26 SES 03 A, Becoming a Principal and Contributing to Student Learning
In the changing era, principals are widely considered to be the linchpins for reforming schools in different countries in Europe and the world. If a leader is capable and wins the trust of others, s/he can empower teachers to develop and utilise their capabilities, engage parents and others to take interest in and support student learning and create structures within the school that will allow students to be more active in their own learning and support the learning of others. Although processes for training principals in Bangladesh need development, some principals take up a personal challenge to discover ways of engaging teachers and students in learning. Some of these ways align with international theory and practices: some are context specific. This study reports research on innovative leadership practices of a principal in Bangladesh. A framework of effective leadership practices evolved in this research has potential to contribute to fill a gap in reported research.
Leadership is often identified as a process by which a person influences a group of individuals to reach a common goal in a particular context (Bush, 2011; Cammock, 2003; Northouse, 2007). There is no doubt that principals around the world are all involved in change management to varying extents. This research reports a part of a doctoral study that investigates the leadership and change at operational level at one school in Bangladesh. Accordingly it examines how a principal creates the changes needed to improve student learning, develop teacher agency, and contribute to community well-being. The following research question leads this study:
How can a Bangladeshi principal empower his teachers and involve the community in order to contribute to student learning?
The position of the principal is one of power, especially within the relatively hierarchical systems of Bangladesh schools. Although such power can be used as a means of controlling behaviour and in worst cases preventing others’ initiatives, it can potentially be used to empower others. A strong degree of both courage and self-determination was needed to create the changes in the school we studied. This might be called the principal’s heroic leadership. The term ‘heroic leadership’ is often associated with criticism of an overtly ego-centric style (Manz & Sims, 1991; Murphy, 1988), and conveys a sense that the leader is infringing on the agency of teachers and other stakeholders in the school. Rather than disempowering teachers and others, this principal has created a safe zone where they could be empowered. Perhaps such models of heroic leadership are needed in Bangladesh as well as in other developing countries in Europe.
The broad theoretical frame for this study draws on concepts of school leadership and change, which is aligned with the conference theme. Educational leadership around the world has been designed and adapted to the opportunities and barriers of specific contexts (Leithwood & Day, 2007; Walker & Hallinger, 2015). The argument that ‘context matters’ (MacBeath & Townsend, 2011; Mulford, 2010) is important for this study. Although the focus of this research is leadership of a school in Bangladesh, the complex phenomenon of leadership in educational organisations were considered more generally in order for it to be applied to specific contexts. Because leadership encompasses beliefs, values and the cultivation of dispositions, this study provides examples of how the principal understood his project of involving others in changing the school and making it more successful.
Bush, T. (2011). Theories of educational leadership and management (4th ed.). London: Sage. Cammock, P. (2003). The dance of leadership: The call for soul in 21st century leadership. Auckland: Pearson Education, Prentice Hall. Stake, R. E. (2005). Qualitative case studies. In Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., pp. 443-466). London: Sage. Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.). (2003). The landscape of qualitative research: Theories and issues. London: Sage. Northouse, P. (2007). Leadership: Theory and practice (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Murphy, J. T. (1988). The unheroic side of leadership: Notes from the swamp. Phi Delta Kappan, 69(9), 654-659. Manz, C. C., & Sims, H. P. (1991). SuperLeadership: Beyond the myth of heroic leadership. Organisational Dynamics, 19 (4), 18-25. Leithwood, K., & Day, C. (2007). Starting with what we know. In C. Day, & K. Leithwood (Eds.), Successful principal leadership in times of change: An international perspective (pp. 1-16). Dordrecht: Springer. MacBeath, J., & Townsend, T. (2011). Thinking and acting both locally and globally: What do we know and how do we continue to improve? In T. Townsend, & J. MacBeath (Eds.), International handbook of leadership for learning (pp. 1237-1254). London: Springer. Mulford, B. (2010). Recent developments in the field of educational leadership: The challenge of complexity. In A. Hargreaves, A. Liberman, M. Fullan, & D. Hopkins (Eds.), Second international handbook of educational change (pp. 187-208). London: Springer. Walker, A., & Hallinger, P. (2015). A synthesis of reviews of research on principal leadership in East Asia. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(4), 554-570.
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