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Title:Transformative dialogue: the principal's role in raising issues of difference
Author(s):Swanson, Jason
Director of Research:Welton, Anjalé D.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Welton, Anjale D.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Johnston-Parsons, Marilyn A.; Hunter, Richard C.; Sloat, Linda
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Leadership for social justice
critical pedagogy
Abstract:Within the last 25 years, the number of students of color and students of poverty attending K-12 public schools has significantly increased compared to White and middle-class students. Current estimates project that students of color will become the majority of students within our public school in 2030 (US Census Bureau, 2010) and nearly 46% of students are classified as low-income (NCCP, 2011). Although the complex connections between race (Delpit, 1996), social class (Knapp & Woolverton, 1995) and the public schools have been exhaustively covered in the literature, the shifting demographics, and historical inequities that disproportionately affect low-income and racial/ethnic minority students within schools are increasingly coming to light. With little in the form of non-stereotypical professional development, educators are left with minimal resources to examine issues of race and social class. Since institutional leadership is highly influential, if not the strongest factor, in the promotion and realization of school success, particularly in championing students of poverty and color (Mckenzie & Schuerich, 2004, 2007), the principal is responsible for facilitating discussions of oppressive policies, procedures, and practices. There is a paucity of literature describing how the principal unmasks oppressive forces and advocating for more socially just outcomes within the public schools in non-stereotypical ways. As such, the purpose of this dissertation is to provide an alternative to the small research base by highlighting one principal committed to creating dialogues focused on issues of race and social class. I undertook a qualitative case study (Yin, 2003) conducted during the school year of 2012-2013. The unit of analysis for the case study was the dialogue conducted between the principal and the various members of the educational community. This study addressed the following research questions: 1. How do principals facilitate dialogue to promote awareness of issues of race and social class? 2. How do principals provide support for staff members to engage in/with issues of race and social class? 3. What do principals learn after reflecting upon these dialogues? 4. To what extent do these dialogues lead to making positive agency in addressing these issues of race and social class? Drawing from the work of Theoharis (2007) and Burbules (1993), this study was conducted from a critical orientation; this justice-oriented approach to educational leadership requires that educators focus on notions of power and privilege and on the deconstruction and reconstruction of knowledge frameworks that foster inclusion and dismantle inequities. Data was collected in a mid-size urban community located in the Midwest. Over the past 10 years, the school district has experienced rapidly changing demographics (both racial and socioecomically), an intense pressure to raise test scores, and a history of racial tensions within the community. Analysis of documents, observations, and the collection of artifacts supplement numerous interviews of teachers, students, parents, and community members. Thus far, 15 interviews lasting approximately 45-90 minutes have been conducted. I used these accounts to “locate and trace the points of connection among individuals working in different parts of institutional complexes of activities” (DeVault & McCoy, 2006, pp. 18-19) to better understand the dialogues between the principal and the each stakeholder. Although I observed several professional development sessions where the principal was leading dialogues on race and social with his staff, I assumed it would be highly unlikely or inappropriate for me to observe a potentially volatile conversation of race and social class between a principal and student or parent. In lieu of these conversations, I have supplemented my case study with dialogue in narrative inquiry (Amalia et al. 2012). Rather than observing delicate conversations, I invited the principal to compose written responses to complex case studies. The findings from this study should prove valuable for a variety of stakeholders: scholars, practitioners and policymakers. Socially just principals engaging in dialogues of race and social class may lead to the elimination of oppressive forces, and create more inclusive spaces for learning.
Issue Date:2013-05-24
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Jason Swanson
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-05-24
Date Deposited:2013-05

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