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Juxtaposing interpretations of research on school principalship

Juxtaposing interpretations of research on school principalship
Juxtaposing interpretations of research on school principalship
It is said that if leadership, defined narrowly as principalship at the school level, as a sub-field of school improvement and as a route to more effective education had delivered a fraction of what was promised for it three decades ago, we would not have such a significant number of failing schools throughout the developed world. In retrospect, the notion of leadership as a panacea seems overly optimistic: if all a school needs in order to succeed is a ‘good’ principal, then the system only needs a relatively small number of ‘good’ staff to make for perfectly effective schooling, which is a more ‘realisable’ target than replacing twenty teachers in every school, say. Unfortunately for both policy makers and pupils, the evidence is against this notion – good leadership on its own is not a sufficient condition for good schooling - and we have learned that good heads cannot always operate with equal effectiveness in different schools. Context matters, as does complexity. Research in the field has similarly been blighted by the tension between delivering (and evidencing) improvement, and challenging (and informing) the evidential base for policy; most obviously in the dearth of research on quantifying the impact of leadership on pupil outcomes. This chapter sifts through a range of research from developed and developing countries to get an overview of interpretations away from the hegemony of ‘western’ (policy and socio-economic) contexts because ‘context’ matters at system level just as it does at school level. The purpose of the chapter is not to coalesce findings, but to interrogate those findings in terms of how they relate to method and interpretation. Interpretation is the action of explaining the meaning of research; methodology is the means of doing it. The link between the two should be theory, in the absence of which the researcher cannot be sure what has been found, and in non-experimental research the complexity of relationships plays an important role in interpreting the findings. The appropriateness of methodology affects the legitimacy of the interpretation, and ultimately the usefulness of the research. This is not to deny that there are many different conceptualisations of leadership and many different views on its desirable outcomes across cultures - ‘non-Western’ conceptualisations of leadership can open ‘Western’ eyes to theoretical treatments derived from different intellectual traditions – but an interrogation of the literature suggests that good research from every tradition shares the characteristic of going beyond the folk-knowledge of anecdote to the theoretically constructive.
school principalship
978-94-017-9281-3
1-13
Springer
Azaola, Marta Cristina
9ac43b18-a969-4877-a1b8-62bb4541da82
Kelly, Anthony
1facbd39-0f75-49ee-9d58-d56b74c6debd
Smeyers, P.
Bridges, D.
Burbules, N.C.
Griffiths, M.
Azaola, Marta Cristina
9ac43b18-a969-4877-a1b8-62bb4541da82
Kelly, Anthony
1facbd39-0f75-49ee-9d58-d56b74c6debd
Smeyers, P.
Bridges, D.
Burbules, N.C.
Griffiths, M.

Azaola, Marta Cristina and Kelly, Anthony (2015) Juxtaposing interpretations of research on school principalship. In, Smeyers, P., Bridges, D., Burbules, N.C. and Griffiths, M. (eds.) International Handbook of Interpretation in Educational Research Methods. (Springer International Handbooks of Education) Heidelberg, DE. Springer, pp. 1-13.

Record type: Book Section

Abstract

It is said that if leadership, defined narrowly as principalship at the school level, as a sub-field of school improvement and as a route to more effective education had delivered a fraction of what was promised for it three decades ago, we would not have such a significant number of failing schools throughout the developed world. In retrospect, the notion of leadership as a panacea seems overly optimistic: if all a school needs in order to succeed is a ‘good’ principal, then the system only needs a relatively small number of ‘good’ staff to make for perfectly effective schooling, which is a more ‘realisable’ target than replacing twenty teachers in every school, say. Unfortunately for both policy makers and pupils, the evidence is against this notion – good leadership on its own is not a sufficient condition for good schooling - and we have learned that good heads cannot always operate with equal effectiveness in different schools. Context matters, as does complexity. Research in the field has similarly been blighted by the tension between delivering (and evidencing) improvement, and challenging (and informing) the evidential base for policy; most obviously in the dearth of research on quantifying the impact of leadership on pupil outcomes. This chapter sifts through a range of research from developed and developing countries to get an overview of interpretations away from the hegemony of ‘western’ (policy and socio-economic) contexts because ‘context’ matters at system level just as it does at school level. The purpose of the chapter is not to coalesce findings, but to interrogate those findings in terms of how they relate to method and interpretation. Interpretation is the action of explaining the meaning of research; methodology is the means of doing it. The link between the two should be theory, in the absence of which the researcher cannot be sure what has been found, and in non-experimental research the complexity of relationships plays an important role in interpreting the findings. The appropriateness of methodology affects the legitimacy of the interpretation, and ultimately the usefulness of the research. This is not to deny that there are many different conceptualisations of leadership and many different views on its desirable outcomes across cultures - ‘non-Western’ conceptualisations of leadership can open ‘Western’ eyes to theoretical treatments derived from different intellectual traditions – but an interrogation of the literature suggests that good research from every tradition shares the characteristic of going beyond the folk-knowledge of anecdote to the theoretically constructive.

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Accepted/In Press date: 30 January 2015
Published date: 2015
Keywords: school principalship

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 365020
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/365020
ISBN: 978-94-017-9281-3
PURE UUID: 89ea5a98-e7ff-4714-b684-2bd7d852a071
ORCID for Marta Cristina Azaola: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6671-4095
ORCID for Anthony Kelly: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-4664-8585

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 21 May 2014 15:53
Last modified: 10 Jul 2020 00:31

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Contributors

Author: Anthony Kelly ORCID iD
Editor: P. Smeyers
Editor: D. Bridges
Editor: N.C. Burbules
Editor: M. Griffiths

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