26 SES 06 A, Global Research On Educational Leadership - Mainstream And Borderlands Perspectives
The focus of this proposal is on school leadership as it is understood and practised in distinctive contexts (Clarke & O’Donoghue, 2016). In particular, we argue that ‘borderland’ environments, more specifically, warrant closer attention by researchers because of the insights they are likely to provide into both the situated understanding and the exercise of school leadership in a relatively neglected education environment (with the notable exception of the US/Mexican border). By ‘borderland’ environment we mean those places where schools are situated at the confluence of different countries. The overarching purpose of the paper, therefore, is to illuminate the nature of the various types of schools within these contexts, the issues and influences that their school leaders face, and the strategies that school leaders adopt to deal with the associated complexities. The paper is especially concerned with an understanding of borderland contexts, as fluid environments. The use of this metaphor is apposite because it relates to contexts that are notorious for altering their shape very easily and that are in a state of perpetual change and flow. The most powerful manifestation of such flow is associated with transmigration. Traditionally, migration has been seen as a unidirectional movement, whereby migrants uproot themselves, leave behind their home and country, and then contend with the difficulties of incorporation into a different society and culture (Withaeckx, Schrooten, & Geldof, 2015). In contrast, transmigration relates to a mobile conception of migration, which highlights the transnational character of migrant experiences and the impact of ongoing mobility and border-crossing activities on migrants’ daily lives (Van Houtum & Gielis, 2006). Transmigration also tends to be viewed mainly as migration over long distances, with transmigrants maintaining contact with their homeland by means of various forms of telecommunication and perhaps an occasional visit. Equally, however, it can denote a short-distance form of movement. As such, it is not a one-off event entailing people’s relocation. Rather, it refers to an oscillating life of moving back and forth between two worlds, both geographically and culturally (Schneider, n.d.). It is this mode that is the main topic of interest in the paper. Given that short-distance transmigration has not always been the focus of attention in the extant literature, we argue that it is an area that would benefit from further investigation in relation to its impact on the provision of education and the effectiveness of schools. In other words, it is deemed desirable to understand the issues and problems school leaders have to contend with in such distinctive contexts as well as the ways in which these challenges are tackled. From this perspective, there appears to be a strong case for generating context-rich accounts of organisational life that are meaningful to school leaders and can help them understand themselves and their environments so they can enhance their decisions. As the kaleidoscope of borderland contexts continues to shift in the wake of recent political developments, these considerations appear to be becoming even more germane.
The exposition of this paper is divided into four main sections. First, there is an examination of the distinctive features of borderland contexts, especially in regard to the occurrence of recent developments and activities that have made them increasingly fluid. For this purpose, whilst recognizing that there is a wide range of borderland contexts across the globe, reference is made more specifically to the Dutch/Belgian/German borderlands, the Irish borderlands and that of China and Hong Kong. Secondly, the associated literature pertaining to education policies and practices in borderlands is interrogated, especially as it relates to the imperative that distinctive pedagogies should be developed that are congruent with the context of borderlands. In this regard, Vinlove (2012) holds that teaching in a context-responsive manner requires that teachers first understand the contextual factors which influence their students’ lives, and, also, that they have both practical strategies for learning about these factors and a repertoire of authentic ways in which to incorporate this contextual information in their classroom practices. Thirdly, consideration is given to the implications that such complex contexts have for understandings and practices of school leadership. Accordingly, it is relevant to discuss the main practices of what is termed ‘culturally responsive school leadership’ (Khalifa, Gooden, & Davis, 2016). This approach, it is argued, appears to have a certain application to the circumstances that apply in borderland contexts and constitutes an approach to leadership that has been articulated to some degree in the area of social justice education. Finally, attention is turned to some ways in which ‘appropriate’ school leadership may be nurtured in borderland contexts including the use of a heuristic tool for identifying the complexities of school leadership as they occur in borderland settings, and the professional knowledge, skills and dispositions required to perform school leaders’ work successfully. In doing so, we highlight a variety of questions to pursue in conducting empirical projects which, we suggest, would help to establish a foundation for building a solid body of professional knowledge aimed at illuminating the complexity of leadership in borderland education settings and at encouraging others to rise to the challenge.
The interpretive approaches that we report for investigating the nature of school leaders’ work in these environments have the potential to open up a rich vein of research activity that could serve to tighten the connection between conceptualising leadership development and the everyday reality of schools located in borderland contexts. This approach may offer a clearer direction to practitioners because it is based initially on a consideration of ‘what is’ rather than ‘what ought to be’. In this connection, it is argued elsewhere (Clarke & O’Donoghue, 2013) that such descriptive theory should be premised on the belief that, if things are described accurately ‘as they are’, there is more likely to be agreement on changes that will create things as they ‘ought to be’. Indeed, a convincing normative theory tends to incorporate elaborate descriptions of real-world conditions. This is a vital consideration to be embraced if school leaders grappling with the day-to-day challenges that define education in borderland contexts are to be assisted in creating and promoting worthwhile change within their classrooms, their schools and their communities. Indeed, it may well be contended that this consideration is also integral to the conference’s main theme, namely, Education in an era of risk – the role of educational research for the future.
Clarke, S. R. P. & O’Donoghue, T. A. (Eds.). (2013). School-level leadership in post-conflict societies: The importance of context. London: Routledge. Clarke, S. R. P., & O’Donoghue, T. A. (Eds). (2016). School Leadership in Diverse Contexts. London: Routledge. Khalifa, M. A., Gooden, M. A., & Davis, J. E. (2016). Culturally responsive school leadership: A synthesis of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 86(4), 1272–1311. Schneider, N. F. (n.d.). From migration to transmigration? Observations on migration activities in Germany and Europe. Wiesbaden: German Federal Institute for Population Research. Retrieved from http://www.english.forschung.sexualaufklaerung.de/fileadmin/fileadminforschung/pdf/BZGA-12-01545_Frauen_leben_engl_vortrag_2.pdf Van Houtum, J., & Gielis, R. (2006). Elastic migration: The case of Dutch short-distance transmigrants in Belgian and German borderlands. Journal of Economic and Social Geography, 97(2), 195–202. Vinlove, A. L. (2012). Learning to teach where you are: Preparation for context-responsive teaching in Alaska’s teacher certification programs (Unpublished PhD dissertation). University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK. Withaeckx, S., Schrooten, M., & Geldof, D. (2015). Living across borders: The everyday experiences of Moroccan and Brazilian transmigrants in Belgium. Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture, 6(1), 23–40.
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