ERG SES D 03, Policies of Education
The major recently-adopted, policy-mandated organizational reform in which Maltese primary and secondary state schools were geographically clustered into networks (legally termed ‘colleges’) necessitated the introduction of new roles of responsibility, amongst which was the deployment of the College Principal, designated to be the educational leader of the college as a whole. Heads of School have to adapt to the new ‘network leader’ whom they are now answerable to, besides facing ‘challenges’ on other leadership fronts – sharing leadership with ‘outside agencies’, that is, other Heads of School, additionally to coming to terms with the notion of ‘distributed leadership’ at both school and college level as spelled out by the policy document ‘For All Children to Succeed’ (2005). [Henceforth referred to as ‘FACT’.]
It is within this unfolding Maltese educational scenario of decentralization and school networking, suffused with entrenched power, with added layers of leadership and more subtle levels of accountability that I explore the power flowing within the college through the leaders’ perceptions of policy-mandated collegiality, its benefits and drawbacks, the multiple and fluid discourses present within the college, as well as the discursive potential or delimitation offered by the ‘FACT’ policy for inter-networking. I examine how the leadership discourses present in the ‘FACT’ policy operate to produce particular leader subjectivities, and how these, in turn, offer resistance to produce particular discursive positions – they are both subjects to and the subjects of particular leadership discourses. These issues are explored through a juxtaposition of the leaders’ narrative and performance in order to present an image of (non-)collegiality unfolding in practice.
This article provides an exploration of the following research questions:
- What are the leaders’ views regarding the significance of belonging to a college?
- How did they react to the implementation of the ‘FACT’ policy?
- What are the experienced benefits and drawbacks of networking?
- Which discourses are generating the college and being generated by it, in turn producing subsequent effects on the leaders’ discursive positions and frameworks?
These issues are explored through a Foucauldian theoretical framework utilizing his theories of power (1979, 1980, 1981, 1983), discourse (1972), subjectivation (1980), and ‘gouvernementalite’ (1978/2007). Foucault moves away from a negative conception of power, instead extolling its productive nature. Foucauldian power is an ‘exercised’ strategy existing within relationships – it is therefore ubiquitous, anonymous, and comprehensive, exercised unconsciously with its effects being often repressed.
Foucault’s (1978) concept of ‘gouvernementalite’, consisting of methods of shaping others’ behaviour, implies that power is subject to negotiation, with each individual having his/her place in the hierarchy. Therefore, the ‘conduct of conduct’ encompasses forms of activity to affect the conduct of others, as well as the relation between self and self. This concept allows me to explore the extent to which the leaders’ behaviour is shaped by ‘FACT’ and the Principal’s discourse.
Foucault (1972) describes ‘discourses’ as ‘practices that systematically form the object of which they speak’ (p. 49). These ‘regimes of truth’ enable an exploration of how the subject is produced ‘as an effect’ through and within discourse and within specific discursive formations – how they are positioned by the leadership policy discourse, and how they, in turn, position themselves according to their distributed leadership performance.
Foucault’s (1982) concept of ‘subjectivation’ – dealing with the ‘way a human being turns him- or herself into a subject’ (p. 208), with a focus on those processes of self-formation in which the person is active – helps me explore the ways in which educational leaders are ‘subjectified’ in a college, in the changes that occur in their leadership conduct due to the creation of new roles.
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