26 SES 06 B, Leadership for Learning – New Insights from Research and Practice
This paper starts by summarising some of the global policy issues affecting schooling (eg. managerialism, international competitive tests, school autonomy). In response, it puts forward the view that policy detrimental to student learning should be challenged. Leadership for learning (LfL), a set of principles arising from the Cambridge-led Carpe Vitam Project (2002-2006), provides the central elements of a platform from which policy challenges may be voiced. Justification for positioning LfL as critical to dissent, rests on research into the connections between leadership and learning. A synthesis of findings about these connections is presented using work by researchers such as MacBeath et al (2018), Dempster et al (2017), Johnson et al (2014), Leithwood (2012), Hallinger (2011) Day et al (2010), MacBeath (2009), Robinson et al (2009), Masters (2009) and Leithwood et al (2006). The synthesis highlights leadership actions known to be linked with learning. These actions are drawn to the moral purpose of education with an unremitting concentration on learning for all in the school, the sharing of leadership practice broadly and deeply, continuous use of dialogue about pedagogy, deliberate attention to the conditions for learning and sharing accountability (MacBeath et al, 2018). The actions rest on a platform requiring: (i) the reaffirmation of professional integrity; (ii) divergent thinking about learning and teaching; (iii) enhancing professionality; and (iv) redefining leadership as practice. These four fields of endeavour are the base-plates for professional advocacy and dissent, adding strength to the LfL principles.
A commitment to LfL is buttressed by people with a strong sense of Professional Integrity who embrace an unshakeable commitment to: the educator’s moral purpose (Eraut, 1994); the UN rights of the child; broad educational experiences for the young (MCEECDYA, 2018); a concern for their capabilities to function (Sen, 1992) in the social and cultural circumstances of their birthplace; and the redistribution, recognition, representation, and parity of participation tenets of social justice (Fraser, 2007).
Enhancing Professionality is important for principals and teachers because it is well known that teachers are often the most significant influence on students’ learning inside the school gates (Leithwood et al, 2006) so the quality of what they do and their dedication to improvement are major factors in enhanced learning. Understanding that they are the leaders who create opportunities for their own development requires networked collectives and critical friends who enter into frank discussions about practice (MacBeath et al, 2018).
Redefining Leadership as Practice is essential to the inclusivity underpinning LfL. The paper uses the work of Simpson (2016) who drew from Dewey and Bentley’s (1949) three-part typology on action as the basis for three perspectives on leadership. This categorisation provides a theoretical explanation for different forms of leadership practice. What this helps to reveal is the dominance of the self-action of positional leaders, Simpson’s leader-practitioners. This dominance is countered when greater prominence is given to the inter-action of distributed leadership practices and when leadership as trans-actions take place amongst peers as they attend to their responsibilities in the flow of everyday practice.
The importance of Divergent Thinking about Learning and Teaching has been masked by the competitive test-driven policy agenda of recent years. If, as much research tells us, the spontaneity of learning is stifled by regimentation and conformity, and we know that learning is enhanced when choice is present, interest is high, and experience is shared with insiders and outsiders, then encouragement to “think outside the square” becomes obligatory (MacBeath et al 2018). Broadening LfL requires the agency of the young and genuine commitment to deep personal, collective, and networked learning with the full engagement of schools, parents, family, and community members.
The development of a platform for policy critique described in this paper as the basis from which the voices of advocacy and dissent may be raised, has employed a range of methods. Reference has been made to meta-analytical leadership studies (eg Leithwood et al 2006; Robinson, 2009; Hallinger, 2011), qualitative case study research (eg.Jacobsen, 2011; MacBeath and Dempster, 2009; Johnson et al, 2014), quantitative research (eg. Leithwood, 2012; Dempster et al 2012; Robinson et al 2010), theoretical scholarship (eg Simpson, 2016; Raelin, 2016; Crevani, 2015; Fraser, 2007; Sen, 1992) and United Nations’ policy papers on human rights. The findings from the qualitative and qualitative empirical studies have informed the development and confirmation of leadership actions which have direct and indirect effects on student learning while the theoretical analyses have further contributed to understandings of leadership as different expressions of inclusive human agency.
The meta-analytical work reported in the paper leads to the explanation of an expanded view of Leadership for Learning supported by the four fields of endeavour briefly described earlier: Professional Integrity, Enhanced Professionality, Divergent Thinking about Learning and Teaching and Leadership as Practice (MacBeath et al 2018). These combine with the principles of LfL to produce a narrative central to long overdue challenges to particularly troublesome aspects of educational policy, school, and classroom practice. We summarise eight of these as: (i) the seductive power of managerialism; (ii) control versus autonomy; (iii) the resilience of positional power and hierarchy in schools; (iv) the pressure for stronger individual leadership; (v) intolerance of dissent and challenge; (vi) the deprofessionalising effects of policy and practice on leaders and teachers; (vii) the accountability imperative; and (viii) the “rocks” and “whirlpools” dilemma. Understanding the application of this narrative to the kinds of policy issues abroad in schooling suggests what it takes for leaders and teachers to act in advocacy or dissenting modes. The original Carpe Vitam Project’s leadership for learning principles which have been applied and confirmed in different international projects over the last decade, give us the confidence to position them as foundational to policy reaction and critique. To put this another way, LfL and its four supporting fields of endeavour should be innate in principals and teachers – it should be in the educator’s genes, so to speak – and in others such as parents, family, and community members with interests in the growth and development of the next generation. Politicians and policy makers should not be allowed to remain immune to the kind of professional pressure such a narrative makes possible.
Crevani, L. (2015). Is there leadership in a fluid world? Exploring the ongoing production of direction in organizing. Leadership, 0(0), 1–27. Crevani, L., Lindgren, M., & Packendorff, J. (2010). Leadership, not leaders: On the study of leadership as practices and interactions. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 26, 77–86. Dewey, J., & Bentley, A. (1949). Knowing and the known. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Eraut, M. (1994). Developing professional knowledge and competence. London: Routledge, Falmer. Fraser, N. (2007). Abnormal justice. Retrieved from http://www.fehe.org/uploads/media/ Fraser_Abnormal_Justice_essay.pdf Hallinger, P. (2011). Leadership for learning: Lessons from 40 years of empirical research. Journal of Educational Administration, 49(2), 125‐142. Huber, S. G. (2011). Leadership for learning ‐ learning for leadership: The impact of professional development. In T. Townsend & J. MacBeath (Eds.), International handbook on leadership for learning (pp. 831‐853). Dordrecht: Springer. Jacobson, S. (2011). Leadership effects on student achievement and sustained school success. International Journal of Educational Management, 25(1), 33‐44. Leithwood, K. (2012). School leadership, evidence-based decision making and large scale student assessment. In C.F. Webber & J.L. Lupart (Eds.), Leading Student Assessment (pp 17-39), Dordrecht: Springer. Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2006). Seven strong claims about successful leadership. Nottingham: National College for School Leadership. MacBeath, J., & Dempster, N. (Eds.). (2009). Connecting leadership and learning. London: Routledge. MacBeath, J., Dempster, N., Frost, D., Johnson, G. & Swaffield, S. (2018) Strengthening the connections between leadership and learning: Challenges to policy, school and classroom practice. London and New York, Routledge. Masters, G. (2009). A shared challenge: Improving literacy, numeracy and science learning in Queensland primary schools. Melbourne: ACER. MCEECDYA (Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs). (2008). The Melbourne Declaration for Educational Goals for Young Australians. Retrieved from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/National_Declaration_on_the_Educational_Goals_for_Young_Australians.pdf Raelin, J. (2016). Imagine there are no leaders: Reframing leadership as collaborative agency. Leadership, 12(2), 131–158. Robinson, V., Hohepa, M., & Lloyd, C. (2009). School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why. Best evidence synthesis iteration. Wellington: Ministry of Education. Robinson, V., Lloyd, C., & Rowe, K. (2010). The impact of leadership on student outcomes: An analysis of differential effects of leadership types. Educational Administrative Quarterly, 445, 635‐674. Sen, A. (1992). Inequality reexamined. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Simpson, B. (2016). Where’s the agency in leadership-as-practice? In J. A. Raelin (Ed.), Leadership-as-practice: Theory and application (pp. 159–178). London: Routledge.
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Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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