reach the higher levels of Bloom’s New Digital Taxonomy

Don’t forget to download your free list of 25 creative project ideas for educational administration + leadership students!

A Brief review of bloom’s taxonomy

You may be familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy. Originally developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, the original taxonomy provides a useful framework for instructors to set educational goals in their classrooms. Often portrayed as a pyramid (but in this case, portrayed as a lightbulb), the original Bloom’s framework scaffolds students’ skills. Beginning with knowledge, the idea is that a student professes up the “levels” of the pyramid, to comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and finally, evaluation (pictured in Figure 1).

And this was great, for a while. But in the early 2000s, Bloom’s original taxonomy was revised to move away from static notions of educational objectives to action verbs, to better describe student cognitive processes. For example, remembering became remember, comprehension became understanding, and perhaps most importantly, evaluation became creating. And however useful these previous versions of Bloom’s Taxonomy continue to be, earlier versions have not fully considered the possibilities created by advancements in technology. And with a new revision in [date], Bloom’s Taxonomy was re-imagined in a way that incorporates technology.

Bloom’s New Digital Taxonomy, as the new revisions by Andrew Churches came to be known, incorporates technology in a way that is more aligned with the 21st century learner. And it’s with this new digital revision that I think has interesting and useful applications to improving courses in administrator preparation programs.

 Figure 1. FRActus learning. Bloom's taxonomy verbs. image provided via creative commons license.

Figure 1. FRActus learning. Bloom's taxonomy verbs. image provided via creative commons license.

Bloom’s New Digital Taxonomy

Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy includes certain verbs the describe more accurately, how today's students might learn. So for example, to remember (lowest-level cognition), students may highlight, duplicate, or visualize information. To create (highest-level cognition), students may choose to film, direct, or publish an original piece of research. The diagram below is a useful resource from Fractus Learning that illustrates the ways in which students can remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create using digital tools.

 Figure 2. fractus learning. bloom's taxonomy for the digital world. iimage Provided via creative commons license.

Figure 2. fractus learning. bloom's taxonomy for the digital world. iimage Provided via creative commons license.

This revision of Bloom's Taxonomy suggests that it's never too late to revise old systems to make them work for 21st century learners. I think that we should have the same view when examining whether the current structures of our administrator preparation programs properly equip today’s administrators to work and thrive in the modern university.

In my opinion, we put future educational administration researchers and leaders at a disadvantage by not emphasizing technology as a means through which to learn and to create original pieces of research. Scholars have noted the absence of emphasis on technology in the field of educational administration + leadership, and Bloom’s New Digital Taxonomy may be one way that we can address this gap in curriculum.

Bloom’s New Digital Taxonomy is a helpful framework to consider when thinking about the kind of work we are asking educational administration students to produce and whether we are using technology sufficiently to reach the upper “levels” of the

We should have the same view when examining whether the current structures of our administrator preparation programs properly equip today's administrators to work in the modern university. We put future educational leaders at a disadvantage by not emphasizing technology as a means through which to learn and to create. Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy would be a helpful framework to consider when thinking about what kind of work we are asking studying educational administration to produce and whether or not we are sufficiently incorporating technology as a means of producing that work. 

Student Project Ideas

Ideas for student projects that incorporate technology could include:

  • Recording a podcast on administration and/or higher education issues

  • Publishing a blog to reflect on administrator learning in graduate school

  • Crafting an autoethnographic arts-based research project that explores the student's personal motivation for studying educational administration + leadership

  • Designing a multimedia presentation on the effects of organizational alienation

  • Writing an original essay, study, or literature review on a topic of the student's choosing

However, it’s important to note that introducing technology into the lives and schools of educational administrators does not automatically result in changes. As Cho (2016) notes, “Although technologies do offer schools many possibilities, no particular practices are guaranteed as a result of their adoption” (p. 840).

Click here to download a free list of 25 creative project ideas for educational administration + leadership students!

Do you think Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy is a useful framework that has the potential of improving educational administrator preparation programs? What are some ways to encourage students to create original pieces of research using technology?

Christine Valentine

References

  1. Bloom's Taxonomy for the Digital World. Retrieved from https://www.fractuslearning.com/blooms-taxonomy-digital-print-table/

  2. Bloom's Taxonomy Verbs. Retrieved from https://www.fractuslearning.com/blooms-taxonomy-verbs-free-chart/

  3. Cho, V. (2016). The dynamic roots of school leaders’ Twitter use. Journal of School Leadership, 26(5), 837-864.

  4. Padagogy Wheel V5: https://designingoutcomes.com/assets/PadWheelV5/PW_ENG_V5.0_Apple_iOS_PRINT.pdf

The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Writing an Educational Administration + Leadership Research Paper

As a graduate student, I spent hours on the Internet looking for tips to try to improve my writing skills and make my educational administration + leadership research papers more persuasive. But if I’m being honest? A lot of the tips I read online were contradictory and confusing. Worse still, I never knew if I was completely missing the point with my own essays. Had I included enough sources? Made valid arguments? Properly cited sources? I felt like I was making it up as I went.

Sound familiar? If you need to write your research paper but you feel like you don’t know where to start, then you’re exactly who I had in mind when I wrote this ultimate beginner’s guide. Writing essays is not an exact science and there are many approaches to writing them. These are some ideas that helped me - and I think they’ll help you, too!

But first, you might find this article helpful if you’re…

  • A graduate student completing a master’s or Ph.D. in educational administration and leadership who wants some tips + tricks for how to write their first research paper.

  • An instructor teaching an educational administration course (maybe even your first!) and who wants to write a research paper on a new topic or brush up on their paper-writing skills.

  • A professional educational administrator writing a research paper for a course.

  • A researcher from outside the field of educational administration and leadership who wants to learn how to write a killer research paper in an unfamiliar field.

  • Anyone with an interest in this subject that just wants to write a great research paper!

In this guide, I will walk you through some tips on getting started, selecting an essay topic that gets you feeling motivated, writing a strong research question, searching for references, and writing, proofreading, and formatting your paper. Along the way, I will also provide specific examples, links to some helpful resources, and a free printable research essentials checklist so that you can write your next paper with confidence.

Are you ready to get started? Keep on reading friend, ‘cause I’ve got your research paper-writing basics (and more) covered!

Click here to get your free printable research essentials checklist!

Getting Started

The good news is, you really don’t need much to get started on your research paper - access to a library, a computer, and your inquisitive mind are the essentials. However, you’ll probably need some of these items in your research toolkit at some stage in the writing process, so let’s just cover these now:

  • A notepad and a pen (highly recommended for creating your research paper plan!)

  • A computer or laptop (or access to a computer)

  • Research articles or books that you think you may use for your research project (it's okay if you don't have these yet!)

  • Sticky notes, highlighters, or different colored pens for planning (optional)

  • A printer (optional)

  • Snacks and water (the world is better with snacks and you gotta stay hydrated!)

When it comes to beginning your research paper, half the battle is just starting. We often procrastinate writing because we don’t have a direction or are avoiding it because of how much work we think writing our papers will be. Of course, writing a paper does require some work, but most of the time, I’m always surprised how fast the process went once I actually started.

Do this: Decide now not to hate writing your research paper.

If you’ve only written terrible papers in the past, don’t worry, this is your chance to approach them differently. Never written one before? Believe you can write a great research paper and that you can learn how, if you’re willing to put in some effort. You got this!

The next step is to set up a workspace for yourself. This might be at home on your couch, in a coffee shop, or in a library, but wherever you decide to set up, just try to find a place where you won’t be distracted. For me, that place is the quiet section of my school’s library (because let’s be real, the temptation to Netflix binge is way too strong at home). Plus, there’s something about seeing other students focused on their work that helps me feel more motivated to get to work myself.

Do this: Find a quiet workspace where you won’t be distracted.

Another consideration is that you also want to choose a workspace with an Internet connection. Wi-fi is must to be able to access your library’s database, but don’t let social media distract you (more tips on how to avoid procrastination below!). Give yourself the opportunity to do well on your project, and you’ll be surprised at how well you do.

Selecting a Topic You Feel Excited + Inspired About

Sometimes, just getting invested in the topic you want to write about it enough to motivate you to work hard on your research paper. To find a topic that you feel excited and inspired about, pull out your notepad and write the following question at the top of the page:

What is one aspect of the field of educational administration + leadership that I’m curious about?

Do this: Write down 3-5 possible topics that are specific and which can realistically be approached in the 3,000 - 6,000 words you may have to complete your research paper. What topics interest you? What topics haven’t been explored enough in the research articles you may have already read?

Tip: A good way to find out whether you’ve been specific enough about your topic is to do a quick library search. For example, a search for “Educational administration” gave me 137,908 search results in my university library database. However, a search for “Educational Administration” AND “Positivism” gave me 97 search results. It’s important to be as specific as possible. If you get 50,000 search results, you probably need to narrow your focus, but if you get between 50-250 search results, you’ve likely chosen a topic that has some key research that you can review that directly relates to your research interests.

Remember: There are many interesting topics to write about in the field of educational administration and research, and don’t worry. You have lots of time to write about them. For now, just choose one topic to practice honing your research paper-writing skills. You’ll be writing well-researched papers in no time.

In preparing to write this post, I went back through the stacks of research articles I’ve written over the years and pulled out a few examples to demonstrate the kinds of topics I wrote about:

  • A Uses and Gratifications Perspective on Administrators’ Use of Twitter to Improve Research and Practice within the Field of Educational Administration and Leadership

  • The All-Administrative University: Exploring the Disconnect between Academic Administrative Theory and Practice

  • The Adminibrary Project: An Interventionist Arts-Based Approach to Educational Administration and Leadership

So, what if you don’t get to choose your own topic!?

If you don’t get to choose your own topic because your instructor assigned it to you, try one of these ideas:

  • Suggest your own topic! Some instructors offer a list of suggested topics, especially in introductory courses, but they are often open to your ideas as well. Write out a strong research question for the topic you’d like to write about (you may need to adjust it so that it aligns with the theme of the course), and submit it to your professor as early as possible so that they can review it and approve your idea well in advance of the deadline.

  • Use a variation on a topic. Using one of the pre-determined topics, go one step further and investigate one specific aspect of the topic. For example, if the assigned topic is to write about positivism in the field of educational administration and leadership, you could write about the history of positivism and how it currently affects the field today, or even different modern-day thinking on positivism. As always, make sure you check with your professor to approve your idea.

  • Add your own perspective on an assigned topic. There’s always room for you to add your own perspective on a topic, even if it’s been handed to you by your professor. What interesting research articles have you found in your quick library search that could magnify a certain issue that hasn’t been looked at in-depth enough yet?

You might feel like you need to have all your references ready in order to get started writing your research paper, but you can get started with just an idea (even a vague idea) of what you want to write about. Selecting your research topic might be the hardest step for you - it may even be the reason you may be procrastinating on your work. Not having a clear idea of what I’m actually writing about is the #1 reason I put off my own work!

Additional Note

Topics in the field of educational administration and leadership can vary. There is no “one topic” that is right or wrong to investigate. As a researcher, your job is to get curious about many different topics and to investigate them by seeking out sources that may or may not disagree with you. What would you like to know more about? In some cases, your research topic may be given to you by your instructor, or you may be able to choose your own. Either way, there is room for creativity and to look at your topic from your own unique perspective.

Formulating a Clear + Concise Research Question

The next step is to think about your research question before you begin collecting resource materials. The reason for this is because searching for peer-reviewed articles and books is much easier to do when you have a specific idea of what research question you are trying to answer (though if you already have some resources in mind, keep them on hand). It may be tempting to dive in to the library and start collecting all kinds of research articles, BUT this process will be so much easier if you take a moment to craft a clear and concise research question.

Your research question is important because it helps to focus your research and give you a clear goal to work toward. For example, if your research question is whether Twitter has a positive effect on educational administrators’ professional learning, then that gives you a lot of ideas to use when it comes to selecting your research articles, and a specific question to try to answer in your essay.

Do this: On a piece of paper, write down your topic at the top of the page and then list potential research questions underneath. Consider what specifically you want to know about your chosen topic. If you chose to write a research paper on the topic of educational administration preparation programs, for example, then your question might be, “what are the uses of technology on administrator preparation programs?”. You may even choose to be more specific, for example, “what are the uses of technology in administrator preparation programs in Canadian universities?”.

Tip: Keep this piece of paper as your research plan for the rest of the writing process. It will be useful for sketching out an outline to your paper.

Your research question is your roadmap going forward, making it easier to know exactly what sources you might look for in your university library. The next step is to search for references.

Searching for References

Am I the only one that thinks collecting research articles is the most fun a person can have writing a research paper? There’s nothing better than finding a perfect article that argues your points exactly and backs up your research question. But knowing where to look for research articles seems to be one of the most challenging things about writing your research paper. The good news is, now that you have your research question, collecting research articles is going to be so much easier. There are basically three steps you’re going to take to find research articles:

  1. Login to your university library’s website and search keywords from your research question (e.g. “Educational Administration” AND “technology”)

  2. Filter your results so that you only view peer-reviewed references

  3. Further filter your results to find the most recent research on your topic (I like to search primarily for articles published within the past ten years)

Idea: You might want to consider storing your research articles on a reference database such as Mendeley. Over time, you can build up a helpful resource library that will make future research projects a breeze!

Writing Your Research Paper

The first step of writing a research paper is getting set up in a location where you won’t be too distracted. Plan to write for intervals of time, such as 1 or 1.5-hour periods of time. Apps like Forest can be really helpful for setting an intention for the amount of time you want to work for, and it will keep you from browsing Facebook and Instagram and losing valuable time.

Some important things to keep in mind as you write your research paper:

  • Research papers may seem overwhelming or daunting but they are totally manageable and can even be fun to write (Ignore the haters - there’s nothing better than finding that one research article that totally backs up your claims and proves your point!)

  • Writing a research paper is not a linear process. Be open to new ideas and don’t be afraid to change your direction or your research question. Your research can take you in unexpected directions - it doesn’t mean you’re starting all over again, it means you’re learning, and that’s a good thing!

  • Don’t plagiarize. Plagiarism not only includes copying other people’s work and claiming it as your own, but using work you’ve previously submitted for a class and re-using it for a new project.

  • Don’t procrastinate. Decide to write this paper and put yourself in an environment where you’re more likely to do some work. You may be able to work fine on your couch, but if you’re like most of us (and would rather Netflix-binge than do homework), you need to help yourself up and go to the library instead.

Proofreading Your Paper

It’s important to proofread your paper after you have finished your first draft. If possible, try to at least sleep on it and look at it again the next day. But if you’re rushing to finish this paper last minute, take a short break and step away from what you’ve written.

The trick to proofreading your paper is to read it out loud to yourself. If you’re in the library, try to read it quietly to yourself or try mouthing the words. There is something about reading your paper out loud that allows you to catch all kinds of awkward sentence phrases and grammar mistakes, like verb agreement. Also, set aside some time to create your reference list (it’s easiest to create it as you go, but if you save it for the end, make sure you give yourself some time to check your APA citations. The most common mistake students make is in their APA formatting and reference list, but these are really the easiest marks you can get. It just requires some attention to detail.

Consult the following APA guide on how to format your paper and citations. Alternatively, your university will likely have their own guide that they publish on their library’s website.

Next Steps

You’ve turned in your paper and now you’re done with it forever, right? Well, consider this: you’ve spent all this time and energy writing your research paper, so why not do something else with it? You' probably had some great ideas in your paper, and those are worth sharing with others in this field. So why not try out one or a few of the ideas below, and do something more with your paper?

  • Create a research poster out of your paper and present it at your school’s next research day

  • Develop a research article using the feedback you receive on your research paper and submit it to a student conference such as the Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education

  • Tweet your ideas using the hashtag #edadmin or share on other social media accounts

  • Write a blog post or online article on your topic and submit it to a student newspaper or magazine

Download your free research essentials checklist!

Do you have your own tips for writing an education research paper? Let me know in the comments below!

Christine Valentine