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Examining Culturally Responsive Leadership: An investigation into how one school leader, in a primary school setting, provides culturally responsive leadership that ensures Maori students achieve

Addressing the achievement disparities that exist within New Zealand education between Maori and non-Maori is a major government priority and is identified by the Ministry of Education as being a critical challenge for school leadership (Ministry of Education, 2008a). Therefore, an important question for school leaders to contemplate is: How do we raise Maori student achievement and eliminate the ‘gap’, or more specifically, what are the teaching and leadership practices that will make a difference? The research project presented in this thesis examines how one school leader, in a mainstream primary school setting, provides culturally responsive leadership practice that ensures Maori students achieve. This case study was conducted within a kaupapa Maori theoretical framework and used a mixed methods approach that incorporated the triangulation of quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data included student achievement data in reading, while qualitative data collection and analysis included school documents, participant observations of the principal, a series of semi-structured interviews and a stimulated recall interview with the principal and focus group interviews with the school leadership team and a group of teachers. The literature reviewed highlighted the centrality of culture in education, the implications for relationships and interactions between teachers and students that are born out of cultural deficit theorising and the potential culturally responsive teaching practices hold for students from minority groups. It also identified a series of effective leadership practices that enable school leaders to influence classroom teaching and have a subsequent impact on student outcomes. The case study school reflects a mainstream primary school context where the majority of Maori students are achieving at or above national expectations in reading. The findings indicate that the principal is implementing many of the practices that characterise effective leadership in successful schools. The principal’s leadership practice is guided by her understandings of culturally responsive leadership, which emphasises the importance of developing quality relationships and quality teaching and learning. Consequently, she has focused her leadership practice on three interrelated strategies that reflect this theorising. The strategies include: prioritising the development of relationships with and between school stakeholders, establishing systems and structures to support the development of relationships and creating a school culture of learning where teachers reject deficit theorising, accept ownership for the performance of students, implement culturally responsive teaching practices and are critically reflective about their practice. This study suggests that further research examining culturally responsive leadership in mainstream education is needed to provide a more comprehensive profile of a culturally responsive leader in the New Zealand context. However, this report does provide an interesting point for reflection and discussion amongst school leaders who want to raise Maori student achievement and reduce disparities.
Type of thesis
Ford, T. (2010). Examining Culturally Responsive Leadership: An investigation into how one school leader, in a primary school setting, provides culturally responsive leadership that ensures Maori students achieve (Thesis, Master of Educational Leadership (MEdLeadership)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5594
University of Waikato
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