26 SES 09 C JS, Social Justice and Innovative Educational Leadership Part 1
Joint Paper Session NW 07 and NW 26 to be continued in 26 SES 11 B JS
Schools and universities have recently been challenged by the population changes that have occurred as a result of a rise of nationalism, strife, displacement, and changing governmental policies both in Europe and throughout the rest of the world. In Europe, however, unlike in North America, where border controls are strictly enforced, the Schengen treaties have exacerbated the challenges by permitting largely unrestricted and unregulated movement among EU countries. The global refugee crisis which continues unabated has sparked debates about immigration in general. In social institutions, including educational organizations, the debates have centered both around the resources needed for inclusion of new populations and about how best to integrate and educate students whose home language, backgrounds or culture may be different from those of the traditional dominant populations. In some cases, jurisdictions have created separate schools, classes, and programs for immigrants and refugees, while in other cases, the goal has been integration of diverse populations. Given the pervasive and persistent nature of these issues, although each context is discrete, it is useful for educators to learn from one another instead of “reinventing the wheel.”
Hence, the purpose of this paper is to describe the ways in which three educational leaders in the United States have adapted to the changing populations of their schools. The objectives are a) to describe the challenges faced by school leaders in addressing the needs of changing populations, b) to understand the ways in which these educators conceptualize “education for all,” and c) to identify the practices that lead to the integration and inclusion of new populations.
Theoretical Framework These questions will be examined through the lens of transformative leadership—a leadership theory that focuses explicitly on inclusion, equity, excellence, and social justice and which is therefore appropriate for this transformative multi-case study of three schools. (Mertens, 2010). Transformative leadership “begins with questions of justice and democracy; it critiques inequitable practices and offers the promise not only of greater individual achievement but of a better life lived in common with others” (Shields, 2011). It is a theory that comprises two basic and parallel theoretical propositions and eight supporting tenets. The first proposition pertains to individual, private good (Labaree, 1997) and posits that when the learning environment is inclusive, respectful, and equitable, it is easier for students to focus on the academics and the distal outcomes of academic achievement will improve. The second, public good proposition is that when educational institutions address public good issues (democracy, civic life, citizenship) then democratic society will be strengthened through the participation of knowledgeable and caring citizens. Hence, transformative leadership is normative, aimed at both individual and collective improvement of all students and citizens, including those who are the most recent arrivals—regardless of language, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation , gender identity, and so on.
Another distinguishing feature of transformative leadership is that it explicitly addresses the importance of mindsets and knowledge frameworks and the need to change those that perpetuate inequity and to reconstruct them in more equitable ways. Thus, it builds on Johnsons’ (2008) assertion that “What separates successful leaders from unsuccessful ones is their mental models or meaning structures, not their knowledge, information, training, or experience per se.” Similarly, van Oord (2013) posited that “The way leadership is perceived and shaped——will to a large extent determine the success of the transformation it instigates among its students and members of staff.” For that reason, this case study focused both on understanding the beliefs, assumptions, and mindsets of the leaders in question as well as identifying and describing what they actually do.
The methodology for this study comprised a transformative case study (Mertens, 2010), guided by what Mertens calls a “transformative paradigm” based on the “fundamental principles of the transformative axiological assumption,” which are “enhancement of social justice, furtherance of human rights, and respect for cultural norms.” This research paradigm, scholars argue, reflects the shifts in axiology, ontology, epistemology, and methodology that are represented by transformative leadership. Leaders for this multiple case study, were identified in schools located in a large, diverse southwestern city in the United States in which only 52% of the city’s population is Caucasian (non-Hispanic) and in which the Metropolitain area’s population approaches 3 million people. The strategic plan of the city’s public school board is based on six core values (the third of which is equity) and six core beliefs including the explicit statement that “Our diversity is a community treasure.” To identify the three leaders (one elementary, one middle school, and one high school leader), the researcher contacted a colleague at a local university with a reputation for a strong principal preparation program known for preparing leaders “capable of changing the trajectory of schools and school districts facing serious problems” as well as a focus on “turnaround leadership.” That university professor sent a message to all graduates and current students in their leadership program inviting them to respond to my request to visit their schools and conduct an interview with them. The first three who responded were selected for this case study. Hence, although the sample was not random, in that all had been prepared in a program specifically focused on transforming diverse schools, they were self-selected for this case study and previously unknown to the researcher. Interestingly, one was Caucasian, one Latino, and one African American, providing a serendipitous diversity of respondents for this small, multiple case study. The case study comprised an hour-long interview with each principal, informal conversations with other staff and students in each school, a school visit in which observations were conducted of classrooms and specific activities in each school (a grade level assembly for example at the middle school), and documents related to the activities and goals of each school were collected. Data were coded and analyzed according to accepted transformative case study protocols (Mertens, 2010; Richards, 2014). A profile was developed for each school, and then a thematic analysis drew on the challenges and practices identified across the schools.
Each principal expressed a need to find ways to offer inclusive, excellent and equitable education to all students and described their own personal intellectual journeys, the challenges they had confronted in their work, and the strategies they had implemented in order to provide the requisite learning environments for all students. The high school principal, for example, noted that because an increasing number of students had experienced trauma, she and several other staff had attended trauma-sensitive training for educators and introduced specific strategies into their school. She also indicated that when the hurricane had devastated Houston, the 9th grade teachers in the school had abandoned the set curriculum and created a unit related to natural disasters in which all subjects (language arts, math, science, social studies, arts etc. were covered). The outcome was that a group of 30 students raised money and travelled to Houston where they helped move and set up a elementary school site to replace a school that had been completely destroyed. The elementary principal had had a series of post-card size messages printed and affixed to every exterior and interior window in the school. These posters read “Black Lives Matter, Migration is Beautiful, Everyone Welcome, and incorporated a rainbow-striped heart with the letters LGBTQ+. These posters formed the basis for extensive conversations with all adults in the building so they would be prepared when questioned by students, parents, or community members. Significance: As the paper more fully describes both changes in attitude and in specific school practices, it will help to inform other educational leaders, both in Europe and elsewhere about ways in which it is possible, despite restricted fiscal resources, and some community backlash, to provide inclusive, equitable, and excellent education for all students.
Johnson, H. H. (2008). Mental models and transformative learning: The key to leadership development? Human Resource Development Quarterly, 19(1), 85-89. Labaree, D. F. (1997), Public goods, private goods: The American struggle over educational goals, American Educational Research Journal, 34(1), p. 39-81. Mertens, D. M. (2010). Transformative mixed methods research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(6), 469-474. Richards, L. (2014), Handling qualitative data: A practical guide (3rd ed.), London, SAGE. Shields, C. M., (2011), Transformative leadership: An introduction, In C. M. Shields (Ed.), Transformative leadership: A reader, New York: Peter Lang. pp.1-17. van Oord, L. (2013). Towards transformative leadership in education. International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice, 16(4), 419-434.
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
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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