The purpose of this paper is to identify and elaborate on the construct of flourishing in schools as understood through the stories and explanations provided by a small group of public school principals. Framed within a positive organizational perspective, the specific objectives of this study are: to identify how school leaders understand and experience flourishing in their roles and in their schools; to explore the conditions, catalysts and/or galvanizing forces of flourishing in schools.
The researchers used an electronic Delphi survey to gain a qualitative description of the understandings and impressions of the construct of flourishing from the perspective of practicing school administrators in one school district in central British Columbia. Delphi responses were aggregated after each round and thematically analysed to determine patterns and trends for further examination through progressive iterations of the survey administered via e-mail. The final set of data were then analysed for patterns, trends and themes that were compared and contrasted against research findings in the literature underpinning the theoretical framework for this study.
While there was no single definition of what it means to flourish in the work of school leadership, shared descriptions from these principals indicated that they feel a sense of flourishing when they are working together with teachers from a sense of purpose and passion and in a spirit of play to cultivate learning climates that reflect a shared ownership for improving educational experiences for students. These initial findings provoke thinking about the potentials and benefits of shifting the focus of research and practice in educational leadership towards more positive, strengths-based perspectives.
The sample size was small, and so generalizing findings beyond this study is unreasonable. Further, because the researchers separated participant information from responses in order to safeguard anonymity and to aggregate the responses to provide these back to participants for their further elaboration and reflections, they were unable to determine whether particular responses were connected to context (elementary or secondary, size of school, years of experience as an administrator), gender or other demographic factors. However, the use of the electronic Delphi instrument provided insights on engaging school principals in thoughtful inquiry as participants, while respecting the busy workload and time constraints associated with the work of school principals.
Attending to well-being in the work of leading schools is an under-researched area of educational leadership. This study is an example of how researching educational leadership from a positive, strengths-based, human development perspective may provide useful insights for supporting principals and other educators to notice, nurture and sustain a sense of flourishing in their work and across the school. While further research is needed to examine the construct of flourishing across a diverse range of school organizations, the findings from this study provoke thinking about the benefits of studying what goes well, what brings vitality and a more full sense of humanity in the work of leading school organizations.
The researchers use a new perspective for examining and explaining the phenomenon of flourishing in schools, a positive organizational research orientation. The use of this strengths-based, positive, human development approach to examining the construct of flourishing from the perspective of school principals can offer new insights and strategies for attending to well-being as an integral part of the work of leading schools.
This research is supported by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Cherkowski, S. and Walker, K. (2016), "Purpose, passion and play: Exploring the construct of flourishing from the perspective of school principals", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 54 No. 4, pp. 378-392. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-10-2014-0124Download as .RIS
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