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Leadership Dilemmas:
Captured Wisdom of Social Learning Leaders
By Claudette Rasmussen
Summary of My Social Learning Leadership
My portfolio portrays my development as a social learning leader. It highlights personal and
professional growth throughout my career and personifies social learning within my leadership
roles with students in classrooms, educators in professional learning experiences, and policy
makers in departments of education. It illustrates how I embed social learning leadership in my
current roles as consultant, technical assistant, designer, and developer at American Institutes for
Research. For my certificate project, it also situates my leadership and continuing learning within
the context of a promising community of practice.
In my portfolio, I move back and forth between my experiences in the community of practice
and reflections upon social learning leadership – mine and those of other leaders. I begin with
descriptions of my work in a community of seven urban neighborhood organizations passionate
about their students and the college and career ready services needed for their success during and
after high school. After a few very productive months of facilitating the community to build
relationships and define their work together, the sponsor did not renew my contract. I was
stunned, deeply disappointed and sad about this early end to the community and the lack of
opportunity to support a transition or provide closure to the members.
The premature end of a community to which I was very committed caused me to look inward
and reflect upon my social learning leadership. I discovered that my roots are deep and values
strong in support of social and professional learning. My portfolio provides several examples of
how I supported inquiry, problem-solving, knowledge creation, and community building in
classrooms and school programs and then applied those social learning practices to professional
learning communities and professional learning within continuous improvement and teaching
effectiveness systems in education agencies. In retrospect, I was very intentional in applying the
best of what I had learned throughout my career to the college and career ready community of
practice. So I wondered about ways in which social learning leaders could scaffold conversations
and facilitate decision-making by sponsors and others who support communities of practice in
order to avert leadership dilemmas.
In my continuing search for answers to my unresolved leadership dilemma, I was surprised to
learn that a high percentage of communities come to a premature end, leaving their participants
and leaders without closure. I also learned that little has been written about this in the literature.
So I decided to tap into primary sources – social learning leaders with direct experience and
knowledge in a range of communities. I created a conversation protocol and used a fishbowl
activity to open a learning space where leaders could tell stories about their dilemmas. Multiple
Claudette Rasmussen, 4/16/2014 draft, NOT FOR DISSEMINATION
Page 1
leadership issues emerged from their complex and emotionally-laden experiences, as did
cautions, considerations and possible solutions. From this primary source data, I identified nine
pivotal aspects of social learning leadership. The voices of these leaders and what was learned
from their reflections is documented in my portfolio.
Sharing stories with and among social learning leaders was cathartic. It provided precious social
and emotional support and generated valuable knowledge. What I learned from them, and from
deep reflection on my values and practice in the context of that learning, resulted in a better
understanding of what happened in the college and career ready community. Beyond that, the
wisdom of those social learning leaders has provided insight into many dilemmas faced by
leaders and members of communities of practice.
In many ways my work for the Social Learning Leadership Certificate Program has brought me
full circle in my personal life. It has affirmed and extended the influence of people and events in
my life and of “values to live by”– community, capacity building, reflection, productivity. What
began by way of example in my close-knit family and in the life of my rural Midwestern village
has been fortified over time by social learning leadership experiences and the captured wisdom
of social learning leaders. It is now my example to affirm and extend to others.
Claudette Rasmussen, 4/16/2014 draft, NOT FOR DISSEMINATION
Page 2
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