Regents professor; Director of undergraduate studies; Robert Holmes Beck Chair of Ideas in Education
Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development
86 Pleasant St S E
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Ph.D., Columbia University, 1975, sociology
B.A., Swarthmore College, 1967, history
Areas of Interest
Schools and universities as workplaces
Leadership and administration
My primary research interests focus on school improvement and school reform, although I do some teaching and advising in all areas of educational policy and administration. My main area of expertise includes improvement in K-12 leadership and policy over the last 30 years, particularly in urban secondary schools. I also conduct research on organizational changes within higher education, with particular attention to faculty roles, and on international comparative policy in educational reform. My interest in evaluation is a long-standing, and has emphasized in the assessment of large-scale educational programs and policies.
As a sociologist, I tend to look at educational reform through the lens of organizational theory, with an emphasis on the interaction between culture and structure. One of the most intriguing issues sociologists currently grapple with is the implication of chaos theory for socially constructed groups. For those of us who are empirical in our orientation, it's difficult to accept that we can explain certain dynamics, but can't create the environment to make things happen with a large degree of predictability.
My research in higher education is influenced not only by theory, but also by my experience in administration (I have served as department chair, associate dean, and director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement). As a self-confessed faculty governance junky, I consider my work on college and university committees to be a form of participant observation!
I work with both the department's undergraduate leadership minor and with graduate students. I like to look for challenges to the way I approach research and teaching on a regular basis, and a lot of these come from students. I particularly enjoy the face-to-face interaction with doctoral students, and helping them refine their areas of research.
I love working in a collaborative and intellectually lively environment that marries public service and scholarly research in a meaningful way. The Department and the University provide me with wonderful and ever-changing opportunities that ensure that I will never be bored with my job as a professor.
View Setting the Stage presentation.
"In this presentation, Dr. Karen Seashore Louis from the Advancement of Teaching and Learning department of the University of Minnesota summarizes her own and others' research in three areas: professional community for teachers, organizational learning in schools, and the development of trust among all stakeholders. Her presentation shows the relationship between these three arenas using case studies of real schools. Seashore Louis emphasizes the important role of teacher and administrator leadership in creating synergy among these three elements in order to promote high-quality instruction and student learning." Posted on the Teachers Working Conditions website.
- National study linking leadership at state, district, and school levels to student learning
- Study of professional and ethical values in graduate school
- Study of academic-industry relations in science
Louis, K. S. & Velzen, B. van (2012). Educational Policy in an international context: Political culture and its effects. New York: Palgrave/McMillan.
Earl, L. & Louis, K. S. (2012). Data use: Where to from Here? In K. Schildkamp, M. Lin, & L. Earl (Eds.), Data driven decision making in education: Challenges and opportunities (pp. 193-204). Dordrecht, NL: Springer.
Louis, K. S. (2012). Conducting research on leadership and change in education. In C. Conrad & R. Serlin (Eds.), Handbook on research in education (pp. 429-448). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Louis, K. S. (2012). Learning communities in learning schools: Developing the social capacity for change. In C. Day (Ed.), International handbook of teacher and school development (pp. 477-492). Abingdon and New York: Routledge.
Louis, K. S., Mayrowetz, D., Smiley, M., & Murphy, J. (2009). The role of sensemaking and trust in developing distributed leadership. In A. Harris (Ed.), Distributed leadership: Different perspectives. (Vol. 7, pp. 157-180). 03Netherlands: Spinger. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-9737-9
Gordon, M., & Louis, K. S. (2009). Linking parent and community involvement with student achievement: Comparing principal and teacher perceptions of stakeholder influence. American Journal of Education, 116(1), 1-32.
Wahlstrom, K., & Louis, K. S. (2008). How teachers perceive principal leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(4), 498-445.
Kruse, S. D., & Louis, K. S. (2008). Strong cultures: A principal's guide to change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Louis, K. S., Thomas, E., Gordon, M., & Febey, K. (2008). Does state leadership matter? An analysis of three states. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(4), 562-592.
Simsek, H., & Louis, K. S. (2008). Teacher unions, new unionism, and shifting cultural metaphors. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 31, 93-114.
Louis, K. S. (2008). Learning to support school improvement: Next steps for research on district practice. American Journal of Education, 114, 681-690.
Smylie, M., Mayrowetz, D., Murphy, J., & Louis, K. S. (2008). Trust and the development of distributed leadership. Journal of School Leadership, 17(4), 469-503.
Louis, K. S., Holdsworth, J., Anderson, M., & Campbell, E. (2008). Everyday ethics in research: Translating authorship guidelines into practice in the bench sciences. Journal of Higher Education, 79(1), 88-112.
Mayrowetz, D., Murphy, J., Louis, K. S., & Smylie, M. A. (2008). Conceptualizing distributed leadership as a school reform: Revisiting job redesign theory. In K. Leithwood (Ed.), Distributed leadership according to the evidence (pp. 167-196). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Febey, K., & Louis, K. S. (2008). Perspectives on policy cultures in three states. In B. Cooper, L. Fusarelli, & J. Cibulka (Eds.), Handbook of education politics and policy (pp. 52-72). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Louis, K. S. (2008). Creating and sustaining professional communities. In R. Coles & A. Blankenstein (Eds.), Sustaining learning communities (pp. 41-57). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Louis, K. S., Anderson, M., & Campbell, E. (2007). Becoming a scientist: The effects of workgroup size and climate. Journal of Higher Education, 78(3), 311-330.
Mayrowetz, D., Murphy, J., Louis, K. S., & Smylie, M. (2007). Distributed leadership as work redesign: Retrofitting the job characteristics model. Educational Policy and Leadership, 6(1), 69-103.
Louis, K. S. (2007). Trust and improvement in schools. Journal of Educational Change, 6(1), 1-24.
Stoll, L., & Louis, K. S. (Eds.). (2007). Professional learning communities: Divergence, depth and dilemmas. London/New York: Open University Press/McGraw Hill.
Louis, K. S. (2007). Managing complex change: Bringing meso-politics back in. In M. Wallace, M. Fertig, & E. Schnelling (Eds.), Managing change in the public services (pp. 97-115). Oxford: Blackwell.
Kruse, S., & Louis, K. S. (2007). Building professional community from the top-down: A reflective case study. In L. Stoll & K. S. Louis (Eds.), Professional learning communities: Divergence, detail and dilemmas. London: Open University Press.
Louis, K. S., & Gordon, M. (2006). Aligning student support with achievement goals: The secondary principal's guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Louis, K. S. (2006). Organizing for school change. London and New York: Taylor and Francis.
Louis, K. S. (2006). Changing the culture of schools: Professional community, organizational learning and trust. Journal of School Leadership, 16(4), 477-489.
Clarkson, L., & Louis, K. S. (2006). Leadership for curriculum change: Schools engaged in "closing the gap." In A. Danzig, K. Borman, B. Jones, & W. Wright (Eds.), Professional development for learner centered leadership: Policy, research, and practice (pp. 11-130). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Kruse, S. & Louis, K. S. (2003). Evaluating technology and instructional innovation: When clear findings are not evident. In M. Wallace and L. Poulsen (Eds.), Learning to read critically in educational management 203. London: Sage.
Louis, K. S. (2003). Democratic schools, democratic communities: Reflections in and international context. In L. Moos (Ed.), Democratic schooling in an international context. London: Routledge Kegan Paul.
Jones, L. & Louis, K. S. (2003). Unions, politicians, and educators: The Case of KEYS in River Bluffs Elementary. In B. Portin, L. Beck, M. Knapp & J. Murphy (Eds.), Taking stock and moving on: The local lessons from a national school renewal initiative. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Louis, K. S., Jones, L. M., Campbell, E.G. (2002). Sharing in science. American Scientist, 90(4), 304-307.
Spillane, J. & Louis, K.S. (2002). School improvement processes and practices: Professional learning for building instructional capacity. In J. Murphy (Ed.), Challenges of leadership: Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.
Detert, J., Louis, K. S. & Schroeder, R. (2001). A culture framework for education: Defining quality values for U.S. high schools. Journal of School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 12(2), 183-212.
Louis, K. S., Jones, L. M., & Barajas, H. (2001). Districts and schools as a context for transformed counseling roles. NASSP Bulletin, 85 (625), 62-72.
Louis, K. S., Jones, L., Anderson, M., Campbell, E. & Blumenthal, D. (2000). Entrepreneurs, secrecy, and productivity. In D. Siegel, J. Thursby, M. Thursby, & A. Ziedonis (Eds.), Organizational issues in university technology transfer. The Journal of Technology Transfer, (26) 233-245.
Riley, K. & Louis, K. S. (Eds.). (2000). Leadership for change and school improvement: International perspectives. London: Falmer.
Marks, H., Louis, K. S. & Printy, S. (2000). The capacity for organizational learning: Implications for pedagogy and student achievement. In K. Leithwood (Ed.), Organizational learning and school improvement (pp. 239-266). Greenwich, CT: JAI.
Louis, K. S., Seppanen, P., Jones, L., & Smylie, M. (2000). Unions as leaders for school change: An analysis of the "KEYS" programs. In K. Riley & Louis, K. S. (Eds.), Leadership for learning: International perspectives on leadership in school reform and change (pp. 163-184). London: Falmer.
Murphy, J., & Louis, K. S. (Eds.). (1999). Handbook of educational administration (2nd ed.). (An publication of the American Educational Research Association). California: Jossey Bass.
Marks, H. & Louis, K. S. (1999). Teacher empowerment and the capacity for organizational learning. Educational Administration Quarterly, 35, 751-781.
Bryk, A., Camburn, E., & Louis, K. S. (1999). Promoting school improvement through professional communities: An analysis of Chicago elementary schools. Educational Administration Quarterly, 35, 707-750. Received the William J. Davis Award.
Smith, B. & Louis, K. S. (1999). Changes at Big Mountain High School. The Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership. Received the Paula Silver Award.
Louis, K. S. (1999). Making meaning of the relationship between research and policy: An epilogue. Educational Policy, 13(1), 199-212.
Toole, J. & Louis, K. S. (in press). Overcoming parody and paradox in professional learning communities. In K. Leithwood (Ed.), International handbook of educational administration (2nd ed.).
Louis, K. S. & Felber-Smith, A. (2012, November). Leadership and teachers professional culture. Presentation at the University Council for Educational Administration, Denver, CO.
Louis, K. S. & Demerath, P. W. (2012, September). Turnaround St. Paul: Perspectives from the feedback and assessment team. Presentation to the Evaluation Roundtable, St. Paul Public Schools.
Louis, K. S. & Lee, M. S. (2012, April). Defining and measuring a strong school culture linked to student learning. Presentation at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Vancouver, BC.
Louis, K.S. (2012, February). Global governance and the international research agenda: A perspective from the “soft” science of education. Presentation at the Addressing Global Challenges Through International Research conference, University of Minnesota.
Louis, K.S. (2012, February 7). How districts support effective leadership practice. UCEA/Wallace Foundation Webinar available at http://ucea.org/home/2012/2/7/view-the-latest-webinar-how-school-districts-support-effecti.html.
Louis, K. S. (2012, January). Educational policy leadership in the U.S. and Europe: How do political systems create innovation and reform? Presentation at the International Congress for School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Malmo, Sweden.
Louis, K. S. & Felber-Smith, A. (2012, January). Communities and schools: What is the problem? Presentation at the International Congress for School Effectiveness and School Improvement, Malmo, Sweden.