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Title:Transformative leadership and the purpose of schooling in affluent communities
Author(s):Barrett, Andrew
Director of Research:Shields, Carolyn M.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Shields, Carolyn M.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Pak, Yoon K.; Welton, Anjale D.; Sloat, Linda
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):transformative leadership
public good
private good
purpose of schooling
Abstract:Since its earliest incarnations, the American public school system has represented an illustrative microcosm of the political tensions that lie at the heart of our philosophical understanding of democracy and constitutional authority. These tensions—between the idealism of Thomas Jefferson and the realism of Alexander Hamilton, between democratic politics and capitalist markets, and between public good responsibility and private good expectations—combine with the ever increasing list of normative requirements of the school leadership role and represent common, challenging phenomena experienced by school leaders across the country. The tensions are even more astutely present in affluent communities where homogeneous populations of upper-middle class Whites enjoy and appreciate the comfort of the status quo, while presuming the public school’s responsibility for the provision of private sector success, and these complex issues coalesce into a nuanced problem that provided the basis for this study. As the role of the school principal becomes increasingly challenging and complex, and the predominant social construction in affluent school communities focuses almost exclusively on private good outcomes for students, and ignores the public good responsibility of citizenship training, principals become situated at the heart of this tension. In order to learn more about this complicated and nuanced problem I undertook a critical phenomenological study that sought to explore how principals in affluent communities experience, understand, and address the tensions that exist between private good expectations and public good responsibility for schooling. This study addressed the following sub-questions: • How do principals in affluent communities describe their work (especially in regard to their beliefs about public good outcomes or private good outcomes for students)? • What influences and pressures shape their beliefs regarding their work? • What influences and pressures shape their practices? • Is there any congruence or conflict between those beliefs and pressures, and their practices? It is important to note that this study was undertaken with a critical lens which was constructed upon a theoretical framework of transformative leadership (Shields, 2010). This justice-oriented approach to educational leadership requires that educators focus on notions of power and privilege and on the deconstruction of knowledge frameworks that prevent inclusion and equity and their reconstruction in more inclusive ways. To carry out this study I sought the participation of seven elementary school principals in affluent school communities and had multiple co-intentional conversations with each participant. Through the use of a qualitative, phenomenological methodology (Creswell, 2007, 2009; Moustakas, 1994) and a co-intentional meaning-making process (Duarte, 2000), I learned that these principals do indeed find themselves at the heart of the tension between public good and private good purposes for schooling, and that the influences and pressures that shape their beliefs and practices are largely constructed around dominant, hegemonic values that require them to focus almost exclusively on private good outcomes for students. The results from this study should prove valuable to a variety of stakeholders, namely practicing school leaders in affluent school communities, those who train aspiring educational leaders, and scholars intent on further advancing the causes of justice, democracy, and transformative leadership. Key recommendations include a call to conduct further research regarding the public good/private good tension, school leadership in affluent communities, and the notions of justice and transformative leadership within that affluent context. Furthermore, the findings and discussion demonstrate that principals in affluent communities need a better understanding of the public good/private good tension, the powerful role that hegemony and social construction play in the shaping of beliefs and practices, and the role that transformative leadership can play in addressing these challenging issues.
Issue Date:2012-05-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Andrew Barrett
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-05-22
Date Deposited:2012-05

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