Details of Thesis

Title The Mission of the Catholic School and Role of the Principal in a Changing Catholic Landscape
Author Coughlan, Pat
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2009
Abstract This research explores the mission of the Catholic school and the role of the principal in a changing Catholic landscape. The context of this research is set within a Catholic landscape of radical change. Declining allegiance to institutional Church and disintegration of parishes as a focal point for sacramental and community life are indicative of paradigmatic shifts in understandings of Catholic life. In spite of these changes, Australian Catholic schools continue to enjoy widespread popularity and steady growth in enrolments (McLaughlin, 2005; Smith, 2007). This changing Catholic landscape has implications for the way in which the Catholic school seeks to fulfil its mission and for the role of the Catholic school principal. In exploring the research problem three key interconnected concepts were identified: 1. The mission of the Catholic school 2. The role of the Catholic school principal 3. The changing Catholic landscape. Each concept is examined through a review of current literature and the experiences and perceptions of selected participants, namely, Catholic school principals, employing authorities and clergy. The research is concerned with the changing nature of Catholic school communities as a result of a transformed ecclesial, social and educational landscape. The historical context of the evolution of Catholic schools is researched and presented as essential background to an understanding of the implication of these changes, in particular, the implications for the role of the Catholic school principal in negotiating the current school environment. The following research questions emerged from a synthesis of the literature. These questions focus the conduct of the study. 1. How do principals/employing authorities/clergy perceive the mission of the Catholic school?  2. How do principals/employing authorities/clergy perceive the role of the Catholic school principal? For purpose of this research it seemed appropriate to conduct the study within the epistemological framework of constructionism. The theoretical framework is from the interpretivist approach, and more specifically, symbolic interactionism. The methodology adopted is case study. Data were collected through an open-ended questionnaire given to all participants, followed by semi-structured interviews and focus groups with principals. Data analysis utilised an inductive approach including both simultaneous and iterative phases. The research concludes that in the two important areas of Catholic school mission and the role of the principal there is fundamental disparity in the thinking and understandings of those responsible for the governance and administration of schools. This study confirms the presence of two dominant, contrasting paradigms within the enterprise of Catholic education. This has resulted in an inconsistent understanding of how Catholic schools should most appropriately respond to the challenges of social, educational and ecclesial changes. This has major implications for principals who strive to promote a compelling Catholic identity which is credible and yet authentically ecclesial against a background of perceived resistance by some key stakeholders. The research concludes that there is a need for an urgent review of the impact of the rapidly changing Catholic landscape on the way Catholic schools understand and promote their mission. This research confirms the results of similar research in this area and poses additional questions which may be the catalyst of further research into this topic.
Thesis 01front.pdf  87KB
02whole.pdf 1,921KB

Top of Page