The principal's microcosm: an exploration of the interplay between the leader's meaning system and school self-renewing processes

PhD Thesis


Lyons, John. 2005. The principal's microcosm: an exploration of the interplay between the leader's meaning system and school self-renewing processes. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

The principal's microcosm: an exploration of the interplay between the leader's meaning system and school self-renewing processes

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorLyons, John
SupervisorCrowther, Frank
Rice, Don
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages521
Year2005
Abstract

Despite research on the school principalship having evolved over past decades, the prevailing standpoint has largely remained an outsider's perspective upon external behavioural manifestations of principalship. Whilst valuable in their own right, such models of research accord little importance to the effect of thought and intention on behaviour. The purpose of this research was to articulate the notion of a principal's 'microcosm' as a means of capturing the dynamics of meaning making in the principalship, when the cognitive world of the principal and the actual work of school leadership interact. The functional context was the expectations of catholic school authorities that schools will engage in processes of continuous self-renewal. Following comprehensive analysis of recent theoretical and research literature, a preliminary framework for the principal's microcosm was generated. A single-investigator, multiple-site case study methodology was utilised to conduct the field research, which was carried out in a provincial city of an Australian state. Three principals were selected as the subjects for in-depth exploration and analysis over a period of 16 months. A range of qualitative research strategies was employed, encompassing formal and informal interactions with the three principals and selected members of their professional communities. On the basis of the field study, a refined framework for the principal's microcosm was developed. Four major conclusions were identified. First, the notion of microcosm offers promise as an explanatory and analytical tool for focussing upon the complexities of change in school settings. Second, metaphor was observed to be integral to microcosm and its usefulness for comprehending leader behaviours was identified. The third conclusion concerned the potential of the construct microcosm for facilitating leader development through assisting individual leaders to reflect upon and to critically examine personal meanings embedded within their own professional practice. Finally, this research makes a contribution to clarifying the nature of catholic education itself.

Keywordsprincipalship; principal; microcosm; teaching; school; education
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020520102. Educational psychology
390307. Teacher education and professional development of educators
390403. Educational administration, management and leadership
Byline AffiliationsHoly Spirit College, Australia
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