Monday, November 29, 2010

People Centered: A Reflection on The Human Resource Frame in Education

One of the more consistent themes I found while  doing the literature review for my research into the leadership orientations of independent school heads was the frequency of use of the human resource frame by educational leaders and teachers.  For those who are unfamiliar with “framing”, I am referring to the concepts put forth by Bolman and Deal (2003) addressing the way leaders interpret situations and make decisions. 

Bolman and Deal (2003) describe 4 frames (structural, human resource, political, and symbolic) from which leaders use to organize and evaluate the numerous pieces of input regarding a situation.  The frames these leaders use will determine the decisions they make.  Theory is, therefore, the more frames a leader can employ to evaluate a situation, the more likely the leader is to make a good decision.  If multiple frames are used, leaders are then “re-framing” in order to determine possible courses of action that would not be clear unless multiple frames are used.  Of course this is a very simplified explanation of Bolman and Deal’s (2003) framework.

Turning back to the human resource frame, there are a few basic assumptions upon which it is understood:

  • Organizations exist to serve human needs rather than the reverse.
  • People and organizations need each other.  Organizations need ideas, energy, and talent; people need careers, salaries, and opportunities.
  • When the fit between individual and system is poor, one or both suffer.  Individuals are exploited or exploit the organization – or both become victims.
  • A good fit benefits both.  Individuals find meaningful and satisfying work, and organizations get the talent and energy they need to succeed (Bolman and Deal, 2003, p. 115).

In essence, “the human resource frame emphasizes an understanding of people, with their strengths and foibles, reason and emotion, desires and fears” (Bolman and Deal, 2003, p. 18).

Does this frame seem to fit your school?  Your leadership team?  You as a teacher?

Also, as a consistently identified frame for educational leaders, are there any elements inherent with this frame that appears to support the emphasis on 21st century skills and/or the continued integration of technology in the classroom as a tool for building 21st century skills?


Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2003). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. (3rd ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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