INTELLECTUAL STIMULATION: Breeding a Culture of Best-Practice

A school leader gains trust when he or she “ensures faculty and staff are aware of the most current theories and practices and makes the discussion of these a regular aspect of the school’s culture.”[1] The professional literature on this topic points to the facilitation of continual improvement as the primary function of school leaders.[2] This primary function is focused on building a collective capacity for improvement.[3] Numerous studies reveal that continuous school improvement raises the awareness and intentional integration of best practices.[4]

The research also shows that “Best practice doesn’t always equal best strategy.”[5] Therefore, the school leader’s responsibility of Intellectual Stimulation also involves contextualizing best practices into effective strategies, which meet the unique situations in which teachers teach and meet the current student body’s learning needs.

School leaders increase their level of trust when they are actively involved in intellectually stimulating others. B.M. Bass has stated that Intellectual Stimulation is characterized by enabling “followers to think of old problems in new ways.”[6] The call to intellectual engagement and a commitment to the active work of thinking are also identified in the biblical record. Jesus gave the directive to, “love the Lord your God with all your mind.”[7] Authentic Christian faith, and our leadership of others of faith in Christ, should always be exemplified through the engagement of our minds; stimulating our intellects as a reflection of our love of God.

In the Psalms, we read, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”[8] Leaders, who recognize the source of all wisdom and all intellectual pursuits, also recognize how Intellectual Stimulation should drive us to the Author of all understanding. Therefore, the school leader who engages his or her faculty and staff in Intellectual Stimulation is not relying on the humanistic prowess of those they manage, but rather embraces a Christian humanism that knows our intellectual pursuits drive us to a deeper dependency on God, the “author and perfecter of faith.”[9]

©2017 Toby A. Travis, Ed.D.


[1] Marzano et. al, School Leadership That Works, 714-715, Kindle.

[2] J.J. Bonstingl, Schools of Quality: An Introduction to Total Quality Management in Education (Alexandria: ASCD, 1992), 38.

[3] Richard DuFour and Robert J. Marzano, Leaders of Learning: How District, School, and Classroom Leaders Improve Student Achievement (Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press, 2011), 512-520, Kindle.

[4] Carole Edmonds, “Continuous quality improvement: integrating best practice into teacher education,” International Journal of Educational Management 21, no. 3 (2007): 232-237.

[5] Philipp M. Nattermann, “Best practice Best strategy,” McKinsey Quarterly 4, (2000): 22-31.

[6] Bernard and Ruth Bass, The Bass Handbook of Leadership: Theory, Research, and Managerial Applications (New York: Free Press, 1990), 218.

[7] Luke 10:27 (NASB).

[8] Psalm 111:10 (NASB).

[9] Hebrews 12:2 (NASB).

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