How do Minnesota School Board members learn to do their jobs?

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How do Minnesota School Board members learn to do their jobs?

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School boards in Minnesota largely function as volunteer or lowly-compensated elected bodies whose members are not professionally trained for their jobs, yet the public demands accountability and results from their local public school districts. This descriptive study examined how a random sample of 322 Minnesota school board members learned to do their jobs under such conditions, as largely autonomous bodies with various differences between school districts. A hard copy of a survey was sent to the identified sample, with a response rate of 66.1%. The study found that, while neither informal, formal, nor external professional transfer skill learning methods solely dominated, whereas Marsick and Watkins (1992) believed that 90% of workplace learning takes place through informal means. Skills requiring large degrees of interpersonal interaction, negotiation, or political awareness were learned predominantly through informal (and to a lesser extent external professional transfer) means, while skills in key duties were largely learned through formal means. Demographic characteristics gathered yielded virtually no differences among groups. Challenges faced by formal training providers of school board members included whether or not the training methods (formal versus informal) were effective for certain tasks or duties, if learning improved using formal methods, and if certain areas not currently covered in formal training might be needed. The study concludes with a call for further research into the experiences of learning to be a school board member.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2009. Major: Work and Human Resource Education. Advisor: Dr. Gary N. McLean. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 233 pages, appendices A-I.

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Conlon, Thomas Julius. (2009). How do Minnesota School Board members learn to do their jobs?. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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