Conflict is both a timely and a timeless challenge in schools, stymying school reform initiatives and elevating administrators’ job stress. If “school is a family,” as many claim, it is often a dysfunctional one. Relationships between and among staff, parents, community and school boards may be destructively divisive, or alternatively, schools may avoid addressing controversial issues like inequity, fearful of tensions that would be unleashed.
From Conflict to Collaboration: A School Leader’s Guide to Unleashing Conflict’s Problem Solving Power offers a novel perspective. Rather than impeding school reform, school leaders may harness conflict to spark organizational vitality and growth. Honoring diverse viewpoints enables savvy school leaders to engage stakeholders in meaningful collaboration that builds capacity, enshrines productive dialogue and group problem-solving as cornerstones of school culture, and energizes the school community.
Drawing on knowledge from the fields of education, engineering, psychology and business, the book offers an on-the-job guide for present and future school leaders. Dozens of actionable leadership strategies are highlighted; case studies illustrate key concepts; and probing questions for school leaders and school improvement teams follow each chapter. In a step-by-step process, the book demonstrates how the techniques of design thinking may be applied to build a school’s “conflict agility.”
Robert Feirsen has served as an assistant principal, principal, deputy superintendent, and superintendent of schools. He is currently Chair of the Education Department, College of Arts and Sciences, at New York Institute of Technology, where he teaches courses in school leadership in addition to his administrative responsibilities.
Seth Weitzman served 27 years as a principal, totaling three decades of school building administration, all in middle schools. He held leadership positions in professional associations and professional learning networks at the district, county and state levels.
Chapter 1: Transforming Conflict in Schools: From Conflict-Volatility to Conflict-Agility
Chapter 2: What is Conflict and Why is it So Pervasive?
Chapter 3: Leadership in Conflict
Chapter 4: Building Understanding
Chapter 5: The Learning Cycle . . . Creating Prototypes, Testing Solutions, Getting Unstuck
Chapter 6: Looking Backward, Moving Forward
About the Authors
Outstanding! Must-read for new principals! Provides real-life scenarios with concrete, solutions-based strategies centering on productive, healthy conflict resolution methods every administrator needs to support kids, teachers, and communities! Every principal should have a copy in their office!
The work of the principal in a public school has never been more difficult. On so many levels this is exactly the book that building level educational leaders need right now. It is our tendency to approach conflict as something to overcome, and things will become better once this is accomplished. Drs. Feirsen and Weitzman help leaders cultivate a mindset that views conflicts as opportunities rather than roadblocks and offers strategies that leaders can use to realize the school’s vision and improve the culture in the building.
Conflict to Collaboration: A School Leader's Guide to Unleashing Conflict's Problem-Solving Power is a powerful resource for education leaders, by education leaders. As increasing political and ideological polarization washes over education practice and policy, conflict is increasing. Drs. Feirsen and Weitzman make a convincing case that Design Thinking is one tool that can manage conflict in constructive ways that expands the problem solving capabilities of an educational organization.
Feirsen and Weitzman provide a thoughtful and insightful analysis of the role conflict plays as a frequently encountered dynamic within the climate of complex school settings. A must read for veteran and novice school leaders alike, the authors deftly weave cutting edge educational theory with relatable scenarios practitioners experience on a daily basis. The text is filled with concrete examples, scholarly research and concise suggestions for addressing conflict using a design thinking process. The authors cite the importance of building trust as a foundation of effective leadership and in the development of conflict agility. Anyone looking for pathways to transforming conflict into a positive force will find this book helpful in achieving the goal of conflict agility and continuous improvement in schools.
Drs. Feirsen and Weitzman have put together a book that helps to address how school principals and other school administrators can work through conflict, both our internal conflicts and the conflicts that happen in schools. Reframing conflict with the mindset that conflict leads to collaboration and conversation is not only a positive twist on conflict but a healthy twist on conflict, too. I found myself applying the ideas in "From Conflict to Collaboration" while I was reading. "From Conflict to Collaboration . . ." is a great book to help any school administrator who is working through conflict, and the “who” is everyone.
Drs. Feirsen and Weitzman have brought together the essential ingredients of success for every administrator of educational programs. I wish this was available when I was in the throes of my administrative career struggling daily to go from Conflict to Collaboration. We intend on using it with our aspiring administrators at my college immediately. It is a bit cliché to say this has it all but in reality, this book offers new insights, synthesizes age old techniques and gets directly to the heart of complicated matters in a smooth and easy to read manner, it truly does have it all. I recommend this to all current administrators because a thorough read of this book will make your job much more untroublesome and I believe it will improve your chances of creating a place of joy in your work environment. For aspiring administrators, I would highly recommend you get this book immediately. You will eliminate many unnecessary reads since this treasure chest by two enormously successful administrators is a practical how-to for creating a successful organization. This book is destined to be a classic must read for generations of educators to come- BRAVO!
Feirsen and Weitzman’s novel approach to conflict as an opportunity for constructive change has much to offer school leaders. Their focus on inward Design Thinking will enable leaders to address the systems issues that lead to outward conflict, prevent spiraling downward, and develop solutions that work for all. Filled with practical suggestions and steeped in research, their book will assist in the development of conflict-agility which will lead to school improvement and powerful dynamic positive cultures.
This book offers a framework that empowers a school community to make better decisions resulting in a call to action, moving from hopes and dreams to reality. By taking the time to gather information about what people are thinking, feeling, saying and doing will increase capacity for problem-solving in the application of the Design Thinking process. Designing prototypes (for example, rubrics in Standard Based Grading) and testing them with feedback gathered at each stage, will allow teachers “permission” to fail as they strive to develop the best possible learning experiences for students. Viewing obstacles through a lens of opportunity for improvement will lead to greater collective efficacy among PLC teams.
Not only does this book transform conflict into a natural consequence of our diverse views, it shows the reader how to embrace conflict as an opportunity. Rather than running away or dodging uncomfortable questions, the authors show practical steps anyone can use to diminish the effects of conflict and build trust.
Along the way, school leaders can improve school culture and climate through empathy and improved problem-solving skills. The book provides a wide-ranging perspective on the nature of conflict in schools, based on the authors’ extensive experience. Turning conflict into collaboration is made possible with relatable scenarios practitioners will recognize that they face every day.