Leadership Practice: Tools for Meaningful Change How Leaders Use Language to Lead

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Grootenboer, Peter J

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Johnson, Greer

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To ensure the appropriate capacity development of educational leaders to meet the varying professional challenges they will encounter in the current landscape and into the future, school leaders need to be equipped to make evidence-based decisions about their practice. In this way, the careful examination of the language of leadership practice in the pursuit of improved outcomes for students stands to offer valuable insight for leaders and researchers alike. The present research explores the practical language tools and relational skills that leaders leverage to build cultures and climates of growth and positive communities of practice within learning organisations during times of educational system change. In particular, this study examines how leaders lead in a Queensland secondary school setting as they transitioned to the new Queensland system of learning and assessment in 2019, with the first cohort having exited under the new system in 2020. This change reflects a significant leadership moment in time and the present study seeks to use this moment to examine leadership behaviour in managing systemic change. A small exploratory qualitative study was conducted within the context of a senior leadership team meeting of a secondary independent school in Brisbane. A series of three vignettes were developed for use in the meeting to prompt discussion of a range of topics identified to be relevant to senior leaders in Queensland schools in the current context. This study seeks to add to the literature by exploring leadership practices that have a positive impact on staff, both attitudinally and performatively, with a potential impact on outcomes for students. Five key themes emerged from the research, including time, pressure and anxiety, trust, building organisational capacity through professional learning, and agency, all of which were dynamically evident within the talk of the group. This study was designed to enable the garnering of insight with respect to what leaders say and do within the practice and praxis of leadership with a focus on leaders’ relational “toolkits”, with implications for future research into the language of agile leadership. The study found the methodological use of vignettes within a senior leadership team meeting to be valuable as a means of observing turn taking and other interactional dynamics within leadership teams’ discussion on a specified topic.

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Thesis (Masters)

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Master of Education and Professional Studies Research (MEdProfStRes)


School Educ & Professional St

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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secondary school



leadership behaviour

managing systemic change

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