The purpose of this chapter is to determine whether graduate classes in deep democracy and social justice can actually effect change in educators’ leadership practice.
This chapter draws on a survey of all doctoral students in educational leadership from a major research university who were concurrently school principals. From those willing to engage in follow-up, surveys were conducted of their teachers, and follow-up interviews and observations were conducted with the principals themselves.
We identified six main themes; courses related to deep democracy and social justice brought about deeper understanding of the topics, helped leaders acquire language and “new paradigms,” sometimes caused confusion and a sense of being overwhelmed by the challenges, assisted leaders to engage staff in dialogue, and prompted action related to social justice. Leaders also sometimes experienced a sense of being alone as they engaged in a difficult struggle.
The findings highlighted the need for instructors to walk “alongside” their students as they tried to change their practices, to become critical friends and to offer on-site support.
Findings also highlight the importance of teaching both theory and practical applications together. Further research about the pedagogies that make this possible is needed.
If graduate coursework can impact leaders’ practice, it can effect changes in schools so they become more welcoming and inclusive of all students so that those who come from minoritized or disadvantaged backgrounds may experience greater school success.
Originality/value of chapter
Demonstrating a link between graduate coursework and the ability of school leaders to emphasize social justice, equity and deep democracy in their practice is not only original but extremely important.
Shields, C.M. (2014), "Can We Impact Leadership Practice through Teaching Democracy and Social Justice? An earlier version of this chapter, comprising only the data from the 13 cohort members was published as Shields, C. M. (2012). Can we teach deep democracy: And can it make a difference? In P. R. Carr, D. Zyngier, & M. Pruyn (Eds.),
An earlier version of this chapter, comprising only the data from the 13 cohort members was published as Shields, C. M. (2012). Can we teach deep democracy: And can it make a difference? In P. R. Carr, D. Zyngier, & M. Pruyn (Eds.),
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