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'The way we do things around here': A consideration of processes by which mathematics Heads of Faculty develop effective culture within their departments

There is a new era in education leadership. While it is difficult to mark its exact beginning, it is clear that there is a movement away from mechanistic towards cultural education leadership. It is characterised by an emerging understanding of more holistic leadership approaches focusing on mastering change instead of control, individual development rather than assurance, and innovation more than standards (Ehlers, 2009). In essence it is the development of an organisational culture based on shared values, necessary competencies and new professionalism. The importance of organisational culture is a long established idea; great business leaders have known of it for years. The culture of an organisation is like its personality and an informal understanding of ‘the way we do things around here’. It is a generalising and grouping together of the shared understandings of the way things are done, how people within it organise and interact. Many school leaders spend considerable time building cohesive school cultures (Deal & Kennedy, 1983). This study looks at the level of the Head of Faculty, (hence forth referred to as Head of Department as it is the most recognised term within the teaching field); specifically at how mathematics department leaders develop effective culture within their departments. Heads of Department are in a position to build inspiring workplace cultures that will create an atmosphere of high-performance, innovation, collaboration, and opportunity. To provide a framework from which to view the research a comprehensive literature review of the concepts of organisational culture, subcultures developed through secondary school departments and secondary school department leadership practices and processes was conducted. Thereafter, a small-scale qualitative study was undertaken using a semi-structured interview process to gather data from five mathematics Heads of Department, focusing on their experiences related to organisational culture. Themes that emerged from the data first centred on observable behaviour and artifacts which were initial department design, physical environment, leadership structure, and style. The second set of themes looked at shared values, rules, and behavioural norms which were building a shared philosophy and vision; anxiety and conflict; and critical self-reflection. The third set of themes covered basic underlying assumptions and they were communication, being centred on learners, and building a climate of trust.
Type of thesis
Brassington, L. M. (2012). ‘The way we do things around here’: A consideration of processes by which mathematics Heads of Faculty develop effective culture within their departments (Thesis, Master of Educational Leadership (MEdLeadership)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6496
University of Waikato
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