Frank Dilley Award: Encouraging Dynamic Leadership in School Districts

Dr. Valerie LyleAugust 2011—Dr. Valerie Lyle ’10, who received a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), was awarded Walden University’s Frank Dilley Award for her doctoral study, Teacher and Administrator Perceptions of Administrative Responsibilities for Implementing the Jacobs Model of Curriculum Mapping.

Dissertation Inspiration
Lyle had worked as a teacher in the Midwest for almost 30 years before she learned about Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ curriculum mapping model at a school board meeting.

“I knew as a teacher-leader this new concept would introduce leadership challenges in my district,” Lyle explains. “It would require a paradigm shift because we were operating on a traditional model.” As she soon found out, the Jacobs model is innately collaborative. Lyle immediately set to work to learn more about the model and how she and school administrators could best apply it in their district’s schools.

Lyle chose to enroll at Walden because it offered her the opportunity to study the model in every course throughout the program—she didn’t have to wait until she started to develop her doctoral study. “Walden allowed me to work within my purpose in every course. All along the way, I was able to refine my questions, ideas and thought process until I came up with the final list that would really help me help others.”

Addressing a Gap in the Research
First introduced in 1997, the Jacobs model is based on the continuous development of curriculum maps. The goal is to collect real-time data on what is being taught in the classroom to create a clear picture—or a map—of what is happening in each teacher’s classes during the school year and, finally, zoom out to see the bigger picture of how the curriculum applies to the total student experience throughout the school or district.

The model encourages collaboration not only among teachers within the same grade, but educators across grade levels teaching similar subjects. “The point of the maps is to focus on what content your children need to know, what skills they need to have, how you’re assessing what they’re learning and how it aligns with state standards horizontally and vertically,” Lyle explains. “The maps allow teachers to work individually and with teams. The school becomes a professional learning-leading organization.”

As a teacher-leader, Lyle helped teachers team up across grade levels to discuss which components of the curriculum they were teaching and how they could adjust them to better prepare their students for the challenges that would lie ahead. “As a result of developing the maps, we had something tangible that we could all look at and discuss so we could make informed curricula decisions,” Lyle explains.

Lyle cemented her doctoral study topic when she found a significant gap in the research on the Jacobs model. “I discovered that administrators who want to be successful with this model need to understand how to use the maps and the information once it’s generated and learn not to view it as a traditional curriculum guide,” she says. “Leaders need to act as a coach and interpreter and explain how to use the information once it is generated. It’s essential for the leadership to understand the magnitude of change this initiative represents and assume proactive and active leadership roles.”

Lyle’s doctoral study committee consisted of Dr. Deanna Boddie (chair), who received the Rita Turner Award; Dr. Clarence Johnson and Dr. Pamela Warrick.

Lyle credits Boddie with pushing her to complete her best work. “Dr. Boddie kept challenging me to go back and look at the research again,” she says. “She challenged my thought processes. I felt like she really cared and thought my study was of value. That made me want to work harder. It inspired me. I feel very fortunate to have had her as my chair.”

About the Award
The Frank Dilley Award is bestowed annually upon a Walden graduate whose dissertation or doctoral study is judged as meeting the highest standards of academic excellence. It honors Dr. Frank Dilley’s singular academic contributions to higher education and, specifically, his dedication to Walden academic programs. An active contributor to the university programs, in particular residencies, Dr. Dilley personifies Walden’s innovative spirit.

Read more about the Frank Dilley Award and past recipients.