General Information


Specific Competencies




Technical Instructions

Final Note

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We begin the course by simulating a special task force formed by the Secretary of Education charged with identifying, analyzing, and making recommendations vis--vis the major issues challenging American public education.

Our first task is to identify these issues by engaging in an environmental scanning exercise where we will search information resources in the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political sectors for signals of emerging issues that could affect education. We will then choose the most salient issues and prepare issue analysis papers.

Format of Issue Analysis Papers

  • What is the issue?
  • What is the background/context of the issue?
  • What are the forces driving the issue?
  • Where is the issue going? What are its prospects?
  • What are the implications of the issue for public education in the U.S.?
  • What should educational leaders do now to prepare for the issue?

Examples of Issue Analysis Papers from past EDSP 287 classes

  1. Bringing Teachers and Technology Together in the Classroom: An Overview
  2. The Implications of School Choice
  3. New Directions: Teachers and Technology For The 21st Century
  4. Competition to Public Education

Environmental Scanning

The purpose of the environmental scanning exercise is to identify trends, potential events, and emerging issues that could affect the future of education.

Trends are a series of social, technological, economic or political characteristics that can usually be estimated and/or measured over time, such as the number of single parents in a school district (or in the nation). Trend information may be used to describe the future, identify emerging issues, and project future events.

Events are discrete, unambiguous, confirmable occurrences that make the future different than the past. An event would be passage of a regulation requiring the implementation of a voucher plan in North Carolina within two years.

An emerging issue is a potential controversy that arises out of a trend or event that may require some form of response. For example, there is increasing discussion over the benefits and defects of a national curriculum. Elements to this issue include concern over the viability of public schools, global economic competitiveness, disparity between haves and have nots, etc.

An issue is a controversy with defined stakeholder interests that requires some form of action. An issue for public schools, for example, is the controversy over implementing a voucher plan.

A major purpose of analyzing trends and events is to identify emerging issues that may affect education. Issues are composed of trends and events. You may, therefore, want to include a statement of the issue and the trends and events comprising that issue when addressing the introductory section of your paper.

Writing An Abstract

An abstract is an easy-to-read digest of original material that you review on a listserv, a Web site, a newspaper, a news magazine, a professional journal, a TV program (e.g., Sixty Minutes) or a radio program (e.g., All Things Considered). The goal is to write a concise, accurate presentation of the material that is fully understandable without reference to the original source. Since the abstract will be published first on your Web page and then on Horizon Home Page, write it in the form of a published article in On the Horizon, a scanning publication.

Abstract Format. The format of your abstract consists first of a catchy title, not necessarily the title of the information resource you are abstracting, followed by your name, affiliation, and email address. The initial paragraphs include a summary of the item, followed by implications for education, and concluding with bibliographic information (in APA style).

To begin the initial section, ask yourself, "If I had only a few minutes to describe this article to a colleague, what would I say?" What is the most important idea or event that indicates change? Your response to these questions should constitute the lead sentences of the abstract. Follow these sentences with development and explanation. Use quotation marks to make it clear when you are making direct citations from the text. Whenever possible, include statistical data. Limit the summary to no more than one page of single-spaced, typewritten copy (and a half-page is better).

The implications section of the abstract is where you respond to the question, "How will the information in this article affect education?" You might also include a list of those emerging issues suggested by the article, a description of future events you see occurring as a result of the trend(s) identified in the article, and/or an identification of issue stakeholders if they are not listed in the article.

Speculation about implications is a part of the scanning and abstracting process. Here you try to determine an item's potential for affecting other facets of the social environment and/or education. Review the articles published in On the Horizon for examples.

Specific Criteria For Abstracting

  • Does the item represent events, trends, developments, or ideas that you have never before encountered?
  • Does the item contradict previous assumptions or your own beliefs about what seems to be happening?
  • Can you link the item to other abstracts which you have previously written or seen?
  • Do the implications of the item have explicit or implicit bearing on education?

Examples of Abstracts You may see examples of abstracts written by your predecessors in the 1996 class (although these are not in the format described above), in the Futures Planning Database, and in past issues of On the Horizon . Remember that your abstracts will be posted to your Web page (see below); I will link to them on the course page and will upload them to Horizon Home Page at the end of the semester (so that you can cite your abstracts on your vita; the University may eliminate your Web page when you graduate).

Issue Analysis Teams

In the early weeks of the semester (see schedule below) we will form issue analysis teams of two to three class members per team. Although you may use any source available in developing the issue analysis paper, I encourage you to use the search engines available on the Web as well as conventional library resources. If you are new to searching the Web, there is a page at that offers information on using search engines efficiently. An advantage of using Web sources is that references can be linked to original sources via hypertext for guidance in citing electronic sources). In addition, please subscribe to one listserv (in addition to Horizon List; see below) as part of an on-going environmental scanning exercise to keep informed about emerging issues challenging education. Relevant listservs, including instructions as to how to subscribe to the listservs, are posted in the Educational On-Ramp section of Horizon Home Page. This section includes instructions as to how to subscribe to Horizon List. Be sure to use proper netiquette on these lists.


Team members can communicate with each other between classes via email. For section communication, I have established a listserv, edsp287-1 (for section 1); for section 2, the listserve is edsp287-2. To subscribe to your listserv, send the following message to subscribe edsp287-1 (if you are in section 1, or edsp287-2 if you are in section 2) <your first name> <your last name>. Do not type anything in the subject line, and do not type a period after your name. When your subscription is confirmed, you will receive a message welcoming you to the list and containing instructions as to how to use the list. Note that these lists are unmoderated (i.e., any participant can send a message to all of the other participants).We will use the these lists to communicate between classes; please check your e-mail each day for announcements vis- à-vis the class. Messages relevant to specific persons should be sent to their e-mail address, not to the class list. If you do not have a computer with a modem, you may use the computers in Smallwood Lab. Note that you can send messages to the list at the address: (if you are in section 1, edsp287- if you are in section 2). Lab hours are Monday- Wednesday 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Thursday-Friday 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Sunday 1:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

Effective written and oral communication skills are essential for educational leaders. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association contains useful instructions about writing style as does Strunk's Elements of Style . We will use the APA guide for in-text citation and for reference lists in scanning abstracts and in issue analysis papers. Note that guides to the APA Manual are on-line, and that there are on-line guides as to how you cite electronic references. Note: The APA manual is a guide for preparing papers for publication consideration. In this class, however, you act as publisher of your scanning abstract and the issues analysis paper when you "publish" them on your Web site. Therefore, the APA requirement of double spaced text, headers, etc. are not relevant. Instructions for developing your Web site are also available. Instructions for preparing your paper in HTML format and uploading it to your Web page are found in the EDSP 287 folder on the SOE fileserver.
When you upload your scanning abstract and your issue analysis paper to a Web site, you are in effect a published scholar-people using Internet search engines seeking information related to your papers' topics are likely to read your manuscripts (and perhaps cite them in their work). On the one hand, this is to your advantage, as you will receive credit for sharing your scholarship with other educators when citing your work on your vita (always helpful when seeking employment). On the other hand, it is incumbent that your work be first- rate, both in terms of the logic of your analyses nd in terms of your communication of those analyses.
BR> I and your classmates will assist you in this enterprise. I will critique the first draft of your scanning abstract and the first and second drafts of your team issue analysis paper so that you can revise them before submitting them to your Web site for a grade. In addition, you will receive (and give) a critique of the first draft of an issue analysis paper written by another team. These critiques will provide you feedback, guidance and pointers that you can use in revising your papers, thereby increasing the value of your work to other educators.

Horizon Web Site. Each scanning abstract and each issue analysis paper will be linked to your class section of Horizon Home Page for review and comment by class members. In addition, I may suggest that you submit your abstract to Horizon List for review and possible comment. (Horizon List is a listserv where discussion focuses on signals of change in the macroenvironment [social, technical, economic, environmental, political] that may have implications for the future of education. There are currently over 1,000 subscribers to the list.) Too, we can expect visits to the class section of Horizon Home Page. When the course is completed, I will upload your issues analysis papers to the Issues Challenging Education section of Horizon Home Page and your scanning abstracts to the futures planning database. You may use the URLs to cite your papers on your vita as published on the Web. (As noted above, the University provided Web pages may disappear upon your graduation.)
BR> at the conclusion of the course, each team will present their issue analysis paper in a dress rehearsal (for later presentation o the US Department of Education senior staff, if so asked!). This presentation will use Microsoft PowerPoint and a computer projection device (LCD panel or TV). Please review the prese ntation hints and tips on Horizon Home Page.

Formative Evaluation Discussion Forum

You may feel uncomfortable with both (a) needing to learn how to use productivity tools while learning how to do environmental scanning and issue analyses and (b) with my role as mentor, guide, and critic (as opposed to information provider). Treat this class as an experiment. Observe your, your classmates, and my behavior as we proceed through the semester. Record your questions and concerns on the formative evaluation discussion board for section 1 or section 2. Note that you have complete anonymity if you do not provide your name or email address when sending a message to the forum. I will respond to each question and concern; all may read both your questions and my responses.

Course Discussion Forum

We will use the course discussion forum to conduct the work of the course (e.g., posting questions you have about an assignment telling your colleagues about a fascinating paper on one of the issues under exploration this semester that you find in your Web exploration). There is a discussion forum for section 1 and for section 2.

Instructions for using discussion forums are simple and are explained on the forum page itself. The advantage of the forum is that all postings are easily accessible. The disadvantage of the forum is that you can use it only when you have access to a browser, for the forum relies on Web technology. Use the listserv when you need to get a message out to the class and you don't have access to the Web or when Sunsite is down.

Class Participation

Class members bring a rich diversity of background experiences, training, and interest to each session. Part of leadership is being able to learn from others in a group setting by questioning them and by putting forth one's own ideas, so that your ideas can be questioned by others; the resulting process should result in better ideas. Active class participation is expected both as a member of an issue analysis team and as an individual critic.