Critical Issues for Senior, Middle and Other Levels of Leadership

A special issue of Education Sciences (ISSN 2227-7102). This special issue belongs to the section "Curriculum and Instruction".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 July 2024 | Viewed by 3426

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
School of Education, Macquarie University, Sydney 2109, Australia
Interests: educational leadership; organisational communication in schools; teacher job attitudes; classroom management
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

After more than two decades of intensified research activity, we know a lot more about how educational leadership works. In particular, it is now widely accepted that leadership in education does not constitute only principals, centre directors, deans, etc. To use the context of schools, for example, non-principal leadership is increasingly being recognized as important to the success of these organisations, especially in relation to teacher capabilities and student outcomes.

Despite the increased attention to, and appreciation of, these other leaders, there is much work still to be performed in the field, as many knowledge gaps and conceptual/theoretical problems exist. Confusion still prevails over which formal positions might be considered senior or middle leadership and, indeed, whether these notions are static or fluid. A strong body of research has emerged in the area of middle leadership at the same time that a rise in research outputs on teacher leaders has occurred, and these two types of leaders are often conflated even though they are also seen as notionally distinct, at least conceptually. There is also a need to re-examine leadership theory to include the possibility of first-level leaders, a concept whose time, I believe, has come. There are knowledge gaps relating to middle leadership roles, the professional development needs at different leadership and career levels, and many other areas.

The aims of this Special Issue are to:

  1. Provide authors with opportunities to share new research into all aspects of senior, middle and other non-principal/non-CEO leadership roles;
  2. Explore new or unique theoretical insights relating to these levels of leadership.

Suggested topics and themes might include, but are not limited to the following:

* Theories on middle or senior leadership;

* How school culture influences middle leader development;

* How senior and middle leadership interact;

* Notions of teacher leadership;

* Teacher leadership and student achievement;

* Middle leader roles and student outcomes;

* The roles senior leaders play in (your institution);

* Junior leadership.

Dr. John De Nobile
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Education Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • senior leadership
  • middle leadership
  • teacher leadership
  • first level leadership
  • emergent leaders
  • junior leaders

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

18 pages, 586 KiB  
Article
Curriculum Middle Leader Practices and Teachers Perceptions of Their Effectiveness: A Study in New Zealand Secondary Schools
by Camilla Highfield, Pauline Thompson and Rachel Woods
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(6), 623; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14060623 - 10 Jun 2024
Viewed by 343
Abstract
This study reports the quantitative results of middle leaders’ self-reported practices and compares their responses to the perceptions of the teachers who report to them (n = 158). Likert scale questionnaires were used to measure the extent to which middle leaders focused on [...] Read more.
This study reports the quantitative results of middle leaders’ self-reported practices and compares their responses to the perceptions of the teachers who report to them (n = 158). Likert scale questionnaires were used to measure the extent to which middle leaders focused on goal orientation, professional collaboration, effective instructional practices, and supporting teacher development within their department. The analysis provides insight into this phenomenon within six different state-funded secondary schools, with results showing middle leaders almost always rate their practices more effectively than the teachers who report to them. Common areas identified as requiring increased effectiveness were middle leaders’ use of resources to support learning, use of data to support the instructional programme, and identification of effective professional learning opportunities for teachers. Reported levels of effectiveness compared with student academic achievement in the senior secondary school setting align with agreement ratings and the socio-economic status of students who attend the school. This paper highlights the need for the ongoing support of middle leaders to be provided with deliberate support and development for leading teachers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues for Senior, Middle and Other Levels of Leadership)
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18 pages, 1397 KiB  
Article
Multi-Level Leadership Development Using Co-Constructed Spaces with Schools: A Ten-Year Journey
by Howard Youngs and Maggie Ogram
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(6), 599; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14060599 - 3 Jun 2024
Viewed by 287
Abstract
Leadership in both theory and practice usually emphasizes a person and a position. There has been a shift from emphasizing the senior level of organizational roles, to include the middle level and other sources of leadership. Nomenclature has emerged over time to reflect [...] Read more.
Leadership in both theory and practice usually emphasizes a person and a position. There has been a shift from emphasizing the senior level of organizational roles, to include the middle level and other sources of leadership. Nomenclature has emerged over time to reflect this, for example, collective, distributed, shared, and collaborative leadership. Another understanding of leadership needs to be added, one that does not first emphasize a person or position, instead incorporating process and practices, weaving through all levels and sources of leadership. This additional understanding has implications for how leadership development is constructed and facilitated. Over the last ten years, the authors have journeyed with groups of schools, using an emerging co-constructed approach to leadership development. The journey is relayed across three seasons. The first is the grounding of collaborative practices through inquiry, informed by a two-phase research project. The second focuses on adaptation and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas the third delves deeper into what sits behind prevalent practices that may enable and hinder student achievement. Our narrative over time shows that leadership development can be shaped through a continual cycle of review, reflection, and co-construction, leading to conditions for transformation across multiple levels and sources of leadership. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues for Senior, Middle and Other Levels of Leadership)
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30 pages, 2230 KiB  
Article
System Reform: The Ever-Elusive Quest—An Australian Study of How System Middle Leaders’ Role Enactment Influences the Attainment of Policy Coherence
by Tania Leach
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(6), 596; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14060596 - 1 Jun 2024
Viewed by 309
Abstract
Within an educational context, the current aim of policy translation is to achieve policy coherence by strategically and structurally aligning components, enabling whole system reform. While acknowledging the importance of this coherence conceptualisation, the current literature perspective primarily emphasises message conveyance, and lacks [...] Read more.
Within an educational context, the current aim of policy translation is to achieve policy coherence by strategically and structurally aligning components, enabling whole system reform. While acknowledging the importance of this coherence conceptualisation, the current literature perspective primarily emphasises message conveyance, and lacks a dimension that identifies policy coherence as the result of how individuals, including middle leaders, interpret and translate policy into actions, both individually and collectively. System middle leaders occupy a unique position within organisational structures, as they bridge the gap between executive system leaders and school- based leaders. To investigate how policy is interpreted and translated within their roles and the impact this has on attaining policy coherence, this study employed an interpretivist approach to exploratory case study methodology, grounded in a review of authoritative literature. The aim was twofold; first, to enhance understanding of policy coherence development at the system middle level by exploring the role enactment of system middle leaders within a large Australian government education system; and second, to examine the interconnectedness and impact of leaders’ role enactment on policy coherence for system reform. Findings suggest that achieving policy coherence is hindered by a lack of role clarity among system leaders, in relation to policy implementation, stemming from the inconsistent interpretation and translation of policy into system strategy documentation and a deficiency in formal policy interpretation and role induction practices. As a result, individual system leaders often turn to informal policy interpretations and interactions with peers to clarify roles, leading to role tensions, accountability ambiguity and partial policy implementation. As a result, this study concludes that the integration of role theory, policy implementation theory and organisational alignment theory offers an interpretivist insight into the development of policy coherence for system reform, illuminating a theoretical pathway and practical recommendations for systems to attain policy coherence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues for Senior, Middle and Other Levels of Leadership)
19 pages, 1202 KiB  
Article
Understanding School Middle-Leading Practices: Developing a Middle-Leading Practice Model
by Sharon Tindall-Ford, Peter Grootenboer, Christine Edwards-Groves and Catherine Attard
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(5), 492; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14050492 - 3 May 2024
Viewed by 878
Abstract
School systems in Australia, and internationally, are focused on improving classroom teaching and learning to enhance student outcomes. Middle leaders (MLs) are increasingly required to lead school-based development initiatives to improve classroom practices. Informed by previous research on middle-leading and the theory of [...] Read more.
School systems in Australia, and internationally, are focused on improving classroom teaching and learning to enhance student outcomes. Middle leaders (MLs) are increasingly required to lead school-based development initiatives to improve classroom practices. Informed by previous research on middle-leading and the theory of practice architectures, a survey instrument was created to understand who Australian school MLs are (n = 199) and ascertain their perceptions of the practices central to leading teaching and learning in their school sites. Through descriptive, exploratory, and confirmatory factor analyses, this paper reports on the reported practices of Australian MLs, and, through the analysis, a revised ML practice model is proposed. The results confirm that ML practices are orientated to the people they lead in their school site, who they support, collaborate with, and advocate for, with practising leading upwards to the school principal identified as an important ML practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues for Senior, Middle and Other Levels of Leadership)
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15 pages, 239 KiB  
Article
Re-Imagining Leadership Roles beyond the Shadow of Bureaucracy
by Lisa Catherine Ehrich and Fenwick Walter English
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(3), 331; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14030331 - 20 Mar 2024
Viewed by 919
Abstract
The aim of this conceptual paper is to revisit the relationship between leadership and bureaucracy. The dominant and unquestioned way of thinking about leadership is to equate it as an undertaking exercised by leaders, those officers who occupy hierarchical positions in organizations. For [...] Read more.
The aim of this conceptual paper is to revisit the relationship between leadership and bureaucracy. The dominant and unquestioned way of thinking about leadership is to equate it as an undertaking exercised by leaders, those officers who occupy hierarchical positions in organizations. For example, senior leadership and middle leadership in schools are often associated with formal hierarchical roles played by senior and middle leaders. However, it can be argued that this perspective is problematic, not only because it is leader-centric but also due to its limitations in explaining the phenomenon of leadership. In order to understand the relationship between leadership and bureaucracy and leadership outside of bureaucracy, the paper reviews some of the extant literature in the field, including a brief history of bureaucracy, its pervasiveness in educational institutions, and current neo-liberal policies and reforms that function effectively within bureaucratic structures. An important contribution of the paper is a synoptic conceptual model that brings together three worldviews or archetypes pertaining to bureaucracy. These are a hard-edged view (system first, people second), a soft-edged view (people first, system second) and a third worldview (issue first, people second, system third). The third worldview signals a departure from the first two archetypes as it is an illustration of leadership outside the confines of bureaucracy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Critical Issues for Senior, Middle and Other Levels of Leadership)
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