Expert Problem Solving

Evidence from School and District Leaders

By Kenneth Leithwood & Rosanne Steinbach

Subjects: Education
Series: SUNY series, Educational Leadership
Paperback : 9780791421086, 366 pages, December 1994
Hardcover : 9780791421079, 366 pages, December 1994

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Table of contents

List of Tables



1. Introduction

2. The School Administrators' World from a Problem-Solving Perspective

Toward a Comprehensive Model of Expert Processes

3. Principals' Individual Problem-Solving Processes

4. Superintendents' Individual Problem-Solving Processes

5. Processes Used by Expert and Typical Principals to Solves Problems in Groups

6. Processes Used by Expert Superintendents to Solves Problems in Groups

Key Processes

7. Problem Interpretation: How Administrators Classify and Manage Their Problems

8. The Nature and Role of Values in Administrators' Problem-Solving Processes

9. Cognitive Flexibility and Inflexibility in Principals' Problem Solving

The Relationship Between Thought and Action

10. Problem-Solving Expertise as an Explanation for Variations to Instructional Leadership

11. Total Quality Leadership: Expert Thinking plus Transformational Practice

From Answers to Questions

12. Improving the Problem-Solving Expertise of School Administrators

13. Concluding Thoughts





This book presents a series of related empirical studies about the thinking and problem solving processes of expert educational leaders. It describes the nature of expert thinking and provides substantial explanations for the cognitive processes associated with expert thinking. Differences in the thinking and problem solving of male and female; novice and experienced; elementary, secondary, district administrators are all explored. In addition, the book provides a glimpse of the school administrator's world from a problem solving perspective and clarifies the kinds of experiences that give rise to expert thinking.

Kenneth Leithwood is Professor of Educational Administration and Head of the Centre for Leadership Development at The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. He is the author of Developing Expert Leadership for Future Schools (with P. Begley and B. Cousins); Understanding School System Administration (with D. Musella); Cognitive Perspectives on Educational Leadership (with P. Hallinger and J. Murphy); and Improving Principal Effectiveness: The Principal Profile. Rosanne Steinbach is Senior Research Officer at The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.


"This book represents something quite rare in the field of educational administration, a sustained program of research testing a particular model of leadership. The model is rooted in cognitive/constructivist notions of learning and leadership. The research is among the most respected in educational administration today, and this volume represents the first occasion when all of it has been pulled together in a single book.

"The topic of expertise and school leadership is one of the most important in educational administration today. Leithwood and Steinbach offer hope to those who feel leadership cannot be learned. New perspectives on leadership make for stimulating reading for those of us steeped in traditional sociological notions of school leadership. " — Daniel L. Duke, University of Virginia

"The authors discuss points that are on the minds both of those who study leadership and school transformation and of practitioners. The descriptions of potential models for understanding the thought processes of expert and typical leaders are both interesting and accessible. This book is exciting because I think about these issues daily in my work. " — Sharon Rallis, Vanderbilt University and The Regional Laboratory for Educational Improvement of the Northeast and Islands