26 SES 08 B, Leadership and School Improvement
This research investigated the work of three successful principals who have led schools that have shown improved student learning and been able to sustain this improvement over time (5 years plus). The researcher revisited principals from a previous study that explored successful school principalship in eight countries conducted by the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP) (Leithwood and Day, 2005). The current study explores the sustainability of principal leadership and school success, and, includes the contribution to school success of school leaders other than the principal. It provides a deeper understanding of successful principal behaviour by adding observational data. The researcher identified the characteristics of the principal and other factors that determined to what extent the schools were able to sustain their success over time. Each principal demonstrated at range of successful intervention strategies; however, a key factor was their attitude to change. A proactive and positive response to change forces was more effective than a reactive response to change forces. This has implications for principal and leader preparation and development.
Research Questions: (1) explore the sustainability of principal leadership and school success, including exploring the contribution to school success of school leaders other than the principal, and (2) provide a deeper understanding of successful principal behaviour by adding observational data.
The notion of sustainability has been has been around since the beginning of human development, although the term itself has gained currency from the 1980s; however, a precise definition of the term sustainability is difficult to pin down. The term is used for so many different purposes that it can be applied almost to anything and everything. In the organisational and management theory literature the notion of sustainability has mostly been associated with the organisational change. In the area of educational administration, a review of the literature shows little consensus on the definition of sustainability. The notion, if not the term, is inherent in both the change management and the school improvement literature.
Recently writers on change management have focused on sustainability. The approach to sustainability tends to focus on two aspects. The first approach focuses on internal and external change forces that impact on the school and effect the ability of the school to maintain its change program (Hargreaves and Goodson, 2006; Giles and Hargreaves, 2006).
The second is a focus on the school leadership and the ability of the leader(s) to implement and maintain change over time. One of the difficult issues with this approach is that various writers tend to take a different orientation to sustainability. This makes it difficult to develop a coherent approach to the role of leadership in sustaining change. For example a book by Davies (2007) has chapters by numerous writers who each take a different perspective of sustainability. The orientations are so different that it confirms the view that sustainability can be applied to anything.
The literature continues to expand. More recently Leithwood et el (2010: 229-233) declared that there were eight lessons that leaders should reflect about sustaining high performance. These are mainly practices and processes. In contrast Moos, Johansson and Day (2011) highlight personal factors such ‘sustained application of their values, intra and interpersonal qualities, individual, relational and whole school strategies with staff, community, and school environment upon them ’(Moos et el, 2011;7).
The focus of this research paper is to add to our understanding of how leaders sustain school improvement and what factors and characteristics are important. The case study approach is aimed at provide a deeper understanding of principal leadership behaviour, characteristics and qualities in sustaining performance.
Gurr, D., Drysdale, L. & Mulford, B. (2005) Successful principal leadership: Australian case studies, Journal of Educational Administration, 43(6), pp. 539-551 Caldwell, B. J. and Spinks, J. M. (1998) Beyond the self-managing school, London; New York, Falmer Press. Datnow, A. (2000). The gender politics of change. in N. Bascia & A. Hargreaves (Eds.), The sharp edge of educational change, London: Falmer, pp. 131-155. Davies, B. (2007) Developing Sustainable Leadership, London: Paul Chapman Educational Publishing/Sage. Elmore, R. F.and Burney, D. (1997) Investing in teacher learning: Staff development and instructional improvement in community school district #2. New York: National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Fullan, M. (1982) The meaning of educational change. New York: Teachers College Press. Giles, C. and Hargreaves, A. (2006) The Sustainability of Innovative Schools as Learning Organizations and Professional Learning Communities During Standardized Reform, Educational Administration Quarterly Vol. 42, No. 1 (February 2006) 124-156. Gurr, D., Drysdale, L. & Mulford, B. (2005) Successful principal leadership: Australian case studies, Journal of Educational Administration, 43(6), pp. 539-551 Hargreaves, A. and Goodson, I. (2006) Educational Change Over Time? The Sustainability and Nonsustainability of Three Decades of Secondary School Change and Continuity, Educational Administration Quarterly, 42(1) pp. 3-4. Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (1998). What’s worth fighting for out there?: New York, Teachers College Press. Hord, S. M., Willaim, Rutherford, W.L., Huling-Austin, L. and Hall, G.E. (1987) Taking Charge of Change. Published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Leithwood, K & Day, C (Eds) (2005) Successful School Leadership in Times of Change (Toronto: Springer) Leithwood, K., Harris, A., Strauss, T. (2010) Leading School Turnaround: How Successful Leaders Transform Low-Performing Schools, San Francisco, Jossey Bass. Moos, L., Johansson, O., & Day, C. (Eds) (2011) How School Principals Sustain Success Over Time: International Perspectives Netherlands: Springer-Kluwer). Whitty, G., Power, S., & Halpin, D. (1998). Devolution and choice in education: The school, state, the market. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.
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