26 SES 06 A, Global Research On Educational Leadership - Mainstream And Borderlands Perspectives
This study aims to undertake a systematic mapping of research trends within the field of educational leadership research over a twenty-year period.
The field of educational leadership research is broad, and traditions within the field diverge, with critical educational leadership research (with a focus on inequitable power relations) being seen as having mutually incompatible objectives and foundational epistemologies with more functional research into ‘what works’ in leadership (Gunter, 2016). There have been recent suggestions that the field would benefit from more engagement in discussion and debate of ideas and concepts (Eacott, 2018). Other researchers have argued that the field might usefully employ a wider variety of methods in undertaking research (Thomson, 2017), that critical approaches are discursively and materially subordinated to functionalist ones (Wilkinson and Eacott, 2013a, 2013b; Courtney, McGinity and Gunter, 2017), e.g. within funding and policy-making regimes and yet that there have been marked turns towards the adoption of more critical theory in the field (Niesche, 2018).
In an era of ‘risk’, where research funding is decreasing around the world (Beattie and Thiele, 2016; Heffernan, 2017), and calls persist for research that promises solutions (see Whitty, 2016), as a research team we found ourselves wondering to what extent the liminal and subaltern status of critical research and its knowledge claims apply also to the past. How are the objectives, methods, claims and relative significance of educational leadership research, and the identities and epistemological assumptions of educational leadership researchers, changing over time? What does this mean for the health of the field? This project takes account of similar enterprises to map the field, such as those projects undertaken by Gunter (2016); Wilkinson and Eacott (2013a, 2013b); Niesche (2018)and Thomson (2017). Our project contributes a novel, robust and, significantly, relatively wide-ranging empirical basis to these mostly conceptual studies (but see Thomson, 2017, whose empirical focus is on methods only).
This paper marks a first step into the project of mapping the key trends, methodologies, theories and theorists and subjects of research within the wider field of educational leadership research over the past twenty years. In addition, through the project, we seek to explore the contributions made by researchers and the citation networks, patterns, and genealogies of branches within the field of educational leadership to test previous claims of silos and a lack of debate and discussion.
By undertaking this work, the project will identify key trends as well as gaps and silences within the field of educational leadership research. We seek to better understand the areas that are potentially under-researched, the ways the field might be creating and reproducing power dynamics in research and researchers, and the impact of the increased marketization of universities over the past twenty years on the research being undertaken within the field.
We ask the following questions:
- What are the key trends characterising the field of educational leadership research over the past twenty years?
- What patterns can we see in research methodologies, theories, and objects of study?
We devised a methodology to systematically and manually analyse and map trends in educational leadership research. Using the Scopus database, we targeted the search at ten-year periods in order to capture ‘snap shots’ at socially meaningful intervals of time. Each such ‘snap shot’ comprised date from three consecutive years in that decade interval. This was because we wanted to capture the major scholars operating at that time, and yet needed to impose a limit on the total number of articles returned and consequently needing analysis. We judged that in a single year or possibly two, for instance, any given scholar might well not publish. Three years seemed likely to be the minimum period that would capture almost all active scholars, and proved to be so when we tested this hypothesis in a pilot sampling exercise. The search parameters were defined as follows: TITLE(educational OR school OR principal* AND leader*) These parameters were agreed following an iterative process where as worked closely together to refine the terms in line with optimising returns. We accessed over 900 research papers in the designated years that focused on educational leadership. The next stage involves mapping the key trends in the research. We have together devised areas of focus for the research comprising: • Object of study (e.g., school system, higher education, teacher leaders, principals, system leaders) • Empirical or conceptual research and whether the research was qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods • Choice of methodology and methods • Use of theory or conceptual framework • Claims made by the researchers • Citation patterns We have worked together to map recurring themes from within each area of focus and identify the overarching trends within the field of educational leadership research in five articles. We have discussed areas where there is disagreement and worked to arrive at a common understanding to take forward. This is to increase inter-rater reliability between the three researchers. Our intention over the coming months is to move to independent rating of the remainder of the articles.
The total number of returns has increased over time. Specifically: 1995-97, n=96 2005-07, n=226 2015-17, n=622. Educational leadership is consequently a growing field. Concerning the wider analysis, we anticipate having firm findings by ECER 2019. Nonetheless, our inter-rater exercise and initial scanning of articles have produced emergent puzzlements that we intend pursuing in this paper and in the fuller analysis: 1. Functionalist vs conceptual empirical scholarship We perceive a relatively high proportion of critical conceptual work compared to functionalist conceptual scholarship. It is concomitantly more likely that empirical work is functionalist than critical. To avoid the characterisation of critical research as over-conceptual, and to avoid also the collocation of the empirical with a ‘what-works’, functionalist approach, it is vital that more consistency is achieved. 2. Insider-outsider group Our scanning of citation patterns and networks shows that scholars largely read and reproduce similar networks and that more established scholars are likely to be referenced rather than emerging researchers. Whilst this is partly inevitable, we note that even directly relevant work by early-career researchers is often not cited in subsequent similarly themed research by more established scholars. This speaks to methodological concerns regarding how literature is identified, selected and used, as well as to power relations where citations are symbolic capital within the field. 3. The nature of critical research vs functional research as trends within the field We note the abundance of functional compared with critical research. Whilst the former is more amenable to policy-making, this is arguably because of its over-simplification of the social world rather than any inherent superiority in knowledge claims. This consequently justifies more critical scholarship, and for that scholarship to be more widely cited. Equally, critical scholarship needs to rethink its relationship with ‘impact’.
Beattie, I.R., & Thiele, M. (2016). Connecting in class?: College class size and inequality in academic social capital. The Journal of Higher Education, 87(3), 332–362. doi:10.1353/ jhe.2016.0016 Courtney, S.J., McGinity, R., and Gunter, H.M., (2017). Introduction: Theory and theorising in educational leadership. In: S.J. Courtney, R. McGinity, and H.M. Gunter (Eds.). (2017), Educational leadership: Theorising professional practice in neoliberal times. London: Routledge. Eacott, S. (2018). Ranting, raving and complaining: reflections on working against orthodoxy. International Journal of Leadership in Education. Gunter, H. M. (2016). An intellectual history of school leadership practice and research. London and New York: Bloomsbury. Gunter, H. M., & Fitzgerald, T. (2011). The pendulum swings: but where? Part I. Journal of Educational Administration, 43(4), 283–289. Heffernan, T. A. (2017) A fair slice of the pie? Problematising the dispersal of government funds to Australian universities, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 39:6, 658-673, DOI: 10.1080/1360080X.2017.1377965 Niesche, R. (2018). Critical perspectives in educational leadership: a new ‘theory turn’? Journal of Educational Administration and History, 50(3), 145–158. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220620.2017.1395600 Thomson, P. (2017). A little more madness in our methods? A snapshot of how the educational leadership, management and administration field conducts research. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 49(3), 215–230. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220620.2017.1315381 Whitty ,G. (2016). Research and Policy in Education: Evidence, Ideology and Impact. British Journal of Sociology of Education. London: UCL IOE Press. Wilkinson, J., & Eacott, S. (2013a). Outsiders within? Deconstructing the educational administration scholar. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 16(2), 191–204. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603124.2012.750762 Wilkinson, J., & Eacott, S. (2013b). These disruptive times: Rethinking critical educational leadership. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 16(2), 135–138. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603124.2012.753320
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