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Summer Principals Academy NYC
Teachers College, Columbia University
teachers college logo columbia univertsity logo

in New York City

Program > Course Curriculum

Course Curriculum



SPA is a cohort program enrolling over 180 graduate students each year in a rigorous 14 month, 36-credit program.  Courses are delivered Monday – Friday, from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm, over two consecutive five-week summer sessions.  The 450-hour Administrative Internship takes place during the intervening school year, thereby enabling students to complete the internship requirements while maintaining their jobs in their current schools.  The schedule supports the reality of aspiring leaders who are currently working teachers, team leaders, department chairs or supervisors who do not wish to leave their schools to attend a full-time program.   





ORLA 4001: Introduction to School Leadership and Decision Making (3 Credits)

The purpose of this course is to establish a foundation in the knowledge, skills, ethics, and habits of mind practiced by highly effective educational leaders, public or private. This process of inquiry begins with an introduction to the literature on school leadership and decision-making. Students will also have an opportunity to compare and contrast ELCC and relevant state standards for certification of principals as a basis for creating a personal leadership development plan and deepening one’s understanding of national and regional expectations for the role of school principal.

This course uses the literature on decision-making theory in combination with intensive case-study analysis in groups to explore how decision-making styles and strategies affect problem-based decision-making in innovative public school settings. 

ORLA 5018: School Leadership for Adult Development (3 Credits)

School leaders need to exercise practices in service to professional development to be effective leaders, especially in the context of standards-based reform. In this course we will explore an expanded notion of leadership that includes adult development. Participants interested in organizational leadership and growth will study research on adult learning theories and their connection to leadership practices; constructive-developmental theory; pillar practices for supporting adult growth; and how these offer practices that support adults’ transformational learning (e.g., learning that helps us develop improved cognitive and affective capacities to better manage the complexities of work and life). We will consider questions such as: How can leaders create cultures that better support adults’ transformational learning? What practices support adult learning and development? What developmental principles inform these practices?

Through lectures, readings, group discussions, case analyses, and interactive exercises, we will examine: (1) conceptions of leadership in support of adult learning and development; (2) constructive-developmental theory; (3) essential elements for creating healthy learning environments for adults; (4) practices that support adults’ transformational learning (e.g., teaming, assuming leadership roles, reflective practice, and mentoring) and the developmental principles informing them, and (5) the importance of caring for one’s own development and learning while caring for the learning of others.

ORLA 5029: Supervision of Teaching and Learning (3 Credits)

This course is designed to review and discuss the foundations of teacher supervision and evaluation methods.  This includes an emphasis on adult learning theory; classroom supervision/coaching; supervision that promotes professional growth; principles/standards for effective teacher evaluation; and approaches to teacher development/school improvement that are closely aligned with student learning outcomes. The emphasis of this course will underscore the professionalism of teaching by exploring how teachers can actively participate in determining the focus of their professional experiences/outcomes while emphasizing student learning as their core mission. This course is intentionally designed to prepare students for the teacher observation report and the elective project that are part of the Internship requirement.

ORLJ 5340: Basic Practicum in Conflict Resolution (3 Credits)

This course is developed and staffed by the Teachers College International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution.  Different constituencies often have competing demands; the ability to communicate effectively and build relationships are key factors to success.

Conflict resolution training promotes the development of these skills and competencies. An effective way to gain a high level of proficiency is by participating in an intensive course along with peers of similar interests.  This course was designed taking the following principles into consideration.

  • Skill development and knowledge acquisition;
  • Experiential learning: students should immediately feel the impact and see the relevance of the material;
  • Grounded in theory and linked to concepts drawn out of students’ experiences;
  • Immediate application of theories and principles learned in the course;
  • Contextualized in a school setting with an emphasis on leadership.

ORLA 5532: Program Development: Teaching, Learning and Assessment (3 Credits, Year-Long Course)

The purpose of this year-long course is to develop and hone the skills of future instructional leaders by becoming familiar with school structures that inform curricular, instructional and assessment decisions.  Emphasis will be placed on methods of determining curriculum priorities, teacher’s instructional choices, summative and formative assessments, and organizational patterns in schools.  The impact of national, state and local governments and culture on curriculum is also examined.

This course addresses the K-12 pedagogical and instructional beliefs and strategies that drive school improvement and student achievement.  By the end of this course, students are more skilled at creating school cultures in which student and adult learning are at the center—a culture in which content and instruction are purposefully aligned with standards and students are prepared to meet and exceed them. By using various data sources to identify and assess needs, school leaders can take strategic action to improve student achievement.

ORLA 6020: Pro-Seminar in Leadership Development (3 Credits, 2 Summers Course)

The intention of the pro-seminar in leadership development is to offer student opportunities to cultivate their leadership acuity through exploration of multiple dimensions of the self and culture.  The 14-month course includes Self-Awareness Training in partnership with Emotional Literacy for Aspiring School Leaders in Summer I, and Self-Awareness Training in partnership with Cultural Diversity in Summer II. 

Self-Awareness Training (SAT)

The practices of SAT sit on a foundation of recent empirical research in the connections between mind and science, emotions and behaviors, development and capacity.  The purpose of SAT is aspiring school leaders to cultivate their capacity for self-awareness, a 21st century skill essential to leadership.  Primarily, these practices seek to support school leaders in developing their self-awareness to help them recognize sensations and increase concentration, empathic capacities, skillful listening, management of conflicts, perspective taking, and being present to the complex demands placed on people and systems. 

Emotional Literacy for Aspiring School Leaders

Emotional Literacy for Aspiring School Leaders is a highly interactive course that provides instruction and hands-on activities to aspiring school leaders on the scientific model of emotional intelligence.  The primary focus of the class is to explore how emotions influence attention, learning, academic and work performance, decision-making, and one’s ability to lead classrooms and schools.  Educators reflect on and hone their emotional skills (e.g., RULER skills of recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions) and learn how the skills show up in key leadership competencies through assignments, feedback on assessment tools, and small group coaching.  Additional goals include how educators can use RULER skills to interact effectively with all stakeholders, engage students in the learning process, cope effectively with stress, and cultivate a vibrant, open school atmosphere.  Educators also learn how to develop a long-term plan for sustaining emotional intelligence in their school. 







ORLA 5532: Program Development: Teaching, Learning and Assessment (Continued from Summer I)

The purpose of this year-long course is to develop and hone the skills of future instructional leaders by becoming familiar with school structures that inform curricular, instructional and assessment decisions. Emphasis will be placed on methods of determining curriculum priorities, teacher’s instructional choices, summative and formative assessments, and organizational patterns in schools. The impact of national, state and local governments and culture on curriculum is also examined.

This course addresses the K-12 pedagogical and instructional beliefs and strategies that drive school improvement and student achievement. By the end of this course, students are more skilled at creating school cultures in which student and adult learning are at the center—a culture in which content and instruction are purposefully aligned with standards and students are prepared to meet and exceed them. By using various data sources to identify and assess needs, school leaders can take strategic action to improve student achievement.

ORLA 6460: Internship in School Leadership (6 Credits and 450 Hours)

The internship in public school leadership presents an opportunity to become immersed in the field of leadership practice and to appreciate the importance of instructional leadership in the creation of a learning environment. The internship combines opportunities to study effective leadership first hand, develop and practice instructional leadership skills, and be mentored for a career as a school principal. The internship requires a minimum of six months (12-15 hours per week) of supervised field work in a public school setting.







Education is an inherently moral matter and, as such, raises deep questions of purpose, values and responsibility. It is moral because it involves the relationship between one generation and another, a relationship that helps to determine the direction and quality of human life. At the same time, morality is a highly contested issue, which tends to foster intense disagreement around simple questions such as “what is the right thing to do in a given situation?” Decisions are seldom calculated by administrative technique and politics alone; they must be informed by a larger sense of purpose and guided by informed ethical considerations.

This intent of the course is two-fold. First, aspiring leaders must have the legal capacity to deal effectively with a variety of legal issues amid imperfect conditions. Leaders must respond to educational, administrative, political, ethical, and financial questions and consider ways of using law creatively to prevent litigation and to advance important educational objectives. Second, it is incumbent upon aspiring leaders to be mindful to the scope of their influence. Leaders must realize they operate in complex organizations and political environments wherein competing values and beliefs must be moderated toward wise and just ends. 

In the course, students are required to demonstrate mastery of legal knowledge through the keeping of a legal reflections journal, individual case briefs, and group presentations covering timely and relevant legal topics (e.g., student speech). Legal themes addressed in the course will include free speech, freedom of religion, viewpoint discrimination, assessment and tracking, the schools’ authority to regulate student and staff conduct, on campus and off, equity, equality, and equal protection, and bullying, harassment, and verbal abuse.

ORLA 4025: Resource Allocation for Student Achievement (3 Credits)

This course will focus on the skills of effective resource allocation and school level budgeting for aspiring school leaders. The intent is to develop the ability to make practical and strategic decisions that leverage real and financial resources to improve student outcomes.  Students will analyze research on the effects of allocation strategies, assess means used to build human resource capacity, and create a three-year school budget proposal. 

 

ORLA 5025: The Ecology of Data-Driven Leadership (3 Credits)

Ecology is defined in many sources as a system of living things and their environment. Within the system, inter-dependence is a fundamental characteristic for the sustainability of living things and their environment. As such, ecology is an important metaphor for leadership of public schools. Consider the following: if you were going to monitor a physical ecosystem (e.g., a wetland) what indicators would you observe? If you were to monitor the ecosystem of a school, what indicators would you observe? To guide this inquiry your thinking might include: how you define the environment of school leadership, your role in the ecosystem of school leadership, and those things upon which you are inter-dependent for success.

One important source of feedback comes in the form of data. This course asks students to keep the ecological metaphor at the forefront as you learn about the systems of data that exist within the leadership context, the influence they have upon your role as leader, and the tools and resources that are available to you in managing, manipulating, and learning from data to meet school goals. In this course you will be challenged to understand different kinds of data, critique the quality of data, and consider other sources of information used to assess the health of school systems.

ORLA 5017: Team Building and Organizational Development (3 Credits)

In order to create an environment that is people-centered, many factors need to be considered:  leadership, motivation, organizational structure and systems, power dynamics, change processes, team and group behaviors, creativity and conflict management – within the context of leading and supporting organizations. These considerations promote a school environment conducive to student learning, welcoming to the parents and guardians of the students, and supportive of the faculty and staff.

A central aspect the course addresses is group and team effectiveness. Within the school community there are many kinds of teams – e.g., formal or informal; permanent or temporary; chosen or assigned – that schools depend on to implement their mission. As a complement to this, students’ New School Design Project teams will serve as a learning laboratory to further their understanding of team functioning and effectiveness and to experiment with ways to enhance group process for more productive results and improved quality of group life.

ORLA 6020: Pro-Seminar in Leadership Development (Continued from Summer I)

Self-Awareness Training (SAT)

The practices of SAT sit on a foundation of recent empirical research in the connections between mind and science, emotions and behaviors, development and capacity.  The purpose of SAT is aspiring school leaders to cultivate their capacity for self-awareness, a 21st century skill essential to leadership.  Primarily, these practices seek to support school leaders in developing their self-awareness to help them recognize sensations and increase concentration, empathic capacities, skillful listening, management of conflicts, perspective taking, and being present to the complex demands placed on people and systems. 

Cultural Diversity as a Leadership Imperative

This component of ORLA 6020 is a continuation of the Pro-Seminar in Leadership offered during Summer I.  The focus during Summer I was “personal mastery” from the perspective of Emotional Intelligence.   Cultural Diversity as a Leadership Imperative builds upon students’ previous work in Emotional Intelligence to include a specific focus on effectively leveraging cultural dimensions of diversity as a leadership imperative. 

This course explores various forms of diversity including – intercultural identity and negotiation and fostering intercultural sensitivity—and its implications for leadership. Our shared exploration will be guided by cutting-edge concepts including:

  • “Learning from Experience” concepts drawn from the field of Adult Education;
  • Stella Ting-Toomey’s Model of Identity Negotiation;
  • The role of Value Orientations in inter-cultural interactions;
  • Using Facework: a technique, utilized in the study of interpersonal communication that considers how one’s ideas about identity in a social world is created, reinforced, diminished, or maintained in communicative interactions;
  • Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model for Intercultural Sensitivity.