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Spring 1999

Spring 1998

Spring 1997

Spring 1996

* Issue Analysis Papers
* Environmental Scanning Abstracts
* Communication
* Class Participation

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
  5. Down But Not Out: The Resurgence of Private Educational Management Organizations

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. In addition, please subscribe to one mailing list (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 mailing lists, including instructions as to how to subscribe to the mailing lists, 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.

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 mailing list, 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.

Abstract Format. The format of your abstract consists of a catchy title, not necessarily the title of the information resource you are abstracting, followed by your name, affiliation, and e-mail address. The initial paragraphs include a summary of the item followed by implications for education, and conclude 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.

Note: you can focus on just summarizing the article, or, if you wish, you can put your abstract in the form of an On the Horizon article. In this case, your first paragraph should should put the event or issue in a global or national context. For example, if you are using an article on an emerging issue affecting Wake County Schools, begin your paper with a statement that reflects the global or national context of the issue and use the Wake Country Schools to illustrate the emerging issue.

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 in Previous Classes

Note: Since your abstract will be posted to your Web page (see below) and linked to your biographical sketch, thus becoming part of your professional credentials that you can distribute to prospective employer, it should be well written. I will give you a critique of your first draft without a grade. Use this critique to revise your abstract before posting it to the Web.


Team members can communicate with each other between classes via e-mail. For section communication, I have established a mailing list, edsp287. To subscribe to the list, send the following message to subscribe edsp287 <your first name> <your last name>. Do not type anything in the subject line, and do not type a period after your name. (For further information, see Subscribing to a List.) 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 this list is unmoderated (i.e., any participant can send a message to all of the other participants). We will use the the list to communicate between classes; please check your e-mail each day for announcements vis--vis the class. Messages relevant to specific individuals should be sent to their e-mail addresses, not to the class list. If you do not have a computer with a modem, you may use the computers in Mercer-Reynolds Lab. Note that you can send messages to the list at 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. If you use an e-mail address from an Internet service provider, remember to have your UNC e-mail forwarded to that address by following the directions on the ISIS menu.

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. To supplement this, there is  an online guide explaining how to cite Internet sources. Remember, 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, such APA requirements of double spacing text, using headers, and underlining book titles are not relevant. For further information on designing and working with a Web page, there is a site at The Saint Louis SPJ that you may find helpful.

For instructions on creating and accessing your folder on Horizon site, click on "Technical Instructions" from the main course menu.

When you upload 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 and in terms of your communication of those analyses.

I and your classmates will assist you in this enterprise. I will critique the first draft of your scanning abstract and the first draft of your team issue analysis paper so that you can revise them before submitting them to your Web site. In addition, you will receive (and give) a critique of the first draft of two issue analysis papers written by other teams. 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 issue analysis paper will be linked to the Horizon Web site for review and comment by class members. By posting your drafts to the Web, you (and your classmates) will have access to them from home (if you have an Internet access provider account). When the course is completed, if you so request, I will upload your issues analysis papers to the Issues Challenging Education section of Horizon Home Page. You can then use the URL to cite your paper on your vita as published on the Web. And, of course, your name as author will link to your biographical sketch; therefore, you may also cite the URL of your bio on your business card. Moreover, if you wish, I will retain your folder with your resume on the Horizon server. You may continue to update your resume as you progress professionally and over time.

At the conclusion of the course, each team will present their issue analysis paper in a dress rehearsal (for later presentation to 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 paper presentation hints and tips when preparing your presentation.

Formative Evaluation

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 classmates and my behavior as we proceed through the semester. I will periodically ask you for these observations as we go through the semester. You may want to review a presentation and analysis of my experience with the development of this course in previous classes.

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. We call this purposeful learning.

Purposeful learning primarily is a task-oriented process. The obvious reason for pursuing it in a group format is to bring to bear a far greater variety of cognitive resources and affective supports for pursuit of the task than would be available for any one of the group members acting independently. Research indicates that small-group discussion is more effective than virtually any other educational technique for the acquisition of problem-solving skills and for fostering critical thinking.

In an effective group, the processes of discussion involve cooperation and sharing of ideas, thereby improving individual judgement. In effect, pooling ideas in the group allows individual members to correct deficiencies in evidence and reasoning better than they could on their own.

However, the advantages of small-group work can only be realized if certain conditions are met. First and foremost, effective discussion presupposes adequate preparation. The individual must share an equal part of the group burden to ensure distribution of the works and to benefit the most from the exercises.

Second, group members must decide to give the process a good-faith effort and avoid playing destructive roles. If you believe that group discussion is an unconscionable waste of your time, then it will become one. Keeping an open mind, cooperating with the group, and trying to make the technique work will return many benefits.

Third, small-group techniques necessitate developing skills in communication. Not only is clarity of expression important, but the art of listening—actually hearing what the other person is saying—must also be practiced. Here are some helpful guidelines to assist you in this task:

  1. Challenge opinions you do not agree with by offering your opinion and then supporting it with evidence from the course material. Specificity is important.
  2. Be willing to change your mind when someone shows an error in your opinion or use of the facts.
  3. Ask for clarification of any point or term you do not understand. Clarification is vital to your own learning and lack of it can cripple the group's effectiveness as well.
  4. Stick to the subject. Do not introduce matters that have no connection to the problem being discussed. Staying on task is extremely important, for time is a precious resource.
  5. Listen carefully. Preoccupation with your own ideas is to be avoided; you should be able to give a summary of what others are saying.
  6. If someone else makes more or less the same point you wish to make, don't repeat it.
  7. Don't continue to talk after you have made your point.
  8. Finally, remember that it is your responsibility to contribute to the solution of the task at hand. Non-participation will detract from your own learning and will seriously hamper the effectiveness of the group as a whole.

Last updated: 08 January 1999