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Context counts : leading educational reform in New Zealand secondary schools

Educational leadership and organisational literature is replete with syntheses of effective leader behaviours, change sequences and reform models, yet few studies explore the nuanced manner in which individual leaders make sense of and respond to the dynamic influences shaping their thinking and practice over time. In posing the question, how do principals experience leadership during periods of intentional educational change, this study gains insight into the lived experience of five New Zealand secondary school principals as they lead school wide implementation of Phase 5 Te Kotahitanga, a reform initiative designed to reduce disparities in the educational achievement of indigenous Māori students through the introduction of a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. The case narratives arising from a three year dialogue with participants examine the genesis of each principal’s commitment to equity in educational access, opportunity and outcome; their evolving thinking and practice; and the manner in which people and structures within each school field enable and constrain their leadership endeavours. Findings demonstrate that leading counter-hegemonic change is a situated, complex and demanding undertaking, the intensity of which eludes much of the leadership and change literature. Hermeneutic reading of these rich qualitative accounts of lived experience suggests that, far from being detached observers, leaders both embody and are embedded in context. This exposes the shortcomings of literature that dichotomises the two and makes Bourdieu’s lens on practice as a temporal, embodied, discursive and social activity an important heuristic through which to view the holism of change leadership. The implications arising from this study are fourfold: leadership narratives open windows to natural and vicarious meaning making, personal biography is of central rather than peripheral importance, emotional and micropolitical literacy crucial, and professional mentoring a potentially powerful catalyst in building practice wisdom.
Type of thesis
Morrison, M. (2019). Context counts : leading educational reform in New Zealand secondary schools (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13119
The University of Waikato
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