26 SES 07 A, Evidence On Educational Leadership From England, India and South Africa, Bangladesh, Finnland and Canada
Our research focuses on outstanding leadership in different national and local education contexts and draws on theory, research and policy literature in the field of educational leadership and management. In Europe and internationally leadership has been identified as a key factor in educational effectiveness and achievement (Huber & Muijs 2010; Hallinger & Huber 2012; Pashiardis & Johansson 2016) and studies have sought to identify features of successful school leadership (Leithwood et. al 2008; Day et. al 2010). Some research has been driven by moral purpose and some by aggressive political agendas focussed on school improvement but all aims to find ways of providing the highest quality and standards of education for all. However, studies have tended to focus on one age phase of education, for example primary schools (Matthews et al 2014) or in a specific national context (NCSL 2007). Our interest is in learning about outstanding leadership across contexts (Tamkin et. al 2014). The importance of context for leadership development and practice in education is reflected in recent publications (Hallinger 2018) and we believe that the role of context needs further investigation.
Our study builds on and extends the body of work on good, successful and effective leadership by developing and refining characteristics of outstanding leadership. We recognise that these terms carry cultural and normative meanings in educational policy and practice but use them here in the context of research that seeks to improve existing educational practice through systematic investigation. In this study, we focus on a range of stakeholder perspectives of outstanding leadership across age phases of education in different types of schools and colleges in three countries. The research questions that have guided our study are:
- What are the characteristics of outstanding leadership in different educational contexts?
- To what extent do stakeholders, who have experience of leadership in different age phases of education, agree and disagree about the relative importance of the characteristics of outstanding leadership that we have developed?
- What consensus is there about the characteristics of outstanding leadership across the contexts included in this study?
The paper will report findings from data gathered in England, India and South Africa and offer an analysis that has application in European and other international education contexts. As education systems in Europe and worldwide face similar global challenges, increasing risk and uncertainty the need for outstanding leadership to address such challenges is key to providing the best possible education in the contexts in which we live and work. The methodology we have used has generated a set of characteristics of outstanding leadership and a tool for reflection by individuals and teams on their own leadership practices. These characteristic can inform strategic and operational decision-making and leadership practice in different national and local educational settings.
We used Q-methodology to research stakeholders’ perceptions of outstanding leadership and PQMethod for data analysis. Q-methodology originates from psychology and is used to study people's subjective viewpoints. In Q-methodology, subjectivity refers to an individual's personal point of view on any matter of personal or social importance (Brown 1980; McKeown and Thomas 1988). We applied the methodology, which consists of a structured process with a sequence of stages, to the study of leadership as enacted in practice in different educational contexts. The stages in developing and using a Q-sort are interdependent and involve generating a set of statements called a Q-set and selecting suitable participants who constitute the P-set. The Q-set statements are stimuli, which elicit participants’ viewpoints as they are asked to place the statements on a distribution grid that forces them to rank the relative importance of the statements, which in our study are characteristics of outstanding leadership. We used an even distribution grid with seven point range from -3 to 3 including 0 for data gathering. The Q-set statements were developed over a period of several years through observations of leadership in practice in schools and colleges, a literature review of leadership theories and empirical studies of successful and outstanding leadership and review of recent national policy documents. The statements were refined by feedback from workshops with practitioners and academics at international conferences on educational leadership and management (Dhillon, 2015; 2016) and used with leaders on continuing professional development courses. This iterative process generated 23 text statements (the Q-set) grounded in the reflections and perceptions of school and college leaders, governors, and academic researchers and scholars in the international field of educational management and leadership. The P-set (sample of participants who completed the Q-sort) consists of people with personal experience of leadership in the following range of educational settings: primary and secondary schools, selective and non-selective schools, urban and rural schools, vocational and teacher education colleges, university academics and governors of schools and colleges. The completed Q-sorts were analysed using PQMethod, a freely available software package. PQMethod uses factor (centroid) analysis which looks for the commonality of perceptions across all participants’ Q-sorts. The result is a factor, which is representative of those similar perceptions. In this paper, we will present findings by education age phase, stakeholder type, gender and across the countries represented in our sample.
The study develops our knowledge and understanding of characteristics of outstanding leadership practice in schools and colleges in different national and local contexts and across age phases of education. The viewpoints of practising leaders in primary, secondary and post-school settings in rural and urban locations in different countries provides transnational perspectives of the characteristics of outstanding leadership in a range of contexts. Analysis of the data by age phase of education, type of stakeholder, gender and urban and rural location provides evidence of the relative importance of the set of characteristics of outstanding leadership we have developed and can inform leadership in European and international contexts. The research also offers a reflective tool, a Q-sort, which syntheses 23 characteristics of outstanding leadership that leadership teams can use for leadership development in their own organisation or network of schools. Some participants in our fieldwork have used the Q-sort with their leadership teams to reflect on leadership, management and governance in their school/college with the aim of developing strategies to improve current practice. This process has given leadership teams a feeling of power, agency and ownership of organisational strategies and practices, in contrast to those developed or imposed on them by others, such an external management consultants or inspection agencies. We believe the Q-sort we have developed is a tool that has the potential for use in other national and local education settings in Europe and more widely in other countries.
Brown, S. R. (1980) Political Subjectivity. London: Yale University Press. Available at: https://qmethod.org/portfolio/brown-1980-political-subjectivity/ Day C, Sammons P, Hopkins D, Harris A, Leithwood K, Qing G and Brown E (2010) 10 strong claims about successful school leadership. Nottingham: NCSLCS . Dhillon, J.K. (2015) Democracy in leadership and governance at ‘outstanding' schools and colleges. Paper presented at British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society (BELMAS) conference, Reading, UK. Dhillon, J. K. (2016) Leadership as shared practice in outstanding schools and colleges in England. Paper presented at American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference, Washington DC, USA. Hallinger, P. (2018) Bringing context out of the shadows of leadership. Educational Management Administration & Leadership 46 (1): 5-24. Hallinger, P., & Huber, S. (2012). School leadership that makes a difference: international perspectives. Huber, S. G., & Muijs, D. (2010). School leadership effectiveness: The growing insight in the importance of school leadership for the quality and development of schools and their pupils. In School leadership-international perspectives (pp. 57-77). Springer, Dordrecht. Leithwood, K, Harris, A, Hopkins, D (2008) Seven strong claims about successful school leadership. School Leadership and Management 28(1): 27–42. Matthews P, Rea S, Hill R and Gu, Q (2014) Freedom to lead: a study of outstanding primary school leadership in England. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/363794/RR374A_-_Outstanding_primaries_final_report.pdf. McKeown, B. and Thomas, D. B. (2013) Q Methodology. 2nd Edition. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. NCSL (National College for School Leadership) (2007) What we know about school leadership. Nottingham: NCSL. Pashiardis, P, Johansson, O (2016) Introduction: What is successful and effective school leadership. In: Pashiardis, P, Johansson, O (eds) Successful School Leadership: International Perspectives. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 1–13. Tamkin P, Pearson G, Hirsh W and Constable S (2010) Exceeding expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership. London: The Work Foundation Alliance.
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