Published in Connexions Module m14518, May 11, 2007. 14 pages. Copyright 2007 by the authors. Also available online at http://cnx.org/content/m14518/1.1/.
In response to societal, pedagogical, and economic pressures for change, colleges of education and departments of educational leadership have sought alternative formats for the professional development of educational leaders (Clark and Clark, 1997; Glasman and Glasman, 1997; Short, 1997; Petersen and Barnett, 2005). A major programmatic development that is illustrative of responses to these pressures is the use of cohorts, which have emerged as a popular program delivery strategy (Murphy, 1999). Cohorts are touted for providing clear program structure and course sequencing, a supportive peer group, and increased contact with instructors (Norris & Barnett, 1994; Yerkes, Basom, Norris, & Barnett, 1995; Barnett, Basom, Yerkes, & Norris, 2000). University administrators, faculty and students laud cohort programs as vehicles for increasing student interaction and interdependence (Norris & Barnett, 1994), increasing student involvement and integration with the greater university community, and improving learning outcomes (Reynolds & Herbert, 1998). Yet, despite these observations about cohorts, we really have very little empirical evidence to support claims that cohorts prepare educational leaders at the doctoral level any better than other programmatic forms (Barnett et al., 2000). So, why have cohorts become so popular? One lens for exploring this and related questions is neo-institutional theory. Neo-institutional theory offers a means to explore not only the level of commonality in use of cohorts, but also the processes by which they have become so popular across the leadership preparation landscape.