26 SES 14 A, Leadership Distribution in Collaboration and Performance
The current literature has emphasised the key role of leadership on school improvement (Hallinger and Heck, 1996; Harris and Muijs, 2005). In this sense, a growing consensus is being developed around the idea that the leadership that produces a real impact on school results is in a great extent distributed (Gronn, 2000; Spillane, 2006; Harris, 2009). This idea assumes that leadership can proceed from many places and agents (Anderson, Moore and Sun, 2009;) and instead being associated to a particular role or status it is embedded in the specific workflow that a community of practitioners unfold (Gronn, 2003) and in the organizational learning and knowledge that such social dynamics produces.
Furthermore, the study of the leadership distribution in schools is of particular importance in the Spanish context as the structure of principalship positions concedes a key role to a management team composed by the principal, the vice-principal (when schools are large enough to have such position in the organizational chart), the director of studies and the secretary. While such structure compels to an -in a great extent- distributed leadership, it is far from being clear to what extent such leadership is distributed inside the team, shared with other agents both inside and outside the school and what patterns such distribution adopts.
This practice-based focus of our inquiry is related to an important part of the research literature on distributed leadership that has been concerned about the complexities of such distribution in schools: sources, scope, effects (Gronn, 2002; Spillane, Halverson and Diamond, 2004), and particularly on the patterns and modalities of distribution that different schools adopt in order to meet its own needs (Spillane, 2006; Anderson, Moore y Sun, 2009; MacBeath, 2009). The approach has largely contributed to contextualise the phenomenon, highlighting that leadership distribution is quite common in many schools, that distributed patterns co-exist with focused ones, that cannot be asserted that any of them is more effective than the others in every situation, and that the patterns of distribution change according to the nature of the task being developed.
On the other hand, the extend of the interest about the distribution of leadership in schools should lead us to a deeper understanding of the nature of power and influence in educational settings, which is –far from any doubt- a pending debt of the leadership and management studies (Busher, 2006; Thomson and Blackmore, 2006). Similarly, the distributed approach should lead the field to a more informed reflexion on the barriers and possibilities of a more democratic functioning of schools (Woods, 2004; Hatcher, 2005).
However, the research methodologies applied to the analysis of leadership and power dynamics in the school organizations have failed to capture the complexity of the phenomenon. Usually they put in the hand of the researchers a limited amount and type of data. In the research project presented in this paper a wide variety of methodologies, both quantitative and qualitative are being developed in order to get the big picture of the influence and power phenomenon in school organizations.
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