Shelby Cosner, PhD
Professor and Director of UIC's Center for Urban Education Leadership
Educational Policy Studies
Building & Room:
1040 W. Harrison St. (M/C 147), Chicago, IL 60607
Shelby Cosner is a Professor of Educational Organization and Leadership in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and the Director of the UIC Center for Urban Education Leadership. In 2018, this center received national recognition by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for its expertise with continuous improvement. Cosner’s research interests include organizational change, school reform and improvement, leadership for school improvement, principal preparation/development/evaluation, and principal preparation program improvement. She has examined school leader development in a wide assortment of national contexts. She is actively engaged in researching and cultivating leader development programs and infrastructure in the Global South and Middle East.
Cosner is an applied qualitative researcher whose work draws heavily from the organizational sciences, sociology, social psychology, and management. Her recent work appears in such peer-reviewed journals as Educational Administration Quarterly, the Journal of Educational Administration, the Journal of School Leadership, Leadership and Policy in Schools, Urban Education, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, the Journal of Research on Leadership Education, and Planning and Changing. Working independently and with various colleagues, Cosner has obtained over 12M in external funding (e.g., National Science Foundation/NSF, US Department of Education, The Wallace Foundation, The McCormick Foundation, The Lyle Spencer Foundation, The Broad Foundation, The Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, The Finnegan Family Foundation, Children’s First Foundation, and the Qatar Foundation) as PI or Co-PI for various research or development projects.
Cosner is an expert on the preparation and development of educational leaders and on the continuous improvement and evaluation of preparation/development programs for educational leaders. Prior to becoming the Director of UICs Center for Urban Education Leadership, she served as the Academic Program Director and Associate Program Coordinator for UICs Doctorate in Urban Educational Leadership. In these roles, she co-led program redesign and implementation over a multi-year time frame using improvement science/inquiry cycles. This program is nationally recognized as a model principal preparation program, and it has received national awards and recognitions for its program quality including UCEAs 2013 award as an Exemplary Leadership Preparation Program (one of two programs nationally to receive this designation in its inaugural year; only 7 such programs have been identified to date) and the 2012 Urban Impact Award from the Council of Great City Schools. Through 4-year funding from The Wallace Foundation as a part of their $48M UPPI project, she led UICs efforts to support two universities (University of Connecticut and Western Kentucky University) as these institutions engage in work to improve their principal preparation programs. In 2021, The Wallace Foundation again selected Cosner to lead UIC’s team in its work to mentor two universities (University of Texas-Austin, and Portland State) as a part of the foundation’s 5-year $102M ECPI project. She also evaluates principal preparation and development programs for state departments of education and for universities.
Cosner has particular expertise related to educational leader learning designs--both in person and remote--as well as with leadership coaching. She is regularly sought to design curriculum materials for the development of school and system leaders and for the leadership coaches who support school leader development. In this work, she has served as a curriculum developer and trainer of trainers for research/development centers, state departments of education, regional educational offices, state superintendent/principal associations, and national Ministries of Education. Most recently she has worked with Qatar’s Ministry of Education to design and provide a year-long hybrid leadership team development experience for school leadership teams in Qatar. In the state of IL, she is currently leading the design of a multi-year, 16M federally funded principal development program for the Center for the Study of Education Policy. In the state of Wisconsin, she supported the design and pilot implementation of Wisconsin's state-wide principal evaluation system. She also consults with school districts throughout the US to provide development for school boards, senior/district-level leadership teams, senior leaders, school leadership teams, principals, and teacher leaders. Her work in these areas often focuses on leading cycles of inquiry and data use to inform organizational improvement and diagnosing/cultivating organizational resources that support improvement—such as teacher and leadership teams.
Cosner has received multiple awards for her teaching including UICs Council for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award in 2009 and UICs most prestigious career achievement in teaching award, the Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016. In 2018, Cosner received national recognition by UCEA when she was selected for the organization's Master Professor Award. Cosner is a former principal and district-level leader.
Principal Investigator, Diagnosing and Addressing Principal Supervisor Learning Needs, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation and Anonymous Funder ($900,000/funded), 2019-2024.
Principal Investigator, Examining Educational Ecosystems; Examining Leader Development in India and Advancing International Investment Recommendations for the Global East & South, Qatar Foundation/WISE ($96,130/funded), 2019-2021.
Co-Principal Investigator, Developing Organizational Capacity to Improve K-8 Mathematics Instruction, DRK-12 Discovery Grant Level III Implementation Teaching, National Science Foundation ($4,730,433/funded), 2019-2024.
Principal Investigator, Examining and Supporting Leadership Development, The Finnegan Family Foundation, ($105,000/funded), 2019-2023.
Co-Principal Investigator, Continuous Improvement of Senior Leadership Practices in a Major American Urban School District, Fry Foundation, Crown Foundation, and Chicago Public Schools ($90,000/funded), 2019-2020.
Principal Investigator, Exemplary Partner:, University Principal Preparation Initiative and Equity Centered Principal Pipeline Initiative, The Wallace Foundation ($1,285,000, funded), 2016-2023.
Co-Principal Investigator, Systems Approach to Leader Pipeline Development, US Department of Education ($1,948,007/funded), 2014-2017.
Principal Investigator, PK-5 Mathematics Instructional Improvement: Common Core for All Learners., McCormick Foundation ($450,000/funded), 2014-2017. Additional PIs David Mayrowetz, Cathy Main and Kathleen Sheridan, University of Illinois at Chicago.
Co-Principal Investigator, Cycles of Innovation and Continuous Improvement:, A University/District Partnership to Produce Transformative Principals. School Leadership Program Grant. U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement ($1,000,330/funded), 2013-2017. PI, Steve Tozer, Center for Urban Educational Leadership and additional Co-PIs Sam Whalen, Andrea Evans and David Mayrowetz, University of Illinois at Chicago.
Co-Principal Investigator, Urban School Leadership Preparation, The Broad Foundation ($2,100,000/funded), 2007-2011. PI Steve Tozer and additional Co-PI Peter Martinez, University of Illinois at Chicago).
Cosner, S., & De Voto, C. (revise and resubmit submitted July 2021). Taking action to fortify the developmental utility of the clinical experience: Adopting a brokering stance with preparation-based leadership coaching. Educational Administration Quarterly.
Richard, M., & Cosner, S. (forthcoming, 2022). Improving equity-oriented school leaders: One program’s improvement work towards preparation for equity. In D. Fowler, J. Vasquez, S. Lougantos, & A. Johnson (Eds.), Equity & access: An analysis of educational leadership preparation, policy & practice.
Cosner, S., Whalen, S., Richard, M., & Hebert, M. (2021). Exploring educational ecosystems through the lens of intermediary organizations: Insights for policy and practice. 2021 WISE Research Report. Qatar Foundation. Access at: https://urbanedleadership.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Wise-Annual-Report-03-.2021-Ready-to-print-High-Resolution.pdf
Richard, M., Salisbury, J., & Cosner, S. (2020). The school-community connection: Social justice leaders’ community activism to promote justice for students. International Journal of Leadership in Education. Access at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13603124.2020.1842506
Salisbury, J., Richard, M., & Cosner, S. (2020). Merging schools and communities: Engaging in activist leadership beyond your school walls. In J. Brooks, T. Watson, & A. Heffernan (Eds.), The school leadership survival guide: What to do when things go wrong, how to learn from mistakes, and why you should prepare for the worst (pp. 131-153). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Richard M., Cosner, S., & Salisbury, J. (2020). Social justice leadership in market contexts. In C. Mullen (Ed.), Handbook of social justice interventions in education (pp. 1-25). Switzerland. Springer International Handbook of Education.
Cosner, S. (2020). A deeper look into next generation active learning designs for educational leader preparation. Journal of Research on Leadership Education,15(3), 167-173. Access at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1942775120936301
Cosner, S., Leslie, D., & Shyjka, A., (2019). Supporting instructional transformation tied to standards-based reforms: Examining a learning focused approach to school-wide instructional improvement. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 19(2), 252-270. Access at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330156557_Supporting_Instructional_Transformation_Tied_to_Standards-Based_Reforms_Examining_a_Learning-Focused_Approach_to_Supporting_School-Wide_Implementation
Cosner, S. (2019). What makes a leadership preparation program exemplary? Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 14(1), 98-115. Access at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1942775118819661
Cosner, S., Walker, L., Swanson J., Hebert, M., & Whalen, S. (2018). Examining the architecture of leadership coaching: Considering developmental affordances from multifarious structuring. Journal of Educational Administration, 56(3), 364-380. Access at: https://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-05-2017-0049
Service to Community
Co-Lead Developer and Professional Development Provider, Year-long development series for Chicago Public Schools Network Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs, Chicago, IL, 2020-2022.
Program Designer/Curriculum Developer/Professional Development Provider, Qatar Ministry of Education and Qatar Foundation. Year-long school leader development program for school leadership teams in Qatar, 2020-2021.
Curriculum Developer and Trainer of Professional Developers, Leadership Coaches, and District Leaders, Illinois State University’sCenter for the Study of Education Policy. Federally funded through $16M multi-year federal grant programs including Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) and Education Innovation Research (EIR); project impacts roughly 150 principals in high needs urban, rural, and suburban schools in IL and related school districts; development being examined through randomized control trial. Normal, IL. 2017 to 2021.
Professional Development Provider, UIC’s Center for Urban Education Leadership (CUEL). Summer institute provided to New Schools for Chicago Principals. Chicago, IL. Summer 2017.
Lead Curriculum Developer and Trainer of Training Team, Illinois State University’s Center for the Study of Education Policy. Year-long curriculum development and training of a team of professional developers who will be training school principals. Normal, IL. 2017-2018.
Executive Coach, Chicago Public Schools Academic Chiefs. Chicago, IL. 2017-2018.
Lead Developer and Professional Development Provider, Year-long development series for Chicago Public Schools senior leadership team/academic chiefs and department leaders. Chicago, IL. 2016-2018.
Co-Lead Developer and Professional Development Provider, Year-long development series for Chicago Public Schools network chiefs. Chicago, IL. 2016-2017.
Developer and Professional Development Provider, Grafton School District. Multi-year development of system- and school-level leadership teams. Grafton, WI. 2015-2017.
Lead Curriculum Developer and Trainer of Training Team, DuPage Regional Office of Education (ROE). Year-long principal development institute. DuPage, IL. 2015-2016.
Developer and Professional Development Provider, Green Bay School District, Multi-year redesign of central office administrative team, development of system-level leadership teams, and development of executive director/principal supervisors. Green Bay, WI. 2014-2016.
Lead Curriculum Developer and Trainer of State-wide Training Team, School Administrators’ Institute for Transformational Leadership (SAIL), Association of Wisconsin School Administrator. Madison, WI. 2014.
Executive Committee Member, University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), 2019-present.
Director, UIC’s Center for Urban Education Leadership, College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2018-present.
Chair, Program Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Ex-Officio, American Educational Research Association SIG-Leadership for School Improvement, 2010-2015.
Academic Program Director, Associate Program Coordinator, Ed.D. in Urban Education Leadership, Department of Educational Policy Studies, College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2008-2014.
Director, Leadership Research and Development, Partnership READ. College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2006-2009.
2021, 2019, 2018, Reviewer of the Year, Journal of Educational Administration
2018, Master Professor, University Council for Educational Administration
2016, Reviewer of the Year, Journal of Research on Leadership Application
2016, UIC Award for Excellence in Teaching (Career Achievement Award), University of Illinois at Chicago
2009, Teaching Recognition Program Award, UIC Council for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, 2005
International, National, and State Organizations:
Research Team Advisory Board, University of Wisconsin-Madison Research Team, Wallace Foundation’s Equity-centered Pipeline Initiative (ECPI), 2021 to 2028.
University Preparation Program Mentor and Professional Learning Community Member, Wallace Foundation’s Equity-centered Pipeline Initiative Wallace Foundation’s ECPI Project, 2021 to present.
Steering Committee Member, Carnegie Foundation’s I-LEAD, 2021 to present.
Academic Advisory Board Member, Global School Leaders (GSL), 2020 to present.
Leadership Team Member, Agile Leaders for Learning Innovation Network (ALL-IN), international network of thought leaders advancing a school leader research and development agenda for the Global East and South, 2019 to present.
Member, Educator Preparatory Lab, National principal and teacher preparation improvement community, 2019 to present.
Member, AERA and UCEA Joint Research Planning Team on Educational Leadership Preparation Assessment and Evaluation, 2019.
Advisory Board Member, Tennessee Transformational Leadership Alliance, state-wide incubator for state’s principal pipeline policy strategy and programs, 2017- 2019.
Member, The Wallace Foundation’s University Principal Preparation Program Initiative (UPPI) Professional Learning Community, 2016-present.
Advisory Board Member, to University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) and New Leaders/National Project on the Evaluation of School Leadership Preparation, 2014-2015.
Plenum Representative, for the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), 2012-2019.
Cosner, S., Whalen, S., Richard, M., & Hebert, M. (December, 2021). Exploring educational ecosystems through the lens of intermediary organizations: Insights for policy and practice. Invited presentation at the 2021 World Innovation Summit in Education (WISE), Doha, Qatar.
Cosner, S. (December, 2021). Empowering leaders of learning: Addressing global school leader development needs. Invited presentation at the 2021 World Innovation Summit in Education (WISE), Doha, Qatar.
Cosner, S. (December, 2021). Meet the author. Invited research talk at the 2021 World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE), Doha, Qatar.
Cosner, S. (December, 2020). From preparation to school leadership: Role enactment for impact. Invited Willower Family Lecture at the University of Buffalo.
Cosner, S. (September, 2020). New relational models and dynamics in school leadership. Invited moderator for the virtual global gathering, Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined-Part III.
Cosner, S. (August, 2020). Principal leadership development as a key to improving educational systems. Invited expert panel member at the virtual global gathering, Partners For Possibility School Leader Development for South Africa.
Cosner, S. (June, 2020). Helping leaders and schools respond and reimagine following remote learning. Invited expert panel member at the virtual global gathering, Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined-Part II.
Cosner, S. (May, 2020). Organizing school communities for remote learning. Expert panel member at the virtual US convening, Schools that Can Virtual Forum.
Cosner, S. & Abedin, M., (November, 2019). Innovations in school leader development: Lessons from five global case studies beyond OECD. Invited presentation at the World Innovation Summit in Education, Doha, Qatar.
Cosner, S. (November, 2019). Examining school leader development in India. Invited talk at the annual meeting of the Agile Leaders of Learning Innovation Network, Doha, Qatar.
Cosner, S., & Opfer, D. (November, 2019). What do we know about and how might we advance the evaluation of school leader preparation and development? Expert panel member at the annual meeting of the Agile Leaders of Learning Innovation Network, Doha, Qatar.
Cosner, S., Fuller, E., & Pounder, D. (November, 2019). What is the current state of research on educational leadership preparation and practice. Expert panel Member For AERA/UCEA National Conference on Advancing Knowledge about the University Contributions to Professional Learning in Educational Leadership, Washington, DC.
Cosner, S. (June, 2019). Enhancing the clinical experience for aspiring leaders: Collaboration between preparation programs/mentors principals/districts.Address to the Principal Pipeline Initiative, Texas Education Agency, Austin TX.
Cosner, S. (June, 2019). Enhancing the clinical experience for aspiring leaders: Strengthening mentor practice.Address to the Principal Pipeline Initiative, Texas Education Agency, Austin, TX.
Cosner, S. (February, 2019). Learning about leading cycles of inquiry for schoolwide improvement. Statewide Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Conference, Chicago IL.
Cosner S., & Clifford, M. (December, 2018). The principal residency experience: Benchmarking learning. Webinar for the Texas Education Agency.
Cosner, S. (August, 2018). A deeper look into robust residency experiences. Address to the Tennessee Transformational Leadership Alliance Program Summit, Nashville, TN.
Cosner, S. (June, 2018). Strengthening the developmental support role of the mentor principal for aspirant learning and development during the clinical experience. Texas Education Agency’s Principal Preparation Initiative, Houston, TX.
Cosner, S. (June, 2018). Designing robust clinical experiences for principal preparation. Expert panel member. The Wallace Foundation ‘s UPPI Convening, New York, NY.
Cosner, S., (May, 2018). Developing strong leaders: A national perspective. Expert panel member for Score Institute on School Leadership, Nashville, TN.
Cosner, S., (April, 2018). Examining the affordances and design of clinically-enacted course embedded work tasks in principal preparation. The Wallace Foundation’s UPPI Faculty PLC, Chicago, IL.
Cosner, S., & Tozer, S. (March, 2018). Building curricular coherence within the scope and sequence of leadership preparation: Lessons from UIC. University Council for Educational Administration Professional Development Network site visit, Chicago, IL.
Cosner, S., (March, 2018). Beyond case-based learning: Developing practice through active learning routines. University Council for Educational Administration Professional Development Networked Improvement Community site visit, Chicago, IL.
Cosner, S. (October, 2017). Transforming principal preparations: From vision to action. Keynote speaker at the Connecticut State Department of Education Connecticut Principal Preparation Program Convening, East Hartford, CT.
Cosner, S., (September, 2017). University of Illinois Ed.D. in Urban Education Leadership doctoral program, logic model, program design and course sequencing and stranding. National Webinar for The Wallace Foundation’s UPPI Faculty PLC.
Cosner, S., (June, 2017). Examining logic models and their utility to principal preparation and program improvement. Address to the Tennessee Transformational Leadership Alliance, Tennessee Department of Education, Nashville, TN.
Cosner, S., (April, 2017). Networked approaches to principal preparation program improvement. Keynote address to The Wallace Foundation, Educational Development Center Principal Pipeline Initiative National Training Provider PLC. Boston, MA.
Cosner, S., & Korach, S., Burg, C., Taylor, W., & Mayfield, F. (January, 2017). Cultivating growth mindset in principal preparation programs. Expert panel at The Wallace Foundation, Educational Development Center Principal Pipeline Initiative National Training Provider PLC. Boston, MA.
Cosner, S., Korach, S., & O’Doherty, A. (December, 2016). Principal preparation logic models and outcomes. Expert panel at The Wallace Foundation’s University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI) Professional Learning Community. New York, NY.
Cosner, S., & Hunt E., (December, 2016). Case in point: State principal preparation policy change in Illinois. Invited talk to The Wallace Foundation’s University Principal Preparation Initiative (UPPI) Professional Learning Community. New York, NY.
Cosner, S. (July, 2016). Harnessing the MTSS problem solving process for impact leadership. Keynote address to all Chicago Public School (CPS) principals at the CPS Summer Principals’ Institute. Chicago, IL.
Cosner, S. (June, 2016). Connecting system-level performance management to cycle of inquiry use for the improvement of student learning. Keynote address to all Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Chief Academic Officers and Academic Leaders. Chicago, IL.
Young, M., Cosner, S., & O’Doherty, A. (March, 2016). Questions answered about the exemplary educational leadership preparation program award and application process. Invited national webinar for the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA).
Cosner, S., Shellinger, M., & Dougal, J. (November, 2015). Developing excellent school principals: Policy into practice. Expert panel at the Joint Meeting of National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Washington, DC.
Cosner, S. (October, 2015). Harnessing cycles of inquiry for the improvement of student learning across a network of diverse schools.Invited address to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Network Chiefs and Deputy Chiefs. Chicago, IL.
Cosner, S., Barron, C., Pietrini, N., & Raichoudhuri, R., (September, 2015). Rethinking pedagogy and projects in leadership development. Invited presentation to the School Leadership Preparation Development Network Annual Convention. Chicago, IL.
Cosner, S., LaCoste, B., Albani, L., & Green, L. (September, 2015). Examining leadership coaching for principal preparation: Coaching for competency development. Invited presentation to the School Leadership Preparation Development Network Annual Convention. Chicago, IL.
Cosner, S. (August, 2015). Using school-wide cycles of inquiry to improve teaching and student learning. Keynote Address to the Grafton School District. Grafton, WI.
Cosner, S. (February, 2015). Considering measures and metrics for school leadership program evaluation and improvement. Invited national webinar hosted by the School Leadership Program Development Network.
Cosner, S. (January, 2015). How principals build organizational capacity to improve student learning.Keynote address to the Illinois School Leadership Advisory Council. Bloomington, IL.
Young, M., Cosner, S., & Burnett, P. (December, 2014). Filling the principal pipeline: University-district partnerships. Invited nation videoconference sponsored by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
Cosner, S., Tozer, S., & Whalen, S. (September, 2014). Using data for school leadership preparation program improvement and evaluation. Invited presentation to the School Leadership Preparation Development Network Annual Convention. Long Beach, CA.
Cosner, S. (June, 2014). Using a cycle of inquiry for system and school improvement. Keynote address for the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators Institute for Transformational Leadership (SAIL) . Wisconsin Dells, WI.
Cosner, S. (June, 2014). Using a cycle of inquiry to diagnose and deliver on your greatest learning needs. Keynote address for the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators and the Wisconsin Association of District Administrators Wisconsin’s Annual State Quality Educator Convention. Madison, WI.
Cosner, S. (April, 2014). Distributed leadership: Advantages and challenges. Expert panel at the U.S. Department of Education, School Leadership Program Project Director’s Conference. Washington, DC.
Cosner, S. (January, 2014). Strengthening district and school implementation of the Common Core. Invited address to the Illinois Governor’s P-12 Education Council. Chicago, IL.
Cosner, S. (October, 2013). Key school leadership approaches that support Common Core enactment. Keynote address to the Illinois Large Unit District Administrators (LUDA), Chicago, IL.
Cosner, S. (September, 2013). Cultivating system and school improvement in a context of multiple state policy initiatives: Rethinking the superintendent’s role. Keynote address at the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators Annual Convention. Madison, WI.
Cosner, S. (August, 2013). Principal preparation: Leader dispositions and disposition development. Expert panel member for The Wallace Foundation Principal Pipeline Initiative. Gwinnett, GA.
Cosner, S. (May, 2013). Principal evaluation processes and tools. Keynote address for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s Principal Supervisor Training for the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System. Wisconsin Dells, WI.
Cosner, S. (December, 2012). Sustaining innovative educational leadership preparation programs. Invited address for The Wallace Foundation, Educational Development Center Principal Pipeline Initiative National Training Provider PLC, New York, NY.Cosner, S. (October, 2012). Examining and assessing principal practice within the context of a state-wide principal evaluation system.Keynote address for the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System Developmental Pilot for Principal Supervisors. Wausa, WI.
Research Currently in Progress
Leadership development in India.
Developing organizational capacity to improve K-8 mathematics instruction.
Leadership coaching for leader development.
Activist leadership in big city schools.