Mandel Program for Academic Leadership in Teacher Education
The Mandel Program for Academic Leadership in Teacher Education aims to create a diverse academic leadership group that will lead the development and implementation of cutting-edge models in the field of teacher education. It achieves this goal by in-depth study of theory and practice in Israel and abroad, by planning systemic changes in the Israeli education system and academic institutions, and by writing and disseminating knowledge. The program is conducted in cooperation with the Teaching Personnel Administration of Israel’s Ministry of Education.
The Mandel Program for Academic Leadership in Teacher Education is based on the belief that leadership is the main lever for change, and seeks to create a critical mass of pioneering, inter-institutional leaders who wish to embark on a shared learning journey, based on a commitment to addressing current challenges and to improving their professional field as a whole. In light of the challenges and changes that currently characterize teacher education, the program has three main goals:
- To create a network of leaders who work together to improve the teacher education system
- To plan and implement change processes in academic institutions, which will improve the quality of teacher education and the competence of trainee teachers
- To develop new professional knowledge, both practice-based and research-based, that will add depth to the teacher education profession
Each cohort of the program is made up of pairs of faculty members who lead teacher education programs at colleges and universities throughout Israel, with 20–24 fellows in all. The reason why pairs of participants are recruited is because individual change agents have a limited capacity for creating broad impact in large academic institutions, which tend to have significant barriers to change. For this reason, the program accepts applications from pairs of candidates, usually from the same institution, who share a similar vision, passion, and desire for change.
Main Program Elements
Learning and Networking – Working as a group, the fellows investigate the field of teacher education, learn about diverse leadership approaches, and gain effective tools for leading change.
Leading Initiatives in Pairs – Working in pairs, fellows design and lead a new initiative in their academic institution, with an emphasis on agile implementation, during the course of the program.
Research – Each fellow conducts applied research in order to advance professional academic knowledge in the field of teacher education.
Personal Development – Each fellow receives individual support focusing on improving management skills and on career development.
The program is a year and a half long and comprises 42 study days spread over three semesters. These include a weekly study day at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem and five intensive seminars involving overnight stays. In addition to these group study days, the program includes individual processes that support the fellows’ work on their initiatives and their research projects.
Background and Context
The following background and context underlie the establishment of the Mandel Program for Academic Leadership in Teacher Education:
New Guidelines for Teacher Education
In March 2015, Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE) accepted the recommendations of the Vadmani-Inbar Commission, which set out new guidelines for teacher education. These guidelines proposed changes and innovations in several aspects of teacher training, in both academic colleges of education and in universities. These included increasing the academic responsibility and autonomy of these institutions, developing an incremental in-depth training process through master’s level education, significantly increasing the number of clinical training hours, and more.
Mergers and Change in Budgetary Responsibility
In 2015, the Ministry of Education, the Council for Higher Education (CHE), and the Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC) signed an agreement mandating the gradual transfer of academic teacher education colleges from the Education Ministry’s budget to the budget of the Planning and Budgeting Committee over a seven-year period. As part of this process, the Council for Higher Education has been encouraging academic institutions to merge, and this has had a noticeable impact on the field. These mergers mark a further stage in the academization of education colleges.
Pedagogical Changes in the Education System and in Higher Education
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated pedagogical changes related to the use of new and more diverse forms of teaching in schools and the deployment of technological tools. These changes have intensified the need for creative and innovative teachers, which in turn requires updated teacher education that will produce teachers who can lead change processes in traditional forms of teaching and learning. The shift of a large part of teaching to online spaces presents an opportunity for substantial change in teaching methods, but is also a huge challenge. Alongside this, and as part of global trends, the Council for Higher Education is promoting the “new campus” approach, characterized by innovation in teaching methods and in research throughout higher education, and by stronger links between academic institutions and the community and society at large, with a focus on the various challenges facing the latter.
Teacher Shortages in the Education System
In recent years, the shortage of teachers in Israel’s education system has become more and more acute, as it has in many other countries. This has become particularly noticeable in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis is linked to broad systemic issues, including teachers’ status and pay, as well as the extensive challenges that face new teachers after they complete their studies and begin working in schools and pre-schools. As a result, school principals face an uphill struggle to find new teachers and to fill teaching positions, and there is now a widespread trend of teachers being assigned to teach subjects that they have not been trained to teach. When it comes to teacher education institutions, this crisis can be seen in the difficulty in finding new applicants to teaching programs and the decline in enrollment; in the changing profile of students who choose teaching as a profession; in the heavy responsibility of preparing teachers for a reality in which demand outstrips supply; and in the question of how to equip new teachers with the concepts, skills, professional tools, and resilience necessary to enable them to remain and thrive in the profession over the long term.
Leadership Challenges in Academia
There are several unique aspects of academia that can make it difficult for senior figures to lead effective change processes. First, there is built-in tension between the practice of the teaching profession and the trend of rising academization, with its greater emphasis on theoretical study. This tension impedes the creation of new ways forward, in terms of both strategy and the focus of resources of the training institutions. Second, there is a gap between the training and experience of senior figures in academia, who mainly focus on research, and the skills necessary for entrepreneurship and for leading organizational changes needed in the education system. Finally, academic institutions have relatively high barriers to change: intensive competition for students, heavy-handed regulation, low levels of autonomy, and inherently conservative organizational mechanisms, which make it difficult for leaders to implement significant and sustainable change.