University of Tasmania
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Leading quality teaching: An exploratory case study of two improving Australian schools

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posted on 2023-05-27, 01:02 authored by Burgess, EM
This research examined the current challenge faced by Australian school leaders in developing high quality teaching within their schools. There is considerable research and literature examining leadership and quality teaching, including various models, frames and typologies. Despite some notable Australian contribution (Caldwell & Harris, 2008; Silins & Mulford, 2002), there remains a paucity of Australian educational leadership research for Australian educators and scholars. In particular, the current study was unable to locate relevant Australian based case study which examined how successful school leadership influenced emerging conceptions of quality teaching (where quality teaching is viewed as teacher professionalism comprising various teacher capacity domains) in Australian schools. The current study extended Australian research to an exploration of how leadership influenced quality teaching and, in so doing, offered an original and significant contribution. Two school sites, one in Tasmania and one in Queensland, were used for comparison in an exploratory case study. These were taken as purposive samples which are in the vanguard of improvement. Using this base, three aims were undertaken. First, the work sought to describe how quality teaching was understood within the Australian school setting. Second, the study examined how successful school leadership influenced quality teaching across the school. Third, the research retrospectively documented the process by which successful school leadership enacted these influences for improving quality teaching through a focus on perceived experiences over a period of five years. The main research question addressed was how successful school leadership in two improving Australian secondary schools is understood and enacted in ways which influence quality teaching. A large data set was gathered from 30 participants including principals, school leaders, teachers, parents and key personnel. Using a backwards mapping design (Elmore, 1979), the data were examined and synthesised using inductive analysis (Moustakis, 1990; Patton, 1990). By juxtaposing findings with extant literature, the case study confirmed, extended and, in some cases, proposed new interpretations and views. Three key theoretical propositions were given. First, quality teaching was associated with a collective phenomenon of teacher professionalism across the whole school. This was described as comprising four teacher capacities: individual, decisional, social and innovative. Second, successful school leadership was related to four broad categories of influence which were: vîvá‚àë challenge, vîvá‚àë culture, vîvá‚àë professional investment (professional learning, professional pathways, professional collaboration and professional innovation); and, vîvá‚àë review, recognition and reward. Third, and finally, by examining how the two schools improved over a period of five years through retrospective interviews, three elements became clear: One: Successful school leadership enacted a continuous cyclical and differentiated process of improvement and innovation to influence quality teaching. Two: Leadership influence was contingent on the culture, level of engagement and teacher need within the school. Three: There were varying levels of perceived success in improving quality teaching with a leadership belief that the majority of staff were functioning at a high performing level. In exploring the perceived leadership practices which influence quality teaching in an Australian secondary school context, the case study offered several salient insights for further inquiry, policy and educational practice.


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