What I think is True about Leaders and Leadership
09 March 1993
The best leaders set an example by their own behavior.
- DO rather than TELL.
- It is not what we say, but rather what we do, that others will emulate.
- All of us are teachers -- as parents, friends, and faculty -- to all
those around us. We all learn form each other.
- No matter what we preach to others, it is what we do that they
Leadership in the Classroom [from INSIDE: Fall/Winter 1992]
- Paul Barrett, US and urban history...
...throws out a topic for discussion, related to a reading assignment. This
triggers debate, argument, discussion in class, so students ultimately are
encouraged to think for themselves rather than regurgitate the
opinions of others. Students play an active role in their own learning in
the classroom, rather than passive.
- Peter Johnson, freshman chemistry ...
..."I have fun." If the professor enjoys the subject, and lets his
enthusiasm, interest, and excitement show, then his students likely will
also. (Setting an example by behavior!) Telling students that the subject
is exciting does not communicate as effectively as being excited yourself.
"Learning is fun". I
believe "...that the students in your class can make it. You have to believe
in your students." i.e., students tend to achieve no more than you expect of
them. Have high expectations.
- Hamid Arastoopour, chemical engineering
..."The best teachers don't teach. Students learn by being involved, not
by having the material force-fed to them. By working together as a team,
students gain confidence which enables them to grow intellectually and
creatively." "Breeding leadership skills is important, if not the most important,
concept of university teaching.
Project Help [a classroom approach developed by Earl Zwicker]
The idea is to get the students who understand the subject best to help those
who understand it least well.
- This idea was used for more than ten years in freshman physics at IIT, and
seemed to be helpful to most of those who needed help.
Here is how it worked:
Immediately after the first exam (there were three during the semester,
plus a final), one identifies those who got A's and those who got
D's and E's.
- Those who got A's are asked to show up in the classroom on a given day at,
say, 12:15 pm. those who got D's and E's are asked to be there at 12:30 pm.
At 12:15 pm one hands each of the "expert" students six slips of paper and
asks each to fill in his name and phone number as student number one on
all six slips. One then asks the students if they are willing to help three
or four other "weak" students in the subject. They would do this by helping
them to understand the homework and to prepare for quizzes and exams.
Each group, consisting of the expert student and 3 - 4 others, must meet at
least one hour per week, at a time and place which is mutually agreeable
(a dorm, fraternity, classroom, cafeteria, etc).
One explains the pros and cons of participation to the expert students:
- It takes away some of your time, which can be serious if you have a
job or other commitments.
- It makes it more difficult to get a good grade in the course, in the
sense that you are helping competitors.
At this point, most of the "expert" students do volunteer. Those who do
not usually offer serious reasons why they cannot. And now the "weak"
students take positions in different parts of the room, and then the
plan is explained to the weak students. They then pick out an expert and
become part of his group; each places his name and phone number on each
of the six slips. They agree to a time and place to meet, and write that
one each of the six slips. Each person then gets a slip, and the extra
one goes to the instructor. Now they can help one another by phone if they
- You are almost certainly guaranteed an A in the course, since "to teach
is to learn". Your time is not being wasted at all, but rather you are
investing it to learn the subject even better than you would otherwise.
- You are learning about "small group interaction". This is a very
important skill. Whatever you do in your life, you will almost certainly
be working with small groups of other people. (Can you name a job where this
is not so?) You must learn how to get the shyest or weakest member of your
to understand the subject by being actively involved in the group.
- You will be sharpening your own communication skills, both oral and
written. Of all the human variables (more than 140 cognitive variables)
that can be measured by pencil-and-paper tests, there is one that correlates
more strongly than any other with success. This is true whether one measures
success in terms of material possessions (money) or in terms of personal
happiness, or both. What is that variable?
Communication skills, oral and written!
Start practicing yours now!
- If you are stuck on a problem and need help, here are my office and
home phone numbers. Please keep the home number confidential and only for
your personal use. This is part of your "reward" if you are able to
- If you receive and A in the course -- as likely you will if you
volunteer (and the A will be earned, just like everyone else -- not given to
you just because you agree to help!) -- then next semester you will be
recommended to ETC [Educational Technology Center] to become a student
tutor, which will pay you for doing this sort of thing.
- Besides all this, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are
doing something worthwhile by helping others who -- for whatever reasons --
are not as good at the subject as you happen to be.
Students are told that sometimes -- for whatever reasons -- the particular
group one is in may not work well. If that happens, see the course
instructor, and he will place you in another group, since he has copies of
all the slips.
Students who are in the B and C category are also welcomed to show up for
Project Help, if they wish. They may join a group, provided that no student
in the D / E category would be kept from joining a group. There should be
no more than 5 students in a group, including the group leader.
Sometimes certain groups fall apart within a week or two and do not succeed.
Other times the groups work so well the students are still working together
when they graduate!
In retrospect, Project Help must certainly have encouraged students
to develop skills that are important in becoming leaders.
SMILE (Science and Mathematics Initiative for Learning Enhancement)
A program begun in 1986 for K - 12 teachers to help them become better
teachers; i.e., to find what they need to do to help their students to learn
Teachers told us what they needed; we supplied the opportunities,
appealed to the best teachers to help in the various capacities where they
showed individual strengths.
They helped each other both with subject-matter and pedagogy, and we all
- A significant number have become recognized by their peers
as leaders, due largely to the examples they set.
Some key ingredients are the following:
- Freedom to try new ideas and improve old ones without fear of ridicule.
- Many carrots; no sticks.
- Open enjoyment of what they do. (Fun!)