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Innovatus interregnum: waiting for a paradigm shift

journal contribution
posted on 2023-08-25, 04:26 authored by Fenwick W English, Lisa Catherine Ehrich
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to establish the case that innovation in the theory and practice of educational administration/leadership is very unlikely to occur within the existing doxa of our times. By innovation is meant a novel conceptual or practical change in the field of practice. By doxa is meant the unquestioned rules of the game and the linkage between the agencies and organs of government and foundations supporting research in the field. An approach toward thinking outside of the prevailing doxa is presented and explained as one possible antidote to the current dominant model. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is a conceptual/logical analysis of the reasons why the current paradigm dominant in the study and the practice of educational administration/leadership is inadequate. The paradigm has not predicted anything currently unknown or understood yet its continued dominance in the field will not lead to any new discoveries or innovation but only continued verification of what is already known. Findings – The major findings are that the boundaries of behavioral empiricism and social science methods impose an orthodoxy of approach in examining matters of administrative and leadership practice. Subsequently, it not only limits but also prohibits any new breakthroughs in understanding or predicting novel thinking about administration and leadership in educational institutions. Breaking out of this conceptual and theoretical box will be difficult as it is embraced by an interlocking apparatus of agencies and institutions and enshrined in most research journals in the field. Research limitations/implications – It is unlikely that true new discoveries in understanding educational leadership will occur without a restoration of the full range of human emotions and motivations which inspire and sustain leaders. New visions of leadership are required which will lead to what Lakatos has called a progressive research program in which prediction is enhanced and novel aspects of leadership emerge. These are not likely to occur given the tradition of inquiry currently in use. To use Lakatos’ term, the current research program is de-generative or regressive and lags behind the actual practice of school leadership. Thus, the authors perpetuate the theorypractice gap. Practical implications – The continued employment of social science protocols anchored in behavioral empiricism and the scientific method are unlikely to lead to any new breakthroughs in the practice of educational administration/leadership. The lens of behavioral empiricism prohibits a complete understanding of the practice of leadership where that practice becomes “subjective” and/or essentially artistic in nature. Practice, therefore, is anchored only in what is considered “rational” and the non-rational aspects marginalized or eliminated. Social implications – Researchers working in the dominant social science perspectives using hard behavioral empirical traditions embodied in the usual perspective regarding the scientific method will continue to miss or marginalize the emotional and intuitive side of leadership, aspects which are hard to quantify and assess. Leaders not only act but they feel as well. Without emotion in leadership it is extremely hard to build trust in an organization. The moral responsibilities of leaders are also anchored in emotion and values held by the leader. These elements continue to be understated or marginalized in check list approaches to preparation and licensure. Originality/value – The originality of the paper synthesizes the parallel perspectives of William Foster, Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend, Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu, and Imre Lakatos as it pertains to explaining why the current theory of knowledge is not likely to lead to any new breakthroughs in the practice of educational administration/leadership. One different approach to thinking of leadership as connoisseurship is presented as a potential perspective from the arts as a way of viewing leadership as a form of performance in which emotion and intuition are recognized aspects of practice.



  • Article

Publication title

International Journal of Educational Management






J S. Brooks and Anthony H. Normore









Publication status

  • Published

Rights statement

Copyright 2015 Emerald Group Publishing Limited