Dr. Pamela Adams in conversation with Barbi Wall, Principal of Immanuel Christian Elementary School and Jackie Fletcher Myndio, Vice Principal of Fleetwood Bawden Elementary School. Both are graduates of the MEd in Educational Leadership program.

“As of September 1, 2019, for a teacher to become a principal in the province of Alberta they must have achieved certification as a school leader,” says Dr. Carmen Mombourquette, who helped establish the nine competencies of the Leadership Quality Standard (LQS) as a counterpart to the Teaching Quality Standard (TQS) Alberta teachers must meet to become certified. Mombourquette and University of Lethbridge colleagues Dr. Pamela Adams and Dr. David Townsend (emeritus) developed a new model of leadership now taught in the university’s MEd Educational Leadership program.

Since 2009 we have undertaken research studies in multiple school districts to see how the TQS and LQS can be more rigorously and authentically implemented through what we refer to now as generative leadership,” says Adams.

“Generative leadership empowers educators to take control of their own learning through reflection and inquiry. One of its key skills is generative dialogue, a series of provocations and questions meant to cause educators to think differently about their learning and growth.”

For Dr. Cheryl Gilmore, Superintendent of Lethbridge School Division 51, generative leadership through generative dialogue is an effective strategy for professional growth planning at all levels.

Each year she asks school administrators, teachers and support staff to reflect on the professional standards for their positions and encapsulate in question form an area about which they’re curious to know more and gain enhanced competency. “As an assistant, will learning more about autism make me more effective?” says Gilmore. “Or if I’m a principal will a deeper understanding of First Nations, Métis and Inuit world views change my practice as a leader?  Everyone in the division has their own question. We guide them in making it, but we don’t tell them what to do.”

Every six weeks principals meet with teachers and superintendents meet with principals to engage in generative dialogue about their progress. “Generative dialogue is about listening and asking questions that compel the individual or group to think more deeply about their question” says Gilmore, who meets with Adams and Mombourquette, as well as associate superintendents, to discuss her own reflective query based on the Superintendent Leadership Quality Standard (SLQS). “Change and growth isn’t imposed. It happens from within and becomes generative in the sense that it’s self-perpetuating.”

Gilmore applauds the generative leadership model for its emphasis on reflection and its tolerance of failure.

If we’re always reflective we’re always growing, and we learn from failures just as much as we learn from moving forward,” Gilmore says.

“Inquiry-based professional learning creates a sense of efficacy and excitement for learning because it’s self-directed.” Now in its second year of implementation, the generative approach has been well received in the division. “Almost every administrator says they can’t believe how much it has impacted how they work with staff, students, and parents in terms of being a really good listener and asking questions rather than telling,” says Gilmore.

“All teachers are leaders in some form or another, informal or formal,” says Adams, “and all can benefit from the skills of generative dialogue.”

On a regular basis, teachers are called to lead,” agrees Mombourquette. “The nine competencies contained within the LQS can provide great benefit to a department head, a learning support teacher, a counsellor, or the Grade One teacher who’s going to take the lead on a primary literacy group.”

Whether in the classroom, the staff room, on committees or with parent advisory councils, generative leadership through generative dialogue has proven valuable. “To be a leader of learning you model learning, you model curiosity, and you model genuine interest in others,” says Gilmore.

Link to the new book, Leadership in Education: The Power of Generative Dialogue by Drs. Pamela Adams, Carmen Mombourquette and David Townsend (emeritus) here.

Writer: Elizabeth McLachlan | Photographer: Jason Jones


Related story links to Faculty of Education Graduate Studies and Research:
Leadership in Education: The Power of Generative Dialogue
The Intersectionality of Faith, Mental Health and Wellness for Racialized Populations During the Pandemic
Bridging Neuroscience and Education: Riley Kostek (BSc’09/BEd’11)
Teaching and Assessing for Life Beyond the Classroom: Dr. David Slomp
Five questions with Shining Graduate Rita Lal (BSc/BEd '01, MEd '20)
Teaching Multiple Literacies in Canadian Classrooms: Sarah Gagnon (BSc/BEd’11, MEd candidate)
Wellness is About Writing: Teri Hartman (BA/BEd '02, current MEd student)


For more information please contact:

Darcy Tamayose
Communications Officer
Dean's Office • Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
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