07 SES 02 C JS, School Leadership and Equity
Paper Session Joint Session NW 07 with NW 26
Educational leadership, as a field of study, emerged in the United States approximately 60 years ago, as a group of scholars attended a seminar in Chicago, Illinois called Administrative Theory in Education. Influenced by the scientific management movement with its emphasis on hierarchies, chains of command, empirical studies, and the authority of the person in charge, as well as by the rigorous scientific methods employed in other disciplines, their goal was to enhance the “science” of management by eliminating “ought” questions and subjectivity. Fifteen years later, at a conference in Bristol, England, T. B. Greenfield presented a paper arguing against the “prevailing belief that a general science of organizations has provided the needed theoretical underpinnings for understanding schools and for training the administrators” (1978). Instead, his belief that organizations are “subjective creations of diverse individuals” launched what has come to be known in educational leadership as “the paradigm wars” and debates that continue into the 21st century. Despite the emergence, in the intervening half century, of numerous new theories of educational administration (servant, distributive, democratic), the tensions between the scientific traditions of the past and the need for a more values-oriented, socially just approach to leadership continue unabated.
The synopsis of a study of educational leadership in 30 countries by the European Qualification Network for Effective School Leaders network cited the 2008 statement from an OECD report that “School leadership is now an education policy priority around the world” (Bolhöfer, Jansohn, Meyer, 2011, p. 7). The authors then asserted that “Worldwide and in numerous European countries the need to a reform of educational organisations and their structures has become evident” and they continue, “School Leadership” is now on the agenda of education policy-makers in many European countries – above all with respect to the European tendency to give schools more autonomy.” (p. 7). As the report continues, it becomes evident from the emphasis, in many countries, on qualification programs, communication, decision-making, responsibility and accountability that the strategies of scientific management are still very much on the horizon in Europe. Moreover, the summary concludes that educational leadership tends, in many countries, to focus on governance structures, administrative roles, and educational standards—all topics that suggest the positivism of early conceptions of educational leadership.
The first part of this paper will briefly describe the development of educational administration and leadership as a field of study and some of the tensions inherent in the dominant theories that not only still shape research and practice but that may help to explain the difficulties moving beyond its positivist origins to address issues of equity, inclusion, and social justice. Nevertheless, in the last 25 years, approaches to educational leadership in many countries have also been informed by critical theories and perspectives—often aimed at minimizing or overcoming the disparities in achievement between dominant culture children and those whose backgrounds differ in terms of socio-cultural and economic status. As schools throughout Europe (and indeed, throughout the world) struggle to address the challenges posed by increasing immigration and displacement due, in part, to political conflict, it becomes increasingly important to adopt approaches to educational leadership that promote the success of all students. Thus, the second part of the paper will take up the question of alternative and more critical approaches to educational leadership, with special emphasis on the distinctions between transformational and transformative leadership and the potential of the latter to foster more socially just learning environments.
Beyer, B., (2012), Blending constructs and concepts: Development of emerging theories of organizational leadership and their relationship to leadership practices for social justice, International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 7(3). Bolhöfer, J., Jansohn, I., Meyer, W., (2011), The Making of Leadership in Education: A European Qualification Network for Effective School Leadership, Hildesheim, Holland. Accessed Jan. 2015 at http://www.leadership-in-education.eu/fileadmin/reports/European_Synopsis.pdf Greenfield, T. B., (1978), Reflections on organization theory and the truths of irreconcilable realities, Educational Administration Quarterly, 14(2). Oakes, J., & Rogers, J. (2006). Learning power: Organizing for education and justice, New York: Teachers College Press. Shields, C. M., (2011), Transformative leadership: An introduction, in C. M. Shields (Ed.), Transformative Leadership: A Reader, New York: Peter Lang, pp. 1-19. Shields, C. M., (2013), Transformative leadership in education: Equitable change in an uncertain and complex world, New York: Routledge.
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