26 SES 08 A, Concept Mapping And Interviews: Capturing School Leaders’ Perspectives of Educational Leadership in Context
The main purpose of this workshop is to highlight how research which adopts qualitative methods, in this case concept mapping and semi-structured interviews, can enable researchers to investigate leadership in relation to the context in which it is placed (Clarke and Wildy, 2010). It has been argued for some time that leadership is “always context bound” (Foster, 1989, p. 42), yet the field of educational leadership has tended to see schools as being impervious to outside influences resulting in an incomplete picture of educational leadership (Bates, 2006).
Several levels of context have been identified which are inclined to affect schools. These include such macro-level factors as the effects of globalization, national policies, and technological changes (Dimmock & Walker, 2005). In addition, it has been noted that schools are affected by such micro-level factors as the school’s size, type, and location as well as its socio-economic status (Bush & Glover, 2003).Furthermore, Loder and Spillane (2006) have described how personal level factors, including the leader’s cultural and historical backgrounds, can constrain or support leadership practice. These factors, it has been argued, have made a school leader’s day to day work more complex (Bottery, 2004).
Contiguous with this shift towards examining contextual influences on leadership has been the embracing of research that adopts particular theoretical perspectives and methodology in order to empirically examine the ways in which context influences understandings and practices of educational leadership. Regarding theoretical considerations, Clarke (2003) has argued that the interpretive paradigm enables a focus on individuals and their actions within a given setting which can help to determine the orientation of their conduct. Furthermore, Gronn and Ribbins’ (1996) assert that interpretivism provides an opportunity to examine how cultural, historical, and social factors such as social class, political partisanship, gender, ethnicity, and religion shape school contexts. Regarding methodological shifts, it has been argued that qualitative methods of data collection can enable research that enhances understandings of how contextual factors influence the exercise of leadership (Conger, 1998).
One qualitative method of data collection that has potential in the latter respect is concept mapping, This is a technique that produces a visual picture or a map of the ideas of an individual or group (Trochim & Kane, 2005). Although, the technique has been used to uncover individuals’ beliefs about educational leadership (Newman, 2004) and to explore leaders’ understandings of leading for learning (Pegg, 2007), it is seldom employed as a technique of data collection in qualitative studies of educational leadership.
Pegg (2007) has suggested that concept mapping is most valuable when it is used as part of the interview because this approach enables the researcher to coach verbally the participants to expand or clarify their thoughts and allows participants time to add to or revise their maps. Adopting a more participant-centred approach, therefore, can make the concept map activity a more effective data collection method because it reduces the possibility of misinterpreting the participants’ responses. In doing so, it helps to ensure a more accurate picture of the participants’ understandings. In my study (Striepe, 2010) the rationale and process for using concept mapping was guided by researchers’ experiences described above. My own experiences in using concept mapping in conjunction with semi-structured interviews to examine faith-based school leaders’ perspectives of educational leadership (Striepe, 2010) will inform the workshop.
Bates, R. (2006). Culture and leadership in educational administration: A historical study of what was and what might have been. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 38(2), 155-168. Bottery, M. (2004). The challenges of educational leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Bush, T., & Glover, D. (2003). School leadership: concepts and evidence. Nottingham: National College of School Leadership. Clarke, S. (2003). Stalking the micro-politics of schools in pursuit of a realistic research agenda. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 23(1), 99-107. Clarke, S. & Wildy, H. (2010). Preparing for principalship from the crucible of experience: Reflecting on theory, practice and research, Journal of Educational Administration and History, 42(1), 1-16. Conger, J.A. (1998). Qualitative research as the cornerstone methodology for understanding leadership . Leadership Quarterly, 9(1), 107-121. Dimmock, C., & Walker, A. (2005). Educational leadership: Culture and diversity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Foster, W. (1989). Toward a critical practice of leadership. In J. Smyth (Ed.), Critical perspectives on educational leadership (pp. 39-62). London: RoutledgeFalmer. Gronn, P., & Ribbins, P. (1996). Leaders in context: Postpositivist approaches to understanding educational leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 32(3), 452-473. Loder, T., & Spillane, J. P. (2006). Big change question: How do leaders' own lives and their educational contexts influence their responses to the dilemmas and tensions they face in their daily work? . Journal of Educational Change, 7, 91-92. Newman, M. “Practitioners' meanings of school leadership: Case studies of Jamaican high school principals”. Doctoral dissertation, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 2004. Novak, J.D. & Canas, A.J. (2008). The Theory underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them. A technical Report IHMC Cmap Tools. Retrived from www.cmap.ihmc.us Pegg, A. E. (2007). Learning for school leadership: Using concept mapping to explore learning from everyday experience. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 10(3), 265-282. Striepe,M. “Management teams' understandings of educational leadership : Case studies of Western Australian faith-based schools.” Doctoral thesis, University of Western Australia, 2010 Trochim, W., & Kane, M. (2005). Concept mapping: An introduction to structured conceptualization in health care. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 17(3), 187-191.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
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