Leading large, p-12, autonomous, independent schools: an Australian study

Doctorate other than PhD

Teys, Paul Francis. 2020. Leading large, p-12, autonomous, independent schools: an Australian study. Doctorate other than PhD Doctor of Education. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/25MV-SC13

Leading large, p-12, autonomous, independent schools: an Australian study

TypeDoctorate other than PhD
AuthorTeys, Paul Francis
SupervisorAndrews, Dorothy
Lewis, Marian
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Education
Number of Pages243
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/25MV-SC13

The primary purpose of this study was to investigate how principals in large, P-12, autonomous, independent schools in Australia enact their leadership, what they value, and how they perceive being effective in their context. The study intended to give meaning and provide deep understandings of what is required for the principal to be effective in large, complex, multi-faceted independent schools.

Given the absence of recent and relevant research focused on principals in independent schools in Australia, this research seeks to fill that void. Where there has been research into leadership in schools, it has predominantly been conducted in government schools or schools that are part of a system and has not involved principals in autonomous, independent schools.

A significant finding from the review of the literature was that leadership is contingent upon the context in which it occurs. Effective principals make small but significant adjustments to their leadership practices and strategies in response to their school’s context. They are perceptive of the many layers (Hallinger, 2018) of leadership context.

Mixed methods were used with two main phases which were undertaken sequentially: (i) quantitative research using an on-line, self-completion questionnaire; and (ii) qualitative research using multiple-case study involving narrative description to tell the principals’ own stories. Using qualitative methods generated broader perspectives and insights than would have been possible using quantitative methods alone. The quantitative phase of the mixed methods found what principals in large, autonomous, P-12 independent schools believed was required for them to lead their schools effectively. The qualitative phase developed a more complete picture of the leadership required, after an in-depth examination of the work of four case study principals.

This research has found that the claims made in the literature about successful principal leadership only go part way to describing principal leadership in large, P-12, autonomous, independent schools in Australia. The most significant finding to emerge from this research is that effective principal leadership needs the principal to be able to diagnose their leadership context successfully and act in response. What has also emerged from the research is that being the principal of a large, P-12, autonomous, independent schools in Australia is a unique, complex and demanding role. It was found that these principals, while meeting all of the expectations generally held for principals in this country, are also required to fulfil the role of CEOs as understood in not-for-profit businesses.

One significant outcome of this research is the development of a leadership framework that appropriately represents the complexity of the role and responsibilities of a principal leading a large, P-12, autonomous, independent school in Australia.

This research sought to contribute, in a significant way, to the knowledge and understanding of contemporary leadership provided by the principal in large, P-12, autonomous, independent schools in Australia. The findings from this case study have the potential to encourage and support further investigations into effective principal leadership within local and international independent school communities. The findings have implications for individual principals, principal preparation programs, appropriate professional development and learning programs and the nature of principals’ work.

Keywordsleadership, education, independent schooling
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390403. Educational administration, management and leadership
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Education
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