Details of Thesis

Title A Case Study of the Exploration of Authentic Leadership and Learning in Four Catholic Primary Schools
Author O’Brien, Kathryn Louise
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2009
Abstract Schools and school systems across the world are seeking ways of improving student achievement, in response to growing public recognition of the importance of education for individual success and societal progress. School leaders are being challenged to maintain focus on authentic learning in schools while under government pressure for accountability measures linked to student achievement in test scores. In Australia, the introduction of the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy and the uncertainty of the government use of the results, increases pressure on School leaders to ensure successful student performance under test conditions. Leaders are asking questions about the moral imperative of education and the need to meet increasing government accountabilities. This thesis will report on an exploration of a professional learning program to assist schools and teachers in transforming their teaching and learning practices. The specific purpose of this research is to explore how inferential discussions and critical reflection lead leaders to extrapolate and question the embedded values that underscore decisions and actions in their leadership practices associated with improving learning in the context of their school. The research explored the participants’ journey of decision-making through the lens of shared and distributed leadership, reflective pedagogy and authentic learning. It analyses a variety of approaches as to how the moral imperatives of the profession impact on and promote authentic leading. It explores processes of reflection and dialogue in four primary schools as leaders and teachers examine their own practice and develop insights into the characteristics of learning and leading. The epistemological framework of the research is constructivism using the interpretive perspective through symbolic interactionism. A case study methodology was chosen for the research to provide a rich description of the journey taken by the participants. Data was collected from four Catholic primary schools by examining the personal and professional experiences of participants in the Leaders Transforming Learning and Learners project through the use of semi-structured interviews, focus groups and reflective journals. The process of mind mapping was used to visually represent the transcribed data and to enable in-depth analysis of the data. This research project asked the question “How did the experience of working collaboratively in a school improvement project expand the participants’ understanding of the relationship between leading and learning?” In this research, principals and teachers engaged in a professional learning experience that provided an opportunity to collaborate and reflect on developing their leadership capacity. The research revealed that collaborating with colleagues on a project that explored the moral imperatives of leading and learning within the specific contextual nature of their school led them to rethink leading and learning. Further, when an ethical framework was provided, leaders were able to reflect on the values that shaped their decision-making and further develop their self-awareness as leaders. A deepening understanding of the complexities of decision-making in the educational setting provided the impetus for the development of teacher leaders and fostered a culture of leadership and learning in the schools. These findings are represented graphically in a model of contemporary leadership that captures the relationships of the major components of this linkage between leadership and learning in schools.
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