The principal in a process of school revitalisation: a metastrategic role

PhD Thesis


Morgan, Allan Robert. 2008. The principal in a process of school revitalisation: a metastrategic role . PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

The principal in a process of school revitalisation: a metastrategic role

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorMorgan, Allan Robert
SupervisorCrowther, Frank
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages365
Year2008
Abstract

[Abstract]: The educational literature has popularised models of school leadership such as Instructional, Transformational, Strategic, Educative, and Servant Leadership. Whilst valuable as ways of conceptualising leadership styles, worldviews, traits, roles and functions of individual principals, these models fall short of capturing the dynamic between the outcomes of leadership and the leadership process in contemporary school contexts.

Distributed leadership theory is held by many to be more attuned to the post-industrial needs of organisations, and its influence on educational research has seen the emergence of new ways of comprehending leadership in schools. One influential example is ‘parallel leadership’, a derivative of distributed leadership that describes teachers as leaders of curriculum and pedagogy and principals as metastrategic leaders. This study looks specifically at the leadership processes of a small sample of principals in the process of school revitalisation titled IDEAS (Innovative Designs for Enhancing the Achievements of Schools).

A key motivation for this study was that the concept of ‘parallel leadership’ had been subjected to little serious critique. Uncertainty surrounded how principals in IDEAS schools conceptualised their leadership, and what impacts experience with the IDEAS Project has on conceptions of leadership. The purpose of this study was to tease out the meanings that a sample of principals gave to their highly complex role as principal, whilst engaging with the concept of ‘parallel leadership’ during their schools’ implementations of IDEAS. The Research Problem was stated as: What conceptions of principal leadership arise out of a sample of principals’ experiences with a process of school revitalisation that emphasises a distributed approach to school leadership?

The overarching inquiry took the form of a multi-case or collective case study and comprised four principals who had engaged with IDEAS over a period of at least two years. Data collection strategies included the in-depth interview, which was chosen as the primary method for informants to describe their perceptions of their leadership, together with concept mapping and a structured interview that was utilised to gain staff perceptions of informants’ leadership. Methods of analysis involved detailed transcriptions of taped interviews and tools derived from the literature review that were used to code and categorise the texts of interviews.

Crowther et al. (2001) proposed a Model of Successful School Revitalisation as a result of their research conducted under the auspices of the Australian Research Council and Commonwealth Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DETYA). Source: (Crowther, Hann & McMaster 2001, p. 141). First, the Model identifies principal leadership and teacher leadership as each having concrete meaning and significance and that success occurs through a mutual and respectful association. This relationship is captured by the authors in the new concept of ‘parallel leadership’. Second, the Model makes clear a view that effective school leadership impacts three school processes that are conceptualised as culture building, shared approach to pedagogy and schoolwide learning. Third, the Model proposes that through the enrichment and integration of these three processes school outcomes are enhanced.

This study focussed on the principal leadership aspect of ‘parallel leadership’ and resulted in a Model of Metastrategic Principal Leadership that conceptualises the intersection of principal leadership and the ideas process which Crowther et al. described as the Stimulus.

The present study thereby extends the definition of ‘parallel leadership’ by describing how principals contribute to transformations of leadership, learning, and pedagogy through three principal-led processes. The proposed Model of Metastrategic Principal Leadership suggests that when activated by a principal’s continuous professional learning the combination of the interactions of personal style (Personal), the process of revitalisation (Processual), and personal conceptualisation of role (Conceptual) result in principal-led processes that support successful school revitalisation. The three principal-led processes that were uncovered are described as re-imaging school leadership, support of organisation-wide learning, and management of meaning.

The researcher hopes the outcomes of the study will be of benefit to principals and teachers in the increasing numbers of schools now engaging with IDEAS across Australia and internationally. A further hope is that the present study’s descriptions of new ways of comprehending leadership in schools might be of assistance to school practitioners seeking to move from traditional to distributed forms of leadership and also educational theorists who are working in the field of school improvement.

Keywordsschool leadership; distributed leadership theory; parallel leadership; school revitalisation; IDEAS; Innovative Designs for Enhancing the Achievements of Schools
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390201. Education policy
390403. Educational administration, management and leadership
Byline AffiliationsFaculty of Education
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