Details of Thesis

Title An Investigation of the Linkages Between Leadership, Learning and Student Engagement
Author Campbell, Brad
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2011
Abstract Education, or specifically, the nature of the learning experiences occurring in the classrooms of today, has been a fertile area for researchers and commentators as the discourse engages with the need to provide authentic learning experiences for students of the 21st century. This study explored the experiences of participants in a change project conducted in a Catholic secondary and primary school. The project entitled InteL, (an abbreviation of Integrated Learning), was part of a larger venture involving the Australian Catholic University and a further eight schools in four Catholic Dioceses across New South Wales. This venture was called Leaders Transforming Learning and Learners (LTLL). Using InteL as its base, this study examined the linkages between leadership and learning as it affected student engagement in two schools. The research is significant because it explored the relationship between leadership, learning and student engagement. This study looked at a broader definition of leadership which moved beyond the formal school leadership of the Principal or the Assistant Principal to leadership that was both distributed and transformative in nature (Crowther, 2004; Fullan, 2003b; Harris, 2005, 2008, 2009a; Leithwood and Jantzi, 2005a). It explored the impact of leadership on authentic learning experiences and student engagement. The focus was on leadership for learning. The emphasis was on an investigation of leadership that had an impact on and increased the engagement of students through authentic learning experiences. The conceptual framework derived from the literature drives the research through the discovery of the participants' experiences in the InteL project. The framework grew from the scholarly literature reviewed and coalesced around the central concepts of authentic learning, leadership, beliefs and values expressed as spirituality and moral purpose, shared vision and sustainability. The research paradigm used in this study was that of interpretivism and the epistemology was constructionism. The theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism was appropriate for this study because of the creation of meaning through social interaction. As a research method, case study was used because it allowed the researcher to explore the experiences of the participants in their own context. Data was initially collected in a questionnaire and subsequently through focus group interviews, observations and document analyses throughout 2007 and through professional discussion. Ongoing professional dialogue with some of the participants benefited this study by maintaining a more current perspective throughout 2008 and 2009. Theory grounded in these data has informed the findings and resulted in recommendations for future directions. The conceptual framework of this study was used to present the data. As such, the constructs of leadership, beliefs and values expressed as spirituality and moral purpose, vision and sustainability were used to discuss their impact on the creation of authentic learning experiences in a high school and a primary school. The findings of this research and the recommendations that flow from it are detailed in Chapter 6. This information is structured around the original concepts that shaped this study: leadership, learning and student engagement. Under the heading of leadership it is suggested that a different construct of leadership called "connecting leadership" is required to react to the needs of today's learners. A new conceptual framework was developed to more adequately explain how authentic learning experiences could be created in school environments. Following from this, the implications for schools, systems and universities are outlined.
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