07 SES 02 C JS, School Leadership and Equity
Paper Session Joint Session NW 07 with NW 26
This study investigated how school principals together with their leadership teams developed an ethical approach to leadership in a context of increasing performance-based accountability characterised by high stakes testing. The leaders employed critical inquiry and evidence-based practices to improve learning and teaching to achieve more equitable outcomes for all students. University researchers took on the critical role of assisting leaders to interpret and to reflect on their practices and their use of school achievement data to help plan intervention strategies for improvement and equity. Our study explored how the school leaders developed their particular approach to ethical leadership given their level of engagement with critical inquiry related to whole school action, values clarification, ongoing responses to collection and analysis of data and sustained team collaboration.
The transition towards ethical leadership involves educators at all levels collaborating with communities to ensure all students’ educational interests are met long-term (McNaughton, 2011). Starratt’s multi-dimensional framework (1996, 2004, 2009) that draws on three inter-related ethics of care, justice and critique underpinned the theoretical framework adopted in this study. Ethical leadership in this study focuses on equity that we defined as a social, relational practice, which is collaborative, inclusive and based on respectful relationships between student, teacher and parents. Ethical leaders who are successful in achieving equity do so through developing an inclusive organisational culture, where staff, students and parents are valued and treated with care and respect (Carrington, 1999). Ongoing and systematic inquiries about student learning (Comber & Kamler, 2009) address equity related issues and involve support from leaders who are guided by ethical principles and practices. The framework for this study built on the understanding that conceptions of equity in terms of fairness and inclusion challenge assumptions about ‘students in deficit’ and the second understanding that relates to conceptions of improvement and development to promote equity develop through ethical leadership.
This study focused on how leaders and their leadership teams in six government schools (1 primary and 5 secondary) transitioned over three years to develop ethical leadership approaches to promote equity for all students, and within their local communities. The prominence of high stakes testing and the associated pressures of accountability have the potential for “perverse” effects (Lingard & Sellar, 2013). Leaders have a key role to play in raising awareness about the importance of developing a moral community and engaging the school in working towards achieving such a community. As researchers we worked with each school and their leaders to analyse the data across the school sites applying the following research questions.
What are the ethical leadership practices?
How are the schools promoting equity in contexts of high-stakes accountability?
How has data analysis supported efforts for the development of curriculum and pedagogy that is fair and just?
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