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Bourdieu’s Strategies and the challenge for educational leadership



The quality of scholarship in educational leadership has frequently been questioned both within and beyond the field. Much of the work in the field is limited to the analysis of either individual or structural influences on practice. The resulting lists of traits, behaviours and organizational structures provide little in furthering our understanding of leadership. Theoretically informed by the work of Pierre Bourdieu and building on a previous special issue edited by Lingard and Christie, in this paper I contend that insufficient attention has been devoted to the temporal features of leadership actions. Analogies provided by practising principals are used to highlight the directly unobservable features of school leadership. The central argument of this paper is that heightened attention to temporal elements of leadership as a social action has the prospect of elucidating that which is not directly observable and consequently move scholarship beyond the superficial measurement of what is directly observable to a thick description of educational leadership.
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International Journal of Leadership in
Education: Theory and Practice
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Bourdieu’s strategies and the challenge
for educational leadership
Scott Eacott
Published online: 05 Nov 2010.
To cite this article: Scott Eacott (2010) Bourdieu’s strategies and the challenge for educational
leadership, International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice, 13:3, 265-281,
DOI: 10.1080/13603120903410587
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JULYSEPTEMBER 2010, VOL. 13, NO. 3, 265–281
International Journal of Leadership in Education
ISSN 1360–3124 print/ISSN 1464–5092 online © 2010 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13603120903410587
Bourdieu’s strategies and the challenge for
educational leadership
Taylor and FrancisTEDL_A_441236.sgm10.1080/13603120903410587International Journal of Leadership in Education1360-3124 (print)/1464-5092 (online)Original Article2010Taylor & Francis000
The quality of scholarship in educational leadership has frequently been questioned both
within and beyond the field. Much of the work in the field is limited to the analysis of either
individual or structural influences on practice. The resulting lists of traits, behaviours and orga-
nizational structures provide little in furthering our understanding of leadership. Theoretically
informed by the work of Pierre Bourdieu and building on a previous special issue edited by
Lingard and Christie, in this paper I contend that insufficient attention has been devoted to
the temporal features of leadership actions. Analogies provided by practising principals are
used to highlight the directly unobservable features of school leadership. The central argument
of this paper is that heightened attention to temporal elements of leadership as a social action
has the prospect of elucidating that which is not directly observable and consequently move
scholarship beyond the superficial measurement of what is directly observable to a thick
description of educational leadership.
As a field of study, educational leadership has a relatively weak quality profile
within the already weak quality profile of educational research (Griffiths
1959, 1965, 1985, Immegart 1975, Gorard 2005). While the topics of
educational leadership have generated a great deal of scholarly interest inter-
nationally over the years, reviewers have generally suggested that it has not
been an area given to rigorous empirical investigation and knowledge accu-
mulation (Erickson 1967, Bridges 1982). It is dominated by a pragmatic
empirical approach (Scheerens 1997) and the cognitive development of the
field is still at the ‘discovery orientation’ (Eacott 2008b), dominated by
loosely coupled studies with little systematic testing and further development
of theoretical propositions. Gorard (2005) suggests that the difference
between educational leadership research and other educational research is
the uniformity of methods used, mainly small-scale qualitative work with
little transparency and no comparison groups, although this in itself repre-
sents an implicit preference for hypothetico-deductive structures. He further
adds that the lack of inclusion in the Social Sciences Citation Index of the
Scott Eacott is a Lecturer in Educational Leadership, Management and Administration in the School of
Education at the University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia. Email: Before entering higher education, Scott was an assistant principal in a
primary school having previously taught in a number of schools. He is currently engaged in work explor-
ing the notion of leadership as a social practice, informed by the work of the French social theorist Pierre
Bourdieu. His forthcoming book Educational Leadership and Strategy in Managerialist Times (Post Pressed)
further extends the ideas presented in this paper.
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majority of educational leadership and management journals is perhaps itself
an indicator of the non-impact of research in the field, although the applica-
bility of this system is highly problematic and contested within the discipline
of education. Within the Australian context,1 work by both Mulford (2007)
and Bates and Eacott (2008) suggest that Australian scholars fail to acknowl-
edge the contributions of each other, both past and present, to the field.
A significant portion of early inquiry into educational leadership lacked
effective theoretical development and, subsequently, appropriate empirical
tests, although the results of these studies remain valuable for the construc-
tion of knowledge. In fact, consistent with the growth of sophisticated
research methods in other disciplines, ‘the results from primarily case-
oriented, anecdotal, and topic-driven work reflect interest in examining a
particular phenomenon’ (Ireland et al. 2005: 114). Many of the early inves-
tigations provided the foundations from which further activities could have
occurred. The problem, however, is not the use of, or foundations provided,
but rather the failure of much of the field to move beyond these elementary
studies. Lets not be mistaken here, my intention is not to disregard all that
has gone, but rather to challenge those who work in the field to move beyond
what is known and produce a deeper understanding of leadership within the
educational context. In his introduction to the first issue of International
Journal of Leadership in Education, Waite (1998: 92) wrote:
Like it or not, the area of educational leadership (a.k.a. educational administration) has a reputa-
tion for being deeply conservative. But conservatism is not the path to renewal. New and different
voices are required to offer us alternative ways of being in the world.
The use of conservative methods in the field leading to lists of traits and/
or behaviours exhibited by ‘effective’ leaders, deeply rooted in the principles
of scientific management and the inertia of the Theory Movement has
reigned for too long. In 1969, W. Taylor noted:
Millions of words are to be found on the role of the school superintendent, the role of the principal,
the role of the school board member; on supervision, evaluation, delegation, communication,
professionalisation, certification and a dozen other processes. There are paradigms and models,
theoretical constructs and conceptual taxonomies, analytical schema, dichotomous, bi-polar, ideal
typical continuums and factorially structured four celled frameworks. The effort required to read
even a representative selection of the books and articles available is considerable, and apt to seem
not particularly rewarding. (p. 97)
Considering the rapid expansion of scholarly interest in educational lead-
ership in the decades since W. Taylor’s comments, we can only imagine what
his thoughts would be today. The major arguments of W. Taylor’s somewhat
negative thesis were the enormous amount of repetition and the prevailing
tone of prescription and inspirational writing. The repetition of claims, or at
its most despicable, the re-naming of previous frameworks and ideas, is a
substantial issue within the field of education. Cynical school-based staff are
quick to dismiss the latest fad or gimmick under the guise that it came and
went in a bygone era under a different name. The attempt to bring something
‘new’, or at least renamed, to the development of educators is what has led
to the overload of change initiatives and the reluctance of many educators to
participate or engage with ideas (Eacott 2007). Additionally, the high level
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of prescriptive writing in the field (Eacott 2008a) has done little more than
offer a large number of different models and framework which all seem to
make the same or at least very similar claims. The constant expansion of the
field’s literature with adjectival leadership offers little to the practitioner
other than provide them with the latest buzzword to help in the quest
for promotion. Contemporary books such as Leading Australian Schools2
(Duignan and Gurr 2007) is but another example of the rhetoric of the field
surrounding the distribution of roles and delegation, yet celebrating the indi-
vidual leaders and their skills in turning around schools (see also Gronn
[2003] for a discussion on ‘exceptionality’). In such work, and for that
matter, much of the work in the field, the focus has long remained on what
can be directly measured, usually through questionnaire or interviews. A
major challenge in the field is how to gain access to that which is directly
inaccessible. That is, knowledge leaders and those who work in schools
might not be able to express in words. In essence, if leadership is more than
a series of rational choices leading to a pre-determined goal (or means-end
rationality as articulated by Weber (1978), yet rarely referenced in the field),
arguably the commonly held belief in the field, how can we access this lead-
ership sense?
Bourdieu’s strategies as the theoretical tool
The work of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is very useful for theo-
rizing educational leadership (Lingard and Christie 2003) and was the focus
of a 2003 special issue of International Journal of Leadership in Education 6(4)
edited by Lingard and Christie. In the broader discipline of education,
others have used Bourdieu in the analysis of policy (e.g. see Journal of
Education Policy 20(6) for a special issue on this topic) or to examine the
boundaries of the field of educational policy (Ladwig 1994). However,
much of the utilization of his work in education has been on how schools
contribute to social reproduction and the production of inequality (Lareau
1987, Teese 2000, Lingard et al. 2003). A small emerging literature has,
however, used Bourdieu in relation to educational leadership (Fritz 1999,
Gunter 1999, 2000, 2001b, Thomson 2001a, 2001b, 2002, Lingard et al.
2003). Lingard and Christie (2003) highlight that the minimal use of
Bourdieu in the field of educational leadership is surprising given that his
theoretical approach was primarily concerned with the nature of the rela-
tionship between individual agency and structural determinism. However,
much of the educational leadership literature continues to focus on either
the individual, or individuals, as the field continues down the path of
distributed models of leadership or the structural constraints of action such
as bureaucracy, accountability and efficiency. Gronn (2003) has consis-
tently argued for the need to explicitly bring the individual and the struc-
tural into the same debate, yet the current popular adjectival perspectives
(transformational, authentic, moral, servant and so on) and the most
frequently utilized research methods (questionnaire, interviews, document
analysis) fail to adequately address this concern by focusing on what is easily
measurable, or at least operationalized in an easily measured way.
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For those who have utilized Bourdieu in the field of educational leader-
ship, his concepts3 of capital (cultural, social, intellectual and symbolic),
habitus, fields and strategies, have provided a lens through which to investigate
the individual possibilities and contextual constraints within the work of
educational leaders (Lingard and Christie 2003). However, this work has
not been picked up much within the field. Bourdieu encouraged researchers
to work with his concepts, suggesting that his theory provided a ‘set of think-
ing tools’ which are continually shaped and reshaped by empirical work
(Wacquant 1989: 50). In this paper I focus primarily on the concept of strat-
egies as a lens to investigate the scholarship of educational leadership
and propose that it is the neglect of research designs to adequately address
this concept that reduces much of the reporting of leadership to a hyper-
rationalist perspective (where everything is seen as malleable through a series
of logical incremental steps, for example a school development plan), often
closely aligned to Romantic ideals (the pillars of the school-based manage-
ment movement, where the ‘relief from stultifying mediocrity lies in deregu-
lation and local control of schools’ [Timar and Kirp 1988: 75]) and,
consequently, limits the value of work to influence practice and further
knowledge creation. The particular argument of this paper works with
Lingard and Christie (2003) and Lingard et al. (2003) by seeking to de-
romanticize educational leadership and explicitly link leadership actions to
the social space in which they occur. The unique contribution of this work
is the heightened attention to Bourdieu’s conceptualization of strategies as
the ‘leadership habitus’ (Lingard et al. 2003) enacted.
For Bourdieu, strategy is not conscious, individual rational choice,
rather appropriate actions taken without conscious reflection. Perhaps his
most articulate description of the concept of strategy is in an interview ‘From
Rules to Strategies’ published in Cultural Anthropology (Lamaison and
Bourdieu 1986), in which he discusses the notion of ‘feel for the game’.
Strategy or the feel for the game entails moves in the game that are based on
mastery of its logic, acquired through experience, part of habitus.
The real principle of strategies, that is, a practical sense of things, or, if one prefers, what athletes
call a feel for the game (le sens du jeu). I refer here to practical mastery of the logic or immanent
necessity of a game, which is gained through experience of the game, and which functions this side
of consciousness and discourse (like the techniques of the body, for example). Notions such as
habitus (or system of dispositions), practical sense, and strategy are tied to the effort to get away
from objectivism without falling into subjectivisim. (Lamaison and Bourdieu 1986: 111)
This conceptualization of strategies allows for actions to be ‘guided by
constraints, as well as for improvisation, different levels of skill, and different
choices to be made in particular situations’ (Lingard et al. 2003: 67). As
such, it welcomes ambiguity, it cannot be directly represented in a neat
framework, a normative list of behaviours or a one size fits all model of lead-
ership, but most importantly, it rejects the isolation of individual actors from
the context in which they are present. An application of Bourdieu’s notion
of strategy requires a macro-level perspective of educational leadership,
while simultaneously paying attention to the micro-level moves of players.
Conventional methods of inquiry which focus on identifying and measuring
the frequency of specific behaviours without recognizing the social space in
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which those actions take place can never provide us with the answer to what
it is that educational leaders do. They may provide countless lists of the
bodily movements of leaders, but they will never get to a level of conceptual
understanding that can potentially shape future practice and inquiry in the
field. In essence, the failure to investigate leadership strategies limits much of
the work of the field to ‘thin’ description, whereas we should be aiming for
a ‘thick’ description (Geertz 1973) of leadership actions.
The limitations of conventional modes of inquiry
In recognition that the ‘feel for the game’ of educational leaders is not
directly accessible, within a larger study (Eacott 2008c), principals (N = 36)
as part of a semi-structured interview were asked to identify an analogy
which best summarized what their current experience of the role was like.4
The two most common analogies involved sailing and a sporting team. A
representative sample of these included:
I see it [leadership] as Captain Cook leading his ship to try and find a new land, Australia. You
have the goal in mind, at the end there it is, we are going to discover this great unknown southern
continent, but along the way, the ocean really deals lots of blows and the people that you have
working with you come from all different strata, whether it is the cabin boy down stairs or the one
who is going to feed you slop or whatever. You are also dealing with all kinds of clientele, and
trying to keep them happy and safe, also making sure that you keep your vision, because it is a
long journey. Sometimes you need to readjust the path, but the destination remains the same.
(Principal 5)
I come from a sporting background, rugby. I see educational leadership just like a game of rugby.
We get on the field and bust our butts together, but when we walk off the field, we either won or
lost as a team. It does not matter that I dropped the ball over the line and they scored, we play as
a team and we win or lose as a team. (Principal 8)
These analogies give narrative access to knowledge that the principals
might not be able to express in terms of the conventional language of the
field. That being said, these analogies align with two different, yet closely
aligned streams of work on the leadership and management of educational
institutions. The sailing reference, which frequently included control over
where the boat was going and the numerous crew working on it, reflects
the busyness of the educational environment while also reinforcing the
concept of control or management by the principal, centre director or vice
The sporting team analogy is consistent with contemporary educational
leadership discourse on participative models of leadership. A notable and
arguably deliberate omission from the sporting team analogies was the term
‘captain’ or its equivalent. In each case, the respondent spoke of the ‘win/
lose as a team’ approach to sport. Even if one person made a catastrophic
mistake that led to the loss, the game was played as a team and therefore lost
as a team. The notion of ‘control’ or ‘responsibility’ is in direct contrast in
the two analogies discussed so far. In the first, the principal, under the guise
of ship’s captain, is controlling the actions of crew and the direction of the
ship, essentially the responsibility for reaching the desired destination falls
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with the principal, even though it is the actions of many that make it happen.
This is consistent with the current legislative environment in many coun-
tries. In comparison, in the team analogy the success or failure in the game
does not fall on just one person. This has organizational (or team) culture
and climate implications for practice. It requires an environment where all
staff take responsibility for aligning their actions with the espoused goals of
the team. It makes the assumption that all staff are on board with institution-
wide initiatives and that they will act professionally in fulfilling their roles.
Through adherence to the underlying assumptions of these two analo-
gies and arguably to the historical roots of the field in logic empiricism,
researchers adopt a Neo-Tayloristic (Gronn 1982) perspective. Neo-
Taylorism is research embedded in a crude form of Tayloristic thinking—
based on the question of ‘What do principals do?’, which is usually only ever
answered in an over-simplified or unduly mechanistic sense of practice.
While some claim that Taylorism or scientific management is dead in educa-
tional administration (Leithwood and Duke 1999), Kanigel (1997) warns
that Taylor’s thinking is so embedded in contemporary life that we no
longer realize it is there. In addition to the Taylorism, both of these analo-
gies align with means-end rationality (Weber 1978). The ship has to get to
the destination and the game eventually ends with the purpose of winning.
The measures of both are simply linked to efficiency. The captain who
gets the boat to the destination the quickest? The team who wins the game?
The performance of the leader is reduced or even lost in the performance of
the unit (the ship or the team). However, the role they played becomes
objectified. The most successful units become the focus of study. What
did the leaders of those units do? Tasks are broken down, and the inter-rela-
tionships between leader, follower and the environment are objectified or
worst still, ignored. The individual breakdown of tasks or division of labour,
explicitly evident in the ship analogy, yet somewhat invisible in the sporting
analogy, seeks to institutionalize the need for each individual actor, whether
they be teachers, crew on a ship or players in a sporting team to perform
their individual tasks. This reductionist perspective, evidence of a rationalist
logic, is at the heart of the ‘best practice’ or ‘what works’ movement that
dominates much of the field’s literature. The very concept of ‘best practice’,
the equivalent of Taylor’s ‘one best way’, is derived from empirical work of
the match between methods and means and is determined not by the actors
but by researchers or the so-called experts (Kanigel 1997). The move
towards professional standards is evidence of a desire for ‘what works’ and
‘best practice’ scholarship. However, scholarship of this nature, a profes-
sionalization or service orientation, has proved to be a significant barrier to
knowledge accumulation in education (Lagemann 1997). After all, research
has consistently shown that there is no one size fits all model of leadership.
The simplistic link between a set of standards, behaviours or traits and
student achievement (however, that is defined) is empirically flawed as it
ignores the moderating factors between school leaders and student action.
The Neo-Taylorism undercurrents have significant methodological
implications for the scholarship of educational leadership. This was high-
lighted in a debate between Gronn and Thomas during the 1980s (Gronn
1982, 1984, 1987, Thomas 1986), primarily through the pages of
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Educational Administration Quarterly. Noting that Mintzberg’s (1973) The
Nature of Managerial Work had re-awakened interest in the use of observa-
tional studies on organizational executives, and following the examination
of O’Dempsey’s (1976) pioneering thesis, Thomas (editor of the Journal of
Educational Administration) became a leading advocate for the use of obser-
vational methods in the study of educational leadership. In 1981 Thomas
et al. contended that observational studies would provide scholars with a
better means of understanding principals ‘in action’. However, drawing on
an analysis of observational studies at the time, Gronn (1982) argued that
the use of such methods represented little more than Neo-Taylorism. He
suggested that these accounts:
seriously misconstrue the phenomenon they purport to explain: they fail to explicate what it means
to ‘do’ something. As a result, questions having to do with action, such as when an action can be
deemed to have taken place or the meaning of actions, are totally glossed over. (Gronn 1982: 18)
Gronn goes on to cite the work of Ryle (1971) and, particularly, the
notion of ‘doing something’. He discusses Ryle’s example of two boys wink-
ing and that any given wink may be a voluntary contraction, an involuntary
twitch, a wink, a parody of a wink, (possibly) a rehearsal of a parody of a
wink and so on. Gronn goes on to link this discussion with the concept of
‘thick’ description, most frequently linked to the work of Geertz (1973).
However, it is at this point that Gronn makes what I see as an error in his
important argument. Rather than continuing with the Ryle’s and Geertz’
argument, he proceeds to outline the ethnographic method of Boswelling
(borne out of Boswell’s [1953] biography, the Life of Samuel Jackson).
Thomas (1986) responded with a scathing attack on Boswelling and, in a
somewhat uninformed manner, referred to the distinction between ‘thick’
and ‘thin’ description as mere semantic acrobatics. The most disappointing
feature of this turn for the reader was that a deep methodological discussion,
that is, how do we come to understand what a principal is doing, got side
tracked by labels, and the core question of how best can we understand the
principalship was lost.
This brings us back to work of Bourdieu, who encouraged others to
reject all theories which explicitly or implicitly treat practice as a mechanistic
reaction. Despite trends towards interpretive aims, educational leadership
scholarship remains strongly influenced by positivism (English 2001, 2002,
Biesta and Miron 2002). However, to understand leadership, we must
accept complexity and realize that it goes against all logic to seek to break
leadership up and study its parts (Goeppinger 2002). The normative
tendency in theorizing leadership has resulted in a proliferation of adjectival
leadership theories each prescribing their own specific ideal model for effec-
tive leadership. Spillane et al. (2004) criticize this normative approach for
offering simplistic prescriptions of practice and suggest that:
Theory is not so much a guide or template for the moves leaders should make, but rather a tool
for helping leaders to think about and reflect on their practice. (p. 5)
As noted earlier, Bourdieu encouraged others to work with his theory as
a set of thinking tools. This reflexive approach sets the tone for professional
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practice. That is, professionals, whether they are academics, teachers or
school leaders, engaging with the theoretical developments within their
fields, combined with their own lived experience to shape future actions
through critical reflection. Lists of leadership behaviours may serve this
purpose in the short term, but the highly technicist-rational nature of much
writing in the field has many principals doing most of the listed behaviours.
It is possible that it is not the behaviours listed that are the difference
between perceived effective and less effective leaders but rather the timing
and implicit factors of those behaviours that differentiate. When and why
particular actions are and are not enacted are more important questions to
ask in our quest to better understand the phenomenon of educational lead-
ership. It is an imperative of the field that academics and practitioners alike
strive for this better theoretical understanding of educational leadership and
utilize that theory as a point of reflection.
Seeking out the directly inaccessible
Two analogies provided by participants exposed the indirectly accessible
features of the principalship. Rather than portraying the role in a manner
consistent with the literature of the field, these analogies begin to explore the
relational and interconnected elements of the role. The two examples below
bring to the fore the leader as an active participant in a social interaction.
There is a reciprocal relationship between leader and follower, and perfor-
mance is not static. Rather, educational leadership experiences ebbs and
flows, and success requires an understanding of the logic of game:
Leadership is like a theatrical performance. A good theatrical performance will have impeccable
timing, whether it’s comedic or dramatic. It’s about when you can hear the pin drop because
you’ve got the audience engaged. You can say all these fancy things about managing and having
timetables and organizing and communicating, but at the end of the day its really whatever it is
that makes up a good theatrical performance. Theatrical performances can be a whole variety of
things, comedy, solos, Shakespearian, musical, it could be any number of things and that’s the
versatility. At the end of the performance you may not remember the specifics [exact words] but
it is the essence of what you experienced that matters. (Principal 19)
It [educational leadership] is probably like a very good sexual relationship long term, because it
is long term and its where people are equal and its not always easy and its not always what you
want and what you feel like, but its something that can be really exciting, you want to work on it,
but if you’re not involved in it, you’re not going to enjoy it. But it can’t be something where
someone else can do all the hard work for and you and you go hey yeah, this is great, because
that doesn’t work, it’s that team work and that people are engaged together and being a part of
something. It can be sort of full on and other times have nice sort of gentle lulls that you enjoy.
(Principal 36)
In contrast to the previously discussed analogies, these two examples
represent a different perspective on educational leadership. The theatrical
performance alludes to constant improvisation that is necessary for the
leader to adapt to situations that are infinitely varied. The normative nature
of the field’s literature provides many lists of leadership behaviours and
traits. These lists and neat frameworks seek to provide a form of codified
rules or explicit norms for practice. However, in reality, things are much
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more complicated and the infinite possibilities of actions cannot be captured
in tables, models, diagrams or neatly packaged explanations of adjectival
leadership. The good principal, just as the good player or actor, has a natural
sense of the game. Bourdieu (Lamaison and Bourdieu 1986) notes the good
player is continually doing what needs to be done, what the game demands
and requires.
The theatrical analogy acknowledges the pluralism of leadership by
outlining the different genres and implying that there is no one size fits all
leadership. In addition, it explicitly raises the notion of followership through
the reference to engage the audience and the need for big picture leadership,
that is focusing on what is important and on core business. Pivotal to the
theatrical performance is timing. Bourdieu (1977) suggests that failing to
acknowledge the timing of actions is to abolish strategy. The impact of
actions and words is heightened when delivered at the right time. An action
or phrase delivered late in the performance is arguably set up throughout the
performance. If delivered too early or too late, the value, whether that is
comedic or dramatic among others, is stifled or lost, but delivered at the
right time, leaves a lasting impact on the audience.
The sexual relationship analogy presents a more personal perspective on
the role, but addresses similar aspects. The explicit reference to the power
relations (where people are equal, although not reduced to the simplistic
zero sum equation) moves beyond the conventional dominated and domina-
tor mode of writing on the topic in the field. As with the theatrical analogy,
the sexual relationship requires active participation by all parties. It is not
possible to remove the actions of one individual from the larger relationship.
Timing is again vitally important. Without becoming too crude, actions or
words used at one time maybe highly appropriate and heighten or extend the
excitement or intensity of the act; yet if the timing is wrong, such actions or
words could quickly end any interaction.
However, unlike what maybe perceived from the voluminous literature
on ‘how to be a leader’ and ‘how to become more effective’, the sexual rela-
tionship analogy explicitly highlights that leadership, and arguably follower-
ship, is not easy. Understanding the logic and necessity of the game is
difficult and cannot be achieved by merely following a list of rules for the
game. Good leaders, just like good players in a game, ‘know how to take
liberty with the official rule and thereby save the essential part of what the
rule was meant to guarantee’ (Lamaison and Bourdieu 1986: 113). But this
feel for the game is not infallible or evenly distributed. Just as in a team or in
society at large, it is sometimes in short supply. It is for this reason, and in
the context of the large expected turnover of educational leaders within the
next decade in many developed countries, that there exists an imperative to
better understand the leadership of educational institutions now.
Before moving on, I would like to briefly discuss three additional
elements: the homogeneity of principals, the predictability of context and
the preparation of the next generation of school leaders/scholars. Whether
we like to admit it or not, principals are a relatively homogenous group. They
have graduated from initial teacher education, taught in schools and then
moved through the ranks of teaching into a leadership or management posi-
tion. This is in contrast to the corporate sector where leaders and managers
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come from a diverse range of backgrounds within (e.g. marketing, accounts,
information and communication) or beyond the firm. Even if from different
faculties, the path is very similar.
While noting that every context and leader is different, this difference
exists on a micro-level. A great many things about schooling and school
leadership are highly predictable. It is the pattern of people (students,
community members, external agencies and staff) going to school over and
over again which makes up the school as a formal organization. For regular-
ity to exist, it need not even be the same people who repeatedly interact
(Fay 1994). Therefore, at a macro- (school) or meso-level (systemic), there
exists a high level of predictability of school leadership. This makes it possi-
ble to create a conceptualization of leadership which seeks to bring to the
fore, the indirectly observable features or the underlying currents of prac-
tice. Achievement of such is what makes the work of scholars, such as
Foucault and Bourdieu, enduring and demanding of academic attention.
Lesser work, which seeks to describe micro-level variance, a constant if we
consider every leader and context to be unique, demands little scholarly
attention and is prone to being swept aside when the next ‘new’ list comes
In Australia we do not have compulsory preparation before taking up a
principal position, although I am aware that this is the case in many others
countries, including the USA. The dominance of modernistic thinking and
Neo-Taylorism in the field has significant implications in the preparation of
the next generation of leaders and scholars. This dominance makes it more
likely that the supervisor is embedded in the discourse and therefore trans-
fers that preference to the student. This further embeds the dominant voice
in the field. As the student moves back into practicing in the field, the diver-
sification of the dominant discourse continues. If, however, that student
returns to the higher education sector, they further spread the dominant
discourse of the field through their students and scholarship. In short, lead-
ership preparation is evidence of knowledge as a political tool. Requiring
school leaders to have completed training (the very use of the word training
has many other implications) forces aspirants into programmes which poten-
tially serve the purpose of government departments seeking to control the
way school are led and managed. As such, the preparation of school leaders
warrants study using Foucault’s techniques of power to expose the underly-
ing mechanisms at play and not just the superficial lists of curriculum
context or course delivery modes.
The proposition that performance is not static or that there is variance across
groups is not controversial. However, it does raise a string of potentially
provocative questions. For instance, very few people working in the field of
educational leadership have ever pondered the question of whether anyone
can be a leader; Gronn (2003) is an exception. In fact, I have attended many
workshops and read many papers by both students and colleagues in the
academy which positively cite, ‘everyone is a leader’. I wonder how many of
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us, I use the collective to suggest those who work in the field, have seriously
asked ourselves that question.
Leaders are elite. They are the people within our society who have risen
to the top. Does this mean that those at the top are all of the best? No. Does
this mean that those at the top are always the best? No. The goal of inquiry
into educational leadership should be to understand what it is that makes
them elite, not to produce a list of behaviours or traits that are common
among current leaders (after all, aren’t current educational standards slip-
ping, or at least at the same level that they have been for years, as the media
and our politicians so frequently tell us) that aspirants can use to plan their
development. A central fear that has emerged in this writing process is that
within the field of educational leadership and, arguably the larger discipline
of education, is that the jump from the descriptive to the normative is made
too quickly without adequate analysis.5 The quest for answers to the question
‘What a leader does?’ overcomes the desire for rigorous in-depth analysis.
Thomas (1986) noted that in the world of academe, publishing is paramount
and this is particularly true in the current context of university funding being
based on research outputs such as in Australia, the UK and New Zealand.
Arguably, inquiry which seeks to explore the strategies of educational leaders
will be more time consuming than conventional methods (questionnaire,
document analysis and interview) and consequently leads to less publications
in the short term. Wolcott (1973) noted that the process of researching and
writing his ethnographic study The Man in the Principal Office took some six
years. Yet, innovative work which sheds light on under-explored elements of
the principalship has a greater chance of surviving the test of time than the
repetitious prescriptive and inspirational tone of much work in the field.
Lingard et al.’s (2003) contribution of leadership habitus is substantial,
yet it has not been taken up in the field. Recognizing that inquiry into the
habitus of educational leaders is a difficult methodological avenue to pursue
for researchers, this paper has proposed a greater focus and attention be
given to leadership strategies. Not strategies as in the rational definition
frequently applied to strategic management and strategic leadership within
the field, but the enactment of leadership actions within a social space and
particularly the timing of those actions.
I argue that which is directly inaccessible is what differentiates good
leaders from others. Traditional conservative modes of inquiry cannot access
leadership strategies as outlined in this paper because of the very questions
and methods they utilize. Take, for example, an attempt to investigate what
makes an effective leader. The researcher engages with leaders considered to
be effective, whether that be defined as the high achievement of student
outcomes within the school, a somewhat flawed assumption based on the
ever-increasing evidence that leadership is but a secondary factor on such
achievement, or peer nominated, which also has selection bias, among other
methods. In the process of engaging with these ‘effective’ leaders, the
researcher inquires and probes to which the leader must:
bring to the state of explicitness, for the purpose of transmission, the unconscious schemes of his
practice. Just as the teaching of tennis, the violin, chess, dancing, or boxing breaks down into indi-
vidual positions, steps, or moves, practices which integrate artificially isolated elementary units of
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behaviour into the unity of an organized activity, so the informant’s discourse, in which he strives
to give himself the appearance of symbolic mastery of his practice, tends to draw attention to the
most remarkable ‘moves’ … rather than to the principles from which these moves and all equally
possible moves can be generated and which, belonging to the universe of the undisputed, most
often remain in their implicit state. (Bourdieu 1977: 19)
A particular limiting factor in such inquiry is that the informant produces
a discourse that is biased towards the most remarkable moves and also one
of familiarity. Through the immersion of familiarity, the leader leaves unsaid
all that he or she believes goes without saying. However, it is this junction
where the conscious and unconscious overlap that the feel for the game
exists. By omitting what are perceived to be the less remarkable moves,
essentially where the decisions are made to pursue what are to become the
remarkable moves, leaders, and implicitly researchers, are constraining what
can be extracted about the phenomenon of leadership.
A similar process occurs when extracting information from literature in
the formulation of questionnaire item banks. As much of the literature is
limited to the remarkable moves of educational leaders, subsequent items
again fail to elucidate the implicit and directly inaccessible elements of
leadership. The models and frameworks constructed around the remark-
able moves and then reported on in the literature of the field form the basis
of much of the teachings in the academy. Bates and Eacott (2008) noted
that leading change was the most common topic taught in educational
administrative programmes in Australia, to which Gronn (2008) suggested,
‘although much used, is devoid of any particular concrete referent or
context and is simply something “out there”’ (p. 182). The objectified and
reductionist nature of much of the work in educational leadership fails to
recognize that any particular move or action undertaken is the product of
the previous strategies of all parties and is reflective of each actor’s social
position at the moment in question, within the overall power relations of
the context.
To access such information requires a level of inquiry not frequently
seen within the field. Theoretically, and the analogies discussed earlier
suggest empirical verification of this, the focus of educational scholarship
needs to change. Conventional studies have placed the principal at the apex
of inquiry, and their actions, or lack thereof, are studied for their effect on
school performance, staff or some other related unit of interest. Viewing
the leadership strategies of the principal places them within a web of inter-
twined connections. It cannot be represented in a two-dimensional linear
causal map. The under-current of leadership behaviour requires increased
attention. The focus of inquiry shifts from directly observable behaviours
(although they remain important) to the directly inaccessible macro-level
behaviours which are enacted through micro-level social interactions.
Leadership actions need to be placed in a social space; that is, there is a
need to understand the context of the situation in relation to historical
events that have taken place. Any action taken is the product of the actor’s
peculiar history, their habitus. Therefore, during interviews, it is important
to seek to uncover aspects of the leader’s history which have led them to
the present, their experiences at school and university, even what games
they liked to play as a child. Bourdieu suggested that the feel for the game
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is acquired beginning in childhood through participation in social activities
(Lamaison and Bourdieu 1986). In addition, to acquire an understanding
of the history of events also requires observations over an extended period.
The single drop-in observation is not sufficient, although it is quite possible
that the extended observations of Wolcott (1973) are more than needed.
This is not, however, proposing that scholarship of educational leader-
ship needs to align with any one particular mode of inquiry, for example
quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods. Such alignment would be to the
detriment of knowledge creation and scholarship. Studies drawing from a
diverse range of methods and designs are desirable, if not necessary. What is
required is a shift in epistemological positioning. As an academy of scholars
we need to be constantly asking ourselves, what knowledge is relevant to
advancing both practice and scholarship? How do we decide/debate what is
relevant knowledge? How do we debate the value of methods of inquiry?
This paper has sought to challenge the traditional conservative approaches
to the study of educational leadership and ask questions regarding whether
current inquiry is looking at the right things.
The ‘what works’ (Gorard 2005) or ‘instrumental’ (Gunter 2001a) stream of
research in the field arguably finds its roots in what many believe to be the
key mission of professional schools, that is, to develop knowledge that can be
translated into skills that advance the practice of the profession (Simon 1976,
Kondrat 1992, van de Ven and Johnson 2006). As such, the central mindset
of the field has been a quest for some essence of leadership, some distinctive
set of characteristics possessed by leaders and not others (Evers and Lako-
mski 1996, 2000, 2001). In seeking to go beyond what is already known in
the field, the ideas proposed in this paper are meant to stimulate debate and
further inquiry. They are intended to provide a new platform for theory and
methodological developments. The positioning of educational leadership
within a wider social space poses key methodological questions for scholars
and critical key points of reflection for practitioners. For scholars, it is no
longer appropriate to study educational leadership at a distance, for example
questionnaires and document analysis. It also requires approaches more
commonly aligned with sociology and anthropology than has traditionally
been the case. In doing so, it draws in closely aligned fields of education
policy and sociology of education, reflecting the pluralistic and, to a lesser
extent, inter-disciplinary nature of the educational leadership. The introduc-
tion of social relations, and not just bureaucratic authority or chains of
command, requires a depth of investigation that goes beyond the mere literal
meaning of words or a list of bodily movements to the much bigger question
of ‘What was the person engaged in it for?’
This proposition is clearly designed to be provocative, although it is also
meant to be an optimistic perspective and not just a radical rejection of
conventional scholarship. It challenges the uncritical acceptance of hierarchy
and formal authority as the sole sources of power and influence in relationship
within educational institutions, and in doing so, bypasses approaches to
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educational leadership scholarship which populate most educational leader-
ship journals and books. This approach may be unsettling for some in the
field, but it is becoming hard to ignore such a stance. Although this should
not be interpreted as a prescriptive call for how further inquiry should be
undertaken as Foucault (1980: 265) wrote:
The role of an intellectual is not to tell others what they have to … The work of an intellectual is
not to shape others’ political will; it is, through the analyses that he carries out in his field, to
question over and over again what is postulated as self-evident, to disturb people’s mental habits,
the way they do and think things, to dissipate what is familiar and accepted, to reexamine rules
and institutions and on the basis of this reproblematization (in which he carries out this specific
task as an intellectual) to participate in the formation of a political will (in which he has his role as
citizen to play).
While this paper has suggested an alternate focus of inquiry for educa-
tional leadership, it remains for the reader to accept the challenge. Doing so
will enable important new insights into and understanding of educational
leaders and the actions they take and do not take. I am well aware that many
of my educational leadership colleagues working in schools of education do
not consider the issues raised in this paper to be legitimate. In fact, this is
the argument of the paper. Building on from the work of Rapp (2002), we
must commit to looking beyond the current perceived elites and loudest
voices in the field that situate themselves and a somewhat narrow narrative
of what is educational leadership. The educational context and requirement
to ‘teach’ leadership to our students establishes a constant challenge to our
capacity to put critically reflective theorization into practice (Sinclair 2004:
15). As noted by Rapp (2002: 184), I believe that ‘the potential of educa-
tional leadership lies in our ability to overcome and be stronger than our
present, inert condition’. It is my intention that this paper resists the
objectified positivist tradition of the vast majority of work on leadership in
education and reawakens a quest to understand what it is that an educa-
tional leader does.
1. As an Australian educational leadership scholar, I cannot help but be particularly interested in the
field within my own national boundaries while at the same time focusing on it internationally.
2. This is a government-funded title which tells the story, through a biographical narrative, of 12 ‘effec-
tive’ Australian principals and the contexts of their work.
3. A deliberate stylistic choice has been made to indicate Bourdieu’s concepts of capital, field, habitus
and strategies in italics to prevent confusion with other uses of the terms.
4. Checks for validity were undertaken by cross referencing responses with other questions relating to
their role and how they enact that role.
5. I am grateful to Jenny Gore who so articulately made this point at a recent post-graduate conference
at the School of Education, University of Newcastle.
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... This system of leadership at a distance operates through three major "softpower" strategies: public-private collaboration, through the irruption of private consortia with their business management ideology ; "remote governance" through the imposition of results demanded from educational priorities, through mechanisms such as standardised assessments, accountability or rankings (Eacott, 2010); and, finally, "autonomy", underfunded with resources and means, which holds educational communities responsible and blames them for the results obtained (Collet & Tort, 2016). ...
... From the beginning of my teaching work at the centre, I realised that there was a dissociation between the centre's management and leadership, centred on a group of teachers, but especially one of them: Ángeles, the centre's Language and Literature teacher. The school's management, which operated in an increasingly commercial way (Gobby, 2017), pushed for results that would make the school stand out from others, introducing neoliberal-style business management and accountability strategies (Eacott, 2010), but making the faculty responsible and, to some extent, blaming them for the results achieved (Collet & Tort, 2016). These mechanisms of neoliberal control and governance at a distance, through self-disciplinary techniques , clashed with the leadership model promoted by this group of teachers, who also connected with a good part of the families of the school (Burbano et al., 2020), promoting a more democratic and participatory model. ...
... Inclusive leadership must also be a democratic leadership (Díaz & García 2018), which promotes inclusive practices (Elizondo Carmona, 2018) oriented towards equity and social justice (Thorpe, 2019). Today's school must have the unavoidable goal of "promoting a democratic and inclusive education that guarantees the right of all children and young people to receive a quality education based on the principles of equality, equity, and social justice" ( The general purpose that has inspired this text is to show the possibility of changing the organizational culture (Valdés Morales, 2018) in an educational center that has a traditional managerial model, within the neoliberal logic, where governance at a distance (Foucault, 2004) and accountability (Eacott, 2010;Holloway, 2021) have been imposed from the educational administration because the management has assumed the logic of the system . It is, in this sense, a narrative of hope. ...
This chapter adopts a critical perspective designed to develop alternative, more diverse understandings of factors behind longstanding international concerns over an apparent headteacher recruitment crisis (Bush in Leadership and Management Development in Education, Sage, 2008). Despite policy rhetoric in Scotland, the case study country, understandings are limited with little interrogation or framing of key ideas (Forde and Torrance, School Leadership and Management 41:22–40, 2021). The development of the constructivist theoretical design foundations from which this research project is constructed, has at its core narratives of educational leadership within a participatory action research approach (PAR). This coming together of distinct methods provides a multifaceted approach, designed to stimulate new thinking by involving participants in the research design and analysis of findings: at a macro level, with policy constructions around the problem(s) of ‘headship’ using the Bacchi approach; at the meso level, with communities of practice using the Delphi technique to map out underpinning concepts of headship development; and at a micro level, from life history through narrative autobiographies, harnessing experiences and motivations. Here our methods of data gathering and of data analysis seek to build a participatory approach leading to the co-production of knowledge in which we use a combination of thematic and creative analytical approaches. Our intention is to raise significant questions about prevailing policy and practice, in order to generate a provocative dialogue in educational leadership, by presenting ‘different’ knowledge co-produced by researchers and participants and presenting this knowledge ‘differently’. And in so doing, to enrich an ongoing conversation (Barone, Qualitative Inquiry 13:354–379, 2007).
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... Scholars note that leadership cannot be understood without an appreciation of the social, political, geographical, and economic factors that influence leadership practice (Eacott 2010;MacDonald 2020). Miller (2013) confirms that school leaders ultimately function within the remit of the sociopolitical contexts which they inhabit and consequently, leadership must be understood and theorised from that lens. ...
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The article commences on the basis that to break free from the strictures of colonisation, one cannot adhere to them. Consequently, the research methodology employed within the article attempts to decolonise the normative approaches to research design and method. The inspiration for the research design comes from methods adopted by Participatory Action Learning and Action Research (PALAR) as developed by Zuber-Skerritt (2011). This article presents a dialogue between the participants within the research; in doing so the participatory research gives profile to the lived experience of two school leaders, giving equity of voice to their reflection on what they have learnt from having been subjected to colonialism.
... Therefore, after World War II, efforts have been made to legitimise EA such as the 'theory movement' (Culbertson 1983), 'humanistic and interpretive movement' (Greenfield and Ribbins 2005;Samier and Schmidt 2010), 'effectiveness movement' (Angus 1986), 'critical movement' (Bates 1984;, 'postmodernism movement' (English 2003), and recently the 'naturalistic coherentism' approach (Evers and Lakomski 2015). The advent of these movements has led to ontology (Newton and Riveros 2015), epistemology (Evers 2017;Eyal and Rom 2015) and methodology (Scott 2010b) of EA, and today the appearance of thoughts of philosophers such as Michel Foucault (Anderson and Grinberg 1998;Niesche 2011;Niesche and Gowlett 2014), Jacques Derrida (Niesche 2013a), Jean-François Lyotard (Niesche 2013b), Pierre Bourdieu (English 2012;Gunter 2002;Lingard and Christie 2003;Scott 2010a;Wilkinson and Scott 2013), Hannah Arendt (Gunter 2013;Veck and Jessop 2016) and Jürgen Habermas (Dolmage 1992;Kochan 2002;Milley 2008;Whiteman 2015). ...
The purpose of this volume is to explore approaches, problems, and issues that arise in research methodology for the field of educational administration and leadership in multicultural and non-Western contexts. Culturally sensitive research methods literature has been developing in a number of fields like sociology and cultural studies, as well as cross-cultural management studies and postcolonial critiques but has only just begun to appear in educational studies. As educational administration and leadership studies internationalises, there are emerging concerns about the appropriateness of research methods that assume many Western values, arrangements of social institutions and governance systems. Concurrently, with increasing refugee and migrant populations, research methods that accommodate these groups in multicultural contexts require research methods that better reflect these populations accurately. It is timely, now, to examine research approaches, data collections and interpretive methods for the field to capture diversity and also explore the conditions that many countries are experiencing. Some of these are varying experiences with globalisation, modernisation, regional politics and conditions, as well as the increasing multiculturation of countries as a consequence of population mobility. Over the last few decades the array of postcolonial critiques have also raised issues of past and current forces that marginalised local societal values and structures, such as the neocolonisation of globalised education. It is the intention of this volume to explore research approaches and methods that can provide designs and data collection methods for these contexts from a number of countries and cultures, as well as address issues of research ethics for researchers and their subjects that do not violate laws and cultural norms. While research scholarship on educational administration and leadership has broadened to include many more qualitative methods, including material culture, artefacts in interviews, and other ethnographically related methods, systematic methodology has not yet incorporated in a systemic way the growing literature on culturally sensitive research methods. The primary disciplines upon which the field rests have been introducing these issues and frameworks into methodology, providing many examples of how this can be done that can also inform this aspect of internationalisation. This includes the central disciplines for educational administration and leadership of psychology, sociology, political science, cultural studies, history, and linguistics (see ‘competing titles’ section below). The field is still dominated by Western research methods, particularly those in English-speaking countries from dominant populations, and has played a dominating role in globalised education in non-Western countries. Most important are considerations of legal requirements in other jurisdictions and among minority groups and political and cultural norms that require either locally-developed or modified approaches and instruments. Research methodology is a critical aspect of internationalisation since it is through these that knowledge is legitimised and created. This volume is designed to examine the foundational theories and approaches for suitable research, research and teaching practices, and relevant international cases and issues. Drawing on literatures in a number of disciplines and fields where culturally sensitive research methods have been developed, their implications for the educational administration and leadership field are explored.
... To understand systemic and cultural change in education, it has been suggested that researchers 'get close to what happens in classrooms and school cultures' (Fullan, 2006, p. 6), and focus on interactions within individual and social spaces of educational decision-making (Eacott, 2010). This study involved an in-depth investigation of one highperforming school conducted over two years, 2017-2018. ...
The introduction of new assessment policy can reverberate throughout all levels of schooling. This paper presents an in-depth investigation into one school’s response in the Junior years of secondary education to the introduction of a new Senior years’ assessment system. The investigation focuses on the educational context of a high-performing school where school leaders decided to prioritise learning rather than summative assessment in the Junior school. The findings reveal the practices required to make critical changes to the assessment culture and related assessment systems for the school, within a context of national assessment accountabilities and high community expectations. These practices include the collaboration of school leaders with teachers, students and parents to drive change while maintaining high performance.
Purpose The purpose of the article is to examine knowledge about successful principalship and discuss the methodology that has emerged throughout the history of the International Successful School Principals Project (ISSPP) and their implications for future progress. Design/methodology/approach Historical analysis is used as a strategy for establishing the background, the expansion and the progress of ISSPP as a long-standing international research network and to discuss the development of three research strands and methodological variations over time. The analysis provides a basis for pointing at some areas that need more attention in the future. Findings The findings suggest multiple images of the meaning of key concepts in the project and multiple theoretical and methodological orientations. There is a need to pay more attention to methodologies to make the successful cases more comparable and also to clarify the underlying assumptions of the different approaches. Originality/value Successful school principalship is a complex phenomenon. Therefore, future studies of successful schools and leadership would benefit from the use of knowledge that draws on sociology, cultural studies and politics.
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The educational reforms promoted in recent years in Spain have accentuated the current trend towards a neoliberal-oriented managerial leadership model. However, the proper performance of educational organizations depends on the skills and attitudes of its members, so it must be based on the conviction and involvement of its components. That is why we propose, from a critical approach, the necessary transition towards the conception of an inclusive educational leadership for social justice and the common good. The chapter analyses the leadership model promoted by Spanish educational administrations. It describes the theoretical framework of the work using the concepts of psychopolitics, governmentality, and entrepreneurship to analyse the new mechanisms of management and control, through seduction, that the current neoliberal system uses to involve us in wanting to be part of the system and how it is being transferred to the field of educational leadership. The autoethnographic method, based on critical reflective narrative, explores the cultural change in an educational organization over seven years that shows how another model of inclusive educational management and leadership for social justice and the common good is possible.
The primary theoretical lens that I adopt in this book is that of practice architectures. However, one of the key advantages of employing a theoretical tool kit approach is that it can provide complementary theoretical lenses whose ontological similarities and differences can “entail… intervening in the world and giving it a chance of biting back at us, our presuppositions, and our inquiry tools” (Nicolini, 2012, p. 216). When it comes to educational leading as practice, questions of politics and power are central to its study. Historically, however, such questions have been silenced in mainstream educational scholarship, such as the school effectiveness and improvement literature that dominates current thinking. This chapter challenges these silences by bringing practice architectures theory into dialogue with Bourdieuian thinking tools, undergirded by feminist critical scholarship. This tripartite approach opens up crucial questions regarding the power, politics and contestation of educating and educational leading as practices, and how they are accomplished, made durable and/or resisted in the moment-by-moment encounters of diverse sites of education.
This paper draws on Bourdieu's theorising (particularly habitus and field) to think about position‐making of teachers in respect of the early enactment of the Australian Curriculum. Position‐making, a concept developed from the analysis proffered, can be contrasted with the more common practice of position‐taking endemic in a relatively stable field. Position‐making is an ongoing phenomenon in a changing field when the habitus is out of place, here the field of the new Australian Curriculum, creating the effect of what Bourdieu sees as hysteresis. This paper explores the positioning and re‐positioning of agents (teachers and school leaders) due to an external change (the Australian curriculum) in the schooling field. Data for this study were collected from a middle‐class state high school in Brisbane Australia, which was an early adopter of the new Australian Curriculum. The initial enactment phase of curriculum change was an unsettling one that (re)positioned agents—hence, the concept of position‐making, which is a contribution to Bourdieu's theoretical resources and which complements the idea of policy enactment as opposed to policy implementation. Both allow some agency in mediation of mandated changes in the specific contexts of schools and teacher/leader habitus.
The international field of educational leadership research is predominantly a construction of knowledge using functionalistic and normative prescriptive approaches. According to the scholarly critique of this tendency, this leads to a scientific situation whereby educational leadership research is predominantly published within a school – and leadership effectiveness tradition primarily focusing on constructing universal knowledge claims. This book chapter presents perspectives and empirical findings from a study that aims to challenge the dominant social epistemologies of the educational leadership field. The attempt to contribute to future research developments is done by applying a fundamental, but often forgotten relational and discursive power perspective in the international comparative study of school leadership in high achieving schools. This approach elaborates school leadership as a complex, social phenomenon dialectically related to both the institutional and the local context. The leading subject thus enacts policy in the local field in subject positions related to either a neoliberal competition or improvement order. Moreover, the contours of a monodisciplinary academic achievement order emerge internationally in the governing rationales of the school leadership regimes. The analytical findings hereby represent a knowledge contribution that forms a deconstruction of the dominating tendencies seen in a critical mapping of the research.
Outline of a Theory of Practice is recognized as a major theoretical text on the foundations of anthropology and sociology. Pierre Bourdieu, a distinguished French anthropologist, develops a theory of practice which is simultaneously a critique of the methods and postures of social science and a general account of how human action should be understood. With his central concept of the habitus, the principle which negotiates between objective structures and practices, Bourdieu is able to transcend the dichotomies which have shaped theoretical thinking about the social world. The author draws on his fieldwork in Kabylia (Algeria) to illustrate his theoretical propositions. With detailed study of matrimonial strategies and the role of rite and myth, he analyses the dialectical process of the 'incorporation of structures' and the objectification of habitus, whereby social formations tend to reproduce themselves. A rigorous consistent materialist approach lays the foundations for a theory of symbolic capital and, through analysis of the different modes of domination, a theory of symbolic power.
In his introduction to a 2004 special issue of School Leadership and Management 24(1) on strategy and strategic leadership in schools, Brent Davies declares a shift in thinking about strategy in education from the historically conservative perspective of seeing strategy as a management function to that of a leadership process.While the notion of a leadership ‘process’ is still problematic and arguably evidence of an underlying mechanistic assumption of leadership, the intention of the claim is clear
Michel Foucault has become famous for a series of books that have permanently altered our understanding of many institutions of Western society. He analyzed mental institutions in the remarkable Madness and Civilization; hospitals in The Birth of the Clinic; prisons in Discipline and Punish; and schools and families in The History of Sexuality. But the general reader as well as the specialist is apt to miss the consistent purposes that lay behind these difficult individual studies, thus losing sight of the broad social vision and political aims that unified them.Now, in this superb set of essays and interviews, Foucault has provided a much-needed guide to Foucault. These pieces, ranging over the entire spectrum of his concerns, enabled Foucault, in his most intimate and accessible voice, to interpret the conclusions of his research in each area and to demonstrate the contribution of each to the magnificent -- and terrifying -- portrait of society that he was patiently compiling.For, as Foucault shows, what he was always describing was the nature of power in society; not the conventional treatment of power that concentrates on powerful individuals and repressive institutions, but the much more pervasive and insidious mechanisms by which power "reaches into the very grain of individuals, touches their bodies and inserts itself into their actions and attitudes, their discourses, learning processes and everyday lives"Foucault's investigations of prisons, schools, barracks, hospitals, factories, cities, lodgings, families, and other organized forms of social life are each a segment of one of the most astonishing intellectual enterprises of all time -- and, as this book proves, one which possesses profound implications for understanding the social control of our bodies and our minds.