ERG SES D 10, Educational Leadership
This project aims to identify and map empirically grounded key conditions and components of system leadership in the English context. This study explores the role of ‘system’ leaders, individuals who enhance provision in their schools and provide support for other schools, at different levels of seniority through Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). It provides insight and understanding on how these professionals enact their leadership and use their knowledge, experience and values in order to enable or constrain school improvement in their own school settings and subsequently across groups of schools.
The rationale of the study is to highlight and elicit attitudes and insights of system leadership practices and understand what system leadership means in terms of leadership practice and roles. Relatively little research has focused on how ‘system’ leaders respond to context while attempting to realise reform initiatives and how far they use their influence and their extended role of tackling underperformance in schools.
Conducting this research through the lens of complexity thinking, this research suggests that the ecological systems model from Bronfenbrenner (1979) on human development, represents a useful theoretical framework for understanding the processes and interactions involved in system leadership, and that the dynamic, non-linear changes within MATs can be effectively understood by applying complexity theory.
An ecological model examines influences on a phenomenon from multiple levels of perspectives, and may be used to develop context-sensitive accounts of leadership. Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) in this project are conceptualised as meso-system elements of a wider school ecosystem made up of multiple interconnected components that interact with each other. Schools are conceptualised as sub-systems which have the capacity to problem solve independently, innovate, and engage in sustained collaborative reform efforts around specific issues. This also makes them elements of an interconnected ecosystem in which ‘system’ leaders and their practices would play a fundamental role in the desire to build capacity for knowledge creation and diffusion, influence positively teaching and learning through their impact on staff motivation, commitment and working conditions, enhance teacher quality and build and sustain relationships over time while considering the complex interactions among various parts in the system. As a result, this study posits that system leadership will be construed as a complex process representing recursive interactions between levels of the ecosystem and elements that join together in ways that are unpredictable and uncertain.
This larger version of leaders of individual school leaders would be expected to act as change agents and as a mediating layer to broker the interpretation of macro policies, benchmark them against the diverse affordances of the school and MAT, make careful selection of innovations that they want to develop, translate them into micro implementation, consolidate the insights that arise from the processes and re-strategise for innovation diffusion to other schools.
The study employs a mixed-methods approach in addressing the research problem and questions to satisfy the need for both statistical and in-depth qualitative data. The purpose of adopting a mixed methods research approach, is to seek benefits of evidence triangulation and complementarity and thus add rigour, richness and depth to the findings. In this way, a holistic representation of the concept of system leadership will be achieved. This thesis is designed to be a convergent parallel qualitative-dominant study in which quantitative and qualitative data are collected and analysed appropriately at the same time, but the latter is given more weight than the former (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 2009). It involves two methodological strands: an interview-based multi-perspective case study of MAT CEOs exploring their roles and practices and a quantitative survey of middle and senior leaders investigating the ways in which their MAT CEOs/executive principals improve leadership and standards of teaching and learning across more than one school. The two strands are therefore distinct and the quantitative and qualitative research questions, data collection, and data analysis will remain separate. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected using interviews and questionnaires. The point of interface will occur during the final step of the research process after both sets of data are collected and analysed. A multiple perspective case study approach is used to provide in-depth and insightful examples of MAT CEOs’ leadership practices and to further investigate relevant perspectives of various key stakeholders in their MATs and participant academies. The focus is on their leadership practices and how their leadership influences the structures, cultures and the standards in performance of the MAT. The online survey will be used to provide a quantifiable baseline description of the executive principals/CEOs’ leadership practices and to what extent these practices influence individual practices and values of middle and senior school leadership teams in their MATs. The purpose of the survey is to identify patterns and establish common success factors, leadership strategies and support that have worked from the perspective of middle/senior leaders, in terms of improving the performance of their schools and their MATs. Moreover, it will provide an opportunity for all middle and senior leaders in the selected MATs to express their views regarding their MAT CEOs’ influence on their own leadership practices.
One of the key purposes of this study is to understand the concept of ‘system leadership’ at different levels from the perspectives of the participants. Therefore, different perceptions and interpretations will be brought together in order to construct and conceptualise the meaning of ‘system leadership’. This meaning, the practices and the perceived impact on school culture constitute the expected outcome of this study. Findings from these two strands will enable the researcher to form a nuanced understanding of who and how CEOs/executive principals lead as well as their perceptions of standards in performance in line with the concept of ‘system leadership’ practices and implicit roles as perceived by them and their middle and senior leaders. Within that, the researcher will be able to explore the system leadership elements, that is, to what extent this is system leadership, what it looks like, what kind of system it refers to and how leaders themselves lead at different levels of leadership structure. To explain system leadership, one would need to take into account what sort of local knowledge, problems, routines, and aspirations shape and are shaped by individual practices, values and beliefs. The active role of values, moral and ethical purposes, would therefore need to be acknowledged in decisions about which strategies to apply, how they should be combined, applied and changed over time. These would collectively best lead to the building of organisational culture and actions involving all stakeholders through which improvement may be more likely to occur.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979) The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Teddlie, C. and Tashakkori, A. (2009) Foundations of Mixed Methods Research Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Los Angeles: SAGE.
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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