26 SES 05 A, Researching Principals' Professional Identities Across National Contexts
Introduction. While much emphasis in the research literature focuses on the development of school leaders' competencies and skills, there has been less attention to the rationale and motivation for how individuals perform their leadership role. Møller (2003) argues for the need to “put ‘real life’ back into dominant discourses on school leadership…” (p. 39). Studying professional identities enables us to get in touch with the individual’s passion, commitments, and shortcomings—important considerations which can influence the practice of school leadership.
Researching professional identities may also reveal how leadership is negotiated, evidencing the dynamic complexity of this educational role, and how gender, race, religion, and context influence identity and practice (Møller, 2003; Ryan, 2007; Scribner & Crow, 2012; Smulyan, 2000).
Objectives and Framework. This symposium examines the issues, challenges, and opportunities that arise in the study of principals’ professional identities by researchers working across three national contexts -- Sweden, England, and the USA. In the development of this research, we incorporated Scribner and Crow’s (2012) view of professional identity, which is defined as “identities which individuals use to make sense of and enact [their] roles” (p. 246). These authors perceive the study of professional identity in leadership as a way to understand “…what influences a leader’s behaviors and what drives a leader’s willingness and ability to take on and enact creative and effective leadership in a high-stakes, dynamic knowledge society” (p. 245).
This symposium builds on previous studies of school principals’ professional identity (Scribner & Crow, 2012, Møller, 2003, 2004), and case studies developed by the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP) researchers to consider how professional identity incorporates the leaders’ upbringing and experiences. These experiences may be based on gender, race, or religion in specific contexts, family influences and upbringing, situated experiences from their participation in society, as well as the multiple tasks and challenges within the principals’ work in schools. In addition to comparing case studies across three national contexts, we will also consider the role of leadership development and trust in the process of developing professional identities.
Methods. Each of these studies used or adapted a protocol developed by ISSPP researchers probing role identity components (Crow, 2013). Questions probed for stories and identity images, such as: (a) What images of the school leader role reflect what you believe, value, and do?; (b) How do you think teachers, students, parents, partners, supervisors, view you in terms of what you do, value, and believe?; (c) What are the major values that motivate and influence your work?; and (d) How do emotions influence your values, practices, and images of the role?. In the Swedish and British studies the principal or headteacher was interviewed in-depth separately, while the teachers in the Swedish case study were interviewed in a focus group. Both the Swedish and British case studies employed a narrative approach (Chase, 2005; Riessman, 1993) to analyze the interviews.
Significance. Schools are complex organizations where success can be measured by outcomes, but is also influenced by the successful human relations among its’ members (Cunliffe & Eriksen, 2011). While building strong relationships, it is important to consider how school principals develop their professional identities to prepare for this role and its’ leadership challenges. Scribner and Crow (2012) affirm that “an examination of how school leaders perceive and use multiple identities can broaden the understanding of the complex work of school leaders and provide guidance for developing school leaders who are able to lead complex school organization in more self-reflective ways” (p. 245). Understanding how professional identities develop across diverse national contexts informs not only research, but leadership preparation and practice as well.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
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