In his article in this course, Bryan Goodwin recalls hearing from some superintendents back in the spring of 2020 that it seemed to be the “star” principals who were struggling the most in leading their schools during the shift to remote learning. Why would this be? Goodwin speculates that these “formerly competent” leaders, though expert in managing day-to-day operational issues, were not well equipped to navigate conditions that were more fluid and uncertain. They struggled to think differently in the face of new circumstances.

This is not a knock on those principals. At this point, we all know that the pandemic has created one of the most challenging periods for schools in recent history. As Selma, Alabama, Superintendent Avis Williams, puts it: “For school leaders, the last two years changed everything.”

This ASCD certificate course on Adaptive Leadership is an attempt to reckon with that change—and, perhaps more centrally, to help school and district leaders identify and build the skills and dispositions they need to guide schools in a time of profound transformation and uncertainty. The articles look back at lessons learned from the past two years, as well as to the evolving challenges ahead. They vary in specifics and focus, but they all address the basic question of who—or how—school leaders need to be now.

As the title of this course suggests, one consensus answer to that question is: more “adaptive.” Now more than ever, school leaders need to respond nimbly and effectively to complex new challenges. But what goes into that? What qualities and supports do leaders need to be more adaptive? As a prompt for reflection and discussion, here are some key takeaways from the readings:

Flexible structures. Adaptive leadership is not just a matter of will. Leaders also need to put more flexible structures in place to allow for changes in course and more adaptive problem solving.

Collective purpose. At the same time, in navigating a complex challenge, adaptive leaders must be able to identify and clearly communicate a “collective purpose”—a shared and resonant schoolwide objective or “destination.” 

Empowerment. Adaptive leadership is by definition distributed leadership. This notion runs throughout the issue. You can’t address complex problems or major shifts without getting authentic input from others and tapping their creativity and collective knowledge and work. This may mean breaking down organizational hierarchies or divisions and creating more collaborative structures

Openness to new ideas and paradigms. This one may seem obvious, but it can be tough for leaders to absorb: When something isn’t working, you need to move on or make adjustments. And you need to accept challenges to your ideas and what you’ve come to rely on as conventional wisdom or established practice. Adaptive leaders make a habit of expanding their comfort zones.

As Nate Levenson writes, “The leadership skill that will be most central to healing the educational harm of the pandemic is comfort in embracing new ways of doing old things.”

5 Additional Hours!

The certificate course allows you to earn 5 additional hours of professional development symposium registration.

Course curriculum

  • 1


    • Welcome

    • FAQs

    • Before We Begin

  • 2

    Assignment 1

    • Activity 1.1 - Read: "The Problem with Annual Improvement Planning" by Robyn Jackson

    • Activity 1.2 - Reflection

  • 3

    Assignment 2

    • Activity 2.1 - Read: "Adaptive Leadership for School Equity" by Gina Davenport

    • Activity 2.2 - Reflection

  • 4

    Assignment 3

    • Activity 3.1 - Read: "In Coaching, One Size Fits One" by Jim Knight

    • 3.2 - Knowledge Check

  • 5

    Assignment 4

    • Activity 4.1 - Read: "Linking Continuous Improvement and Adaptive Leadership" by Jal Mehta, Max Yurofsky, and Kim Frumin

    • Activity 4.2 - Reflection

  • 6

    Assignment 5

    • Activity 5.1 - Read: "Different Leadership for a Different Time" by Nate Levenson

    • Activity 5.2 - Reflection

  • 7

    Assignment 6

    • Activity 6.1 - Read: "Why Teacher Buy-In Is Overrated" by Robert Feirsen

    • Activity 6.2 - Reflection

  • 8

    Assignment 7

    • Activity 7.1 - Read: "Lessons Learned from Leading Virtually" by Jennifer Gill

    • 7.2 - Knowledge Check

  • 9

    Assignment 8

    • Activity 8.1 - Read: "Transformation Leadership in Uncertain Times" by M-J Mercanti-Anthony

    • Activity 8.2 - Reflection

  • 10

    Assignment 9

    • Activity 9.1 - Read: "Leading Through Change" by Kwame Simmons, Sr.

    • Activity 9.2- Reflection

  • 11

    Assignment 10

    • Activity 10.1- Read: "Transformational Leadership in Uncertain Times" by Bryan Goodwin

    • Activity 10.2 - Knowledge Check

  • 12


    • Before You Go

    • Final Reflection & Survey

Forgot to add the certificate course to your conference registration?

Call the ASCD Service Center at 1-800-933-2723.


  • Can the course be accessed via phone or tablet?

    The course platform is completely responsive, so you may use any device of your choice.

  • How is learning assessed?

    This course utilizes a combination of Knowledge Check quizzes and written assignments.

  • How are assignments submitted?

    Assignments are uploaded directly onto the certificate platform.

  • Is there a final exam?

    No; there is no cumulative exam or summative assessment. Certificate requirements are met by completing each assignment, (reading/viewing and corresponding activity).

  • What is the deadline for completing the certificate course?

    All assignments should be completed by September 30, 2021, when the course will close.

Limited Availablity!

Course begins March 13, 2022 at 11:59 PM EST.

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