07 SES 11 D JS, Social Justice and Innovative Educational Leadership Part 2
Joint Paper Session NW 07 and NW 26 continued from 07 SES 09 C JS
As the conference theme expresses, issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion are at the forefront of leadership challenges in this century. At a time when nationalism is on the rise, when conflicts and strife have resulted in increased mobility, record displacements, hardship, and refugees seeking asylum both in Europe and throughout the world, leaders are confronted with new urgency by issues of diversity. Although educational research has frequently drawn on explanatory theoretical frameworks such as those developed by scholars like Foucault, Bourdieu, and others, educational leadership research has been largely informed by more technical and less critical perspectives that may advance organizational effectiveness, but do not explicitly address the deep inequities inherent in both educational institutions and the wider societies in which they are embedded. Thus, the purpose of this largely conceptual presentation is to determine what leadership beliefs and dispositions foster more inclusive equitable, and socially just learning environments for all students. It will describe the development and validation of a Transforming Leadership Instrument, as well as the results of our initial pilot study.
Forty years ago, in 1978, James McGregor Burns published his seminal work, Leadership. There, he described two distinctly approaches: transactional and transforming leadership. The well-known former strategy assumes that both leader and follower gain from an agreed-upon transaction. The latter has given rise to two distinctly different theories: transformational leadership and transformative leadership which are often confused, with some scholars still using the terms interchangeably. The former focuses in general on four organization processes (setting direction, developing people, redesigning the organization, and managing the instructional program, Leithwood & Sun, 2012). In contrast, the latter, “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). Van Oord summarizes it this way: “transformative leadership is characterized by its activist agenda and its overriding commitment to social justice, equality and a democratic society” (2013, p. 422). A close examination of Burns’ argument suggests an affinity for the latter in that in 1978, he calls for a revolution—"a complete and pervasive transformation of an entire social system” (p. 202). And in his 2003 treatise, he describes leadership as a "response to human wants expressed in public values" whose greatest task "must be to respond to the billions of the world's people in the direst want" (p. 2). Nevertheless, until now, neither conceptual nor practical distinctions between the two theories have been adequately assessed but most often simply described through case study and self-report research studies.
In 2013, Van Oord wrote, “Recognizing this conceptual murkiness, scholars such as Shields (2010, 2012) have in recent years successfully endeavoured to define and theorize transformative leadership as distinctively separate from the transformational approach” (p. 421-422). Blackmore (2011) and Starratt (2011) have also emphasized the distinctions. As elaborated, transformative leadership has eight interdependent tenets, and two basic premises that demonstrate its theoretical robustness. The first is that when students feel fully accepted, respected, and included, they are more able to concentrate on the lesson at hand, and hence, the distal outcomes of a conducive learning environment in which they do not have to fear bullying, teasing, or other exclusionary practices are better academic achievement. The second premise is that when education does not focus exclusively on “private good” outcomes, but also aims at developing mutually beneficial and inclusive understandings of democracy, students are better prepared and hence, more likely to take up their roles as caring and fully participating citizens in both educational institutions and the wider society.
Despite urgent calls for an approach to leadership that could address today’s crises, the dominant leadership perspectives, as measured frequently by the Multi-Factor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ, Bass & Avolio, 2004) focus almost exclusively on organizational factors with social justice, equity, and inclusion still too often being deemed “fringe” to mainstream leadership studies. Nevertheless, as a theory, offering a clear description of possible contextual and programmatic variables, interventions, and predictable outcomes, transformative leadership is perhaps more robust than many other approaches. For that reason, during the past year, a Transforming Leadership instrument has been developed and piloted to identify leaders’ dispositions related to inclusion, equity, and social justice. This paper reports the progress to date and the results of the pilot study. During the next academic year, the instrument will be validated using a random sample of Michigan school leaders and confirmatory factor analysis (Brown, 2006). The instrument emphasizes leader beliefs, assumptions and mindsets consistent with 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.” Questions were therefore constructed to reflect both leaders’ beliefs and actions related to the eight tenets of transformative leadership identified by Shields (2012, 2016). In general, the instrument comprises two types of questions. Part One comprises a series of positive forced choice statements such as “a. A good leader distributes fiscal resources equally throughout the organization. b. A good leader acknowledges that some units need a greater share of resources than others.” Part Two consists of a set of statements requiring likert-type responses to determine how the dominant actions of educational leaders relate organizational equity, inclusion, and transformation. These included such statements as “I talk about difficult topics like racism, homophobia, and xenophobia.” The instrument as developed comprises 32 items and eight discrete but necessarily interconnected factors To begin to assess the utility and validity of the instrument, two small pilot studies were conducted with two different groups of leaders: the first was four leaders known to focus on social justice issues and the second was a convenient sample of aspiring educational leaders enrolled in a university’s principal certification program.
The instrument’s utility was confirmed when the leaders whose dispositions and actions were known to the reseachers, scored n the highly transformative range of the instrument. Follow-up interviews and school visits were conducted with each leader. When combined with the scores related to social justice beliefs, dispositions, and actions on the Transforming Leadership Instrument, our interviews and observations help to compile a set of leadership beliefs, dispositions, and strategies that support the creation of equitable, inclusive, and democratic learning environments and outcomes for all students. This is consistent with the two underlying propositions guiding the eight tenets of transformative leadership. The first is that the provision of equitable and inclusive learning environments is associated with more positive student academic outcomes. The second relates to a focus on public good outcomes (Labaree, 1997) which is therefore associated with greater understanding of civic processes and higher levels of participation in civil, democratic society. In contrast, leaders who did not demonstrate a social justice, inclusion, and equity focus on the instrument, tended to describe initiatives related to strong discipline policies and a focus on order and safety. Examples of both kinds of outcomes will be given in the paper following the discussion of the specific mindsets and strategies identified by both pilot groups according to the piloted survey. Significance: This survey will provide a rigorously validated alternative to the MLQ for use both in research and instruction in order to assess mindsets and dispositions of leaders related to issues of demographic change, equity, and inclusion that are critically important given the diaspora of the 21st century. Thus, the Transforming Leadership Instrument will be a useful tool for educators in North America, Europe, and elsewhere, wanting to have a more objective assessment of leadership dispositions than observations and self-report data alone
Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (2004), MLQ Manual, Menlo Park, CA: Mind Garden, Blackmore, J., (2011), Leadership in pursuit of purpose: Social, economic, and political transformation, In C. M. Shields (Ed.), Transformative Leadership: A Reader, New York, Peter Lang. pp. 21-36. Brown, T. A. (2006), Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research, New York: Guilford Press. Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row Burns, J. M. (2003). Transforming leadership. New York: Harper & Row. 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. Leithwood, K., & Sun, J., (2012) The nature and effects of transformational school leadership: A meta-analytic review of unpublished research, Educational Administration Quarterly, 48(3) 387-423. Shields, C. M., (2011), Transformative leadership: An introduction, In C. M. Shields (Ed.), Transformative leadership: A reader, New York: Peter Lang. pp.1-17. Shields, C. M., (2016), Transformative leadership in education (2nd Ed.), New York: Routledge. Starratt, R. J., (2011), Preparing transformative educators for the work of leading schools in a multicultural, diverse, and democratic society, In C. M. Shields (Ed.), Transformative leadership: A reader, New York: Peter Lang. pp. 131-136. van Oord, L. (2013). Towards transformative leadership in education. International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice, 16(4), 419-434.
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