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Claudette Rasmussen

Investigating the emotional challenges and resilience of social learning leaders



Claudette Rasmussen is a Senior Consultant at the American Institutes for Research where she has worked within the regional Great Lakes Comprehensive Center, national Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, and Connected Educator project. She often works with state and school district leadership teams developing practical tools and providing consultation in continuous improvement and professional learning, including Communities of Practice. Claudette was also an author of a book on problem-based learning and spent 18 years in schools in special, regular, and gifted education programs.

More about Claudette ….

Panel review letter
Panel letter Claudette Rasmussen

Exploring the wisdom of social learning leaders


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.

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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 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.

My full fellowship portfolio takes the form of a 9-page research paper:

Leadership Dilemmas: Captured Wisdom of Social Learning Leaders

It contains reflections derived from my personal experience and interviews I conducted with social learning leaders. The goals was to mine the experiences of social learning leaders in their own words and explore emergent issues, cautions, considerations, and possible solutions.

Read my porftolio paper in PDF

Claudette Rasmussen

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