26 SES 11 B, Working In Schools Facing Adversity And Schools In Underserved Communities
This paper explores the development of leadership practices characterized by the key role of dialogue among several members of the educational community, in schools with historically underserved communities. We seek to respond to two research questions: (1) which are the concrete practices that enable the dialogic leadership, shared with historically underserved communities? and (2) which are the perceptions of the principals about their own role when they adopt a dialogic approach?
The study of leadership has increasingly stressed the relevance of dialogue and empowerment of several agents beyond the principal-centred approach. Transformational leadership (Hallinger, 2009) reacted against the traditional top-down relationships and emphasized the capacity of leaders to engage and stimulate the participation of other. Distributed leadership (Gronn, 2000; Spillane et.al. 2001; Spillane, 2010) highlighted the collective effort that leadership actually means, with shared responsibilities and commitments among the whole school team and different stakeholders. Teacher leadership (Frost & Harris, 2003) looks at teachers as agents of change, pointing out the non-positional leadership that teachers may develop in schools worldwide.
This occurs in line with a wider pattern that some authors have defined as the “de-monopolization” of expert knowledge (Beck et al., 1994). Indeed, in all social and professional fields there is a questioning of traditional hierarchies, and real portrayals of leadership in our societies involve plural sources of influence, interdependencies and formal and spontaneous collaborations.
Moreover, in this context the role of dialogue in leadership becomes intimately linked to the notion of democracy. Woods and Gronn (2009) discuss the notions of distributed leadership and democratic leadership, as well as how distributed leadership responds to three central elements of democracy: self-governance, protection from arbitrary power, and legitimacy grounded in consent.
In this sense, some contributions pose the focus on how dialogue can be promoted as a means to strengthen democracy and to overcome historical power relationships with specific groups (such as poor communities, migrants or Roma people). Decades ago, Freire already claimed that “the revolutionary leadership establishes a permanent relationship of dialogue with the oppressed” (1970, p. 50). More recently, Shields (2004) suggests the conceptualization of transformative leadership (instead of transformational) to stress the moral role that educational leadership must play to contribute to social justice and wide changes in society, and places dialogue at the core of this notion. Padrós & Flecha (2014) suggest dialogic leadership as the process through which leadership practices of all the members of the educational community are developed, involving teachers, families, students, volunteers and any other members of the community, regardless of their academic background, ethnicity or religion. Dialogic leadership is also related to the notion of culturally responsive school leadership (Khalifa et.al. 2016) as it stresses the relevance of building strong relationships between the school and families in culturally diverse communities.
However, as minorities and low SES families are usually considered from a deficit perspective, their involvement in leadership practices becomes especially difficult. Here, the notion of funds of knowledge (Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2005) helps us understand that instead of adding problems to a complex situation, these communities may include leadership capabilities and other valuable skills and resources. Furthermore, as Marshall Ganz (2010) points out, the mobilization of the whole community may enable the use of salient knowledges from both insiders and outsiders of the communities and the subsequent development of heuristic processes of decision-making. This, in turn, allows to reach more creative and effective solutions.
While we have arguments for defending the desirability of dialogic leadership in schools in challenging circumstances, we need to explore in depth, and empirically, how this dialogic leadership is developed.
Empirical data was collected in schools that participate in the network of Schools as Learning Communities, which involves more than 400 schools worldwide. This model is based on the dialogic participation of all members of the community, including teachers, students, families and other agents (Flecha and Soler, 2013). From this whole-school approach there is the agreement on the implementation of successful educational actions – actions that have provided evidence of improvements in very diverse contexts. Our study was conducted in the framework of the Project Schools as Learning Communities in Europe: Successful Educational Actions for all (SEAS4ALL) (Erasmus+ Programme) which starting from the results of the former research project INCLUD-ED (6th Framework Programme) contributed to the transferability of identified successful actions to European educational centres. First, a documentary analysis was conducted with meeting minutes of the project. While leadership was not the topic of these meetings, principals from different schools participated in some of meetings and raised questions about this topic. Then, we selected 3 schools as Learning Communities located in high poverty areas in Spain, serving traditionally excluded populations (i.e. Roma). These schools had already provided evidence of achievements such as improving academic attainment, reducing drop out or increasing graduation rates. In every case, the principals were interviewed to identify key decision-making processes underpinning changes undertaken in the school, as well as exploring their own perceptions and reflections of the process and their role as principals. We also collected observations in school and community spaces and documentary analysis. Both data collection and analysis were developed under the communicative methodology of research (Gómez et.al, 2011). This approach involved second rounds of fieldwork to discuss the findings and interpretations, with the focus on the transformative versus exclusionary dimensions in the analysis of the data.
Our findings contribute to explain how participating schools have de-monopolized their decision-making processes and developed dialogic leadership with historically underserved communities. We have collected strategies in which dialogic leadership is promoted, with a high engagement of teachers and family members, plus students and other non-professional agents of the school. Among specific practices of dialogic leadership, we highlight the development of mixed committees for a very diverse range of issues. These committees are created bottom-up, and most of them focused on specific school’s needs or priorities, with a “management mixed committee” which acts as an extended management team. On the other hand, principals have reported diverse perceptions of the difficulties, changes and professional achievements associated with the engagement on dialogic practices. They perceive to exercise a more reflective practice and to be involved in creative procedures, as well as to have learned and become familiar with community-based issues which, in turn, has made them act as advocates in different circumstances. These results are significant for the field of leadership studies as they contribute to the conceptualization of dialogic leadership and, more importantly, provide empirical evidence of the strengths and difficulties of the development of such practices. Further research is needed about their consolidation and sustainability.
Beck, U., Giddens, A., & Lash, S. (1994). Reflexive modernization: Politics, tradition and aesthetics in the modern social order. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Flecha, R., & Soler, M. (2013). Turning difficulties into possibilities: Engaging Roma families and students in school through dialogic learning. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(4), 451-465. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum Frost, D., & Harris, A. (2003). Teacher Leadership: Towards a research agenda. Cambridge Journal of Education, 33(3), 479-498. Ganz, M. (2010). Leading Change: Leadership, Organization and Social Movements. In Nohria, N. & Khurana, R. (eds.), Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice (pp.527-566). Danvers: Harvard Business School Press Gómez, A., Puigvert, L., & Flecha, R. (2011). Critical communicative methodology: Informing real social transformation through research. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(3), 235-245. Gonzalez, N., Moll, L. C., & Amanti, C. (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. New York: Teachers College Press. Gronn, P. (2000). Distributed Properties A New Architecture for Leadership. Educational Management Administration Leadership, 28(3), 317- 338. doi: 10.1177/0263211X000283006 Hallinger, P. (2009). Leadership for 21st Century Schools: From Instructional Leadership to Leadership for Learning. Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Institute of Education Khalifa, M. A., Gooden, M. A., & Davis, J. E. (2016). Culturally responsive school leadership: A synthesis of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 20(10), 1–40. Padrós, M. & Flecha, R. (2014). Towards a Conceptualization of Dialogic Leadership. International Journal of Educational Leadership and Management, Vol. 2(2), 207-226. doi: 10.4471/ijelm.2014.17 Shields, C. M. (2004). Dialogic leadership for social justice: Overcoming pathologies of silence. Educational administration quarterly, 40(1), 109-132. Spillane, J. (2010). Conceptualizing School Leadership and Management from a Distributed Perspective. The elementary school journal, 11(2), 253-281. doi: 10.1086/656300 Spillane, J.; Halverson, R.; & Diamond, J.B. (2001) Investigating School Leadership Practice: A Distributed Perspective. Educational Researcher, 30(3), 23–28. doi: 10.3102/0013189X030003023 Woods, P. A., & Gronn, P. (2009). Nurturing democracy: The contribution of distributed leadership to a democratic organizational landscape. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 37(4), 430-451.
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.