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Article
Publication date: 29 August 2019

Sabre Cherkowski and Keith Walker

Building on findings from research designed to bring to description teachers’ own understandings of what it means to flourish in their work, the purpose of this paper is…

Abstract

Purpose

Building on findings from research designed to bring to description teachers’ own understandings of what it means to flourish in their work, the purpose of this paper is to show how principals and teacher–leaders in schools are agents capable of building developmental relationships and mentoring cultures that can orient and support teachers toward well-being.

Design/methodology/approach

This conceptual paper is anchored with findings from a multi-year qualitative research project that was designed using perspectives from positive organizational studies and positive psychology scholarship. The research methods encompassed collaborative and generative use of appreciative inquiry and strength-based research activities in school districts in both British Columbia and Saskatchewan, Canada. Data used to build this conceptual paper are from appreciative focus group conversations with teachers and principals over the course of two years. Conversations were recorded and transcribed. Transcripts were thematically analyzed using the research literature framing the study.

Findings

This paper offers four domains of inquiry and a model for flourishing schools that encourages principals and teacher–leaders to develop habits of mind and heart to build developmental relationships in ways that help both mentors and mentees to embody and enact positive, appreciative and generative ways of noticing, nurturing and sustaining the work of teaching and learning; all with aspiration to sustain and enhance the well-being of every member of the school community.

Practical implications

This paper offers conceptual models and storied descriptions that can aid mentors in noticing and nurturing more developmental relationship approaches to mentoring for well-being as opportunities to build mentoring relationships from appreciative and growth-based habits and approaches. As these relationships are built across the school, positive mentoring cultures may foster and grow in ways that promotes a flourishing-for-all approach to teaching and learning.

Originality/value

This paper contributes a different and complimentary perspective to research and practice on mentoring, offering a positive organizational perspective that highlights and promotes the perceived and evidenced benefits of deliberately focusing on what goes well and what provokes vitality in schools. The conceptual models in this paper offer tools for mentors and mentees to develop and foster in others appreciative and positive capacities for positive mentoring.

Details

International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, vol. 8 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2046-6854

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Article
Publication date: 13 March 2018

Sabre Cherkowski, Kelly Hanson and Keith Walker

This paper documents findings from a qualitative research project on flourishing in schools using a positive organizational research approach. The purpose of this paper is…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper documents findings from a qualitative research project on flourishing in schools using a positive organizational research approach. The purpose of this paper is to uncover and bring to description educators’ experiences of the conditions, forces and influencing factors for flourishing in their context. The main objectives were to inform research and practice in school improvement from a positive perspective, provide knowledge and practice about noticing and growing well-being for educators and to encourage an attention on individual and collective well-being as an organizational imperative.

Design/methodology/approach

To gain a rich description of what it means for educators to feel a sense of flourishing in their work, the researchers used qualitative, case study methods and appreciative research activities. For the case study reported on in this paper, data were collected through open-ended, appreciative, focus group conversations and researcher observations in the participants’ classrooms. Conversations were recorded and transcribed. The researchers analyzed the transcripts using an iterative process of coding, categorizing and abstracting data.

Findings

Participants grew their adaptive communities through balancing structures (collaboration, purpose, administrator support) with flexibilities (synergy, creativity, tinkering, friendships) for adaptation and co-creation. Well-being was connected with feeling collegial support, care, shared meaning and engagement and where positive relationships were central in their work. These relational conditions seemed to contribute to building a social container that promoted flourishing. This led to innovation as teachers worked together in ways that promoted their learning and growth as a group, and increased their sense of vitality in their work. The researchers found that the principal plays a vital role in fostering, encouraging and sustaining conditions for teachers to cultivate adaptive community.

Research limitations/implications

While small in scale and not generalizable across contexts, this research offers particular examples of what is working well for these teachers. Insights from these examples are intended to be generative, potentially resonating with and inspiring others to examine the possible benefits and potentials that may come from a positive approach to research and practice in school improvement in their own contexts. Engaging in positive organizational research in schools led to new insights on the work of teaching, learning and leading in schools. The researchers suggest that this positive, appreciative and generative perspective offers potentials and benefits for new understandings on school improvement.

Practical implications

The findings from this case study indicate that more attention is needed to supporting educators to cultivate the conditions necessary to experience rich and meaningful relationships within which they will thrive, grow and innovate in their teaching. At a system level, the authors argue for a re-orientation of schools toward well-being and a more holistic and human-development perspective on schooling.

Social implications

Currently and internationally, schooling is under re-design as the authors learn more about the need to organize the schools in ways that encourage the kinds of teaching and learning necessary to prepare young people for an increasingly unpredictable future. The findings from this study highlight the importance of attending to teacher well-being as a fundamental aspect of encouraging the kind of teaching needed for the kinds of learning desired in schools across all contexts.

Originality/value

This case study provides the findings that illustrate the potential and benefits of research on school organizations from a positive organizational perspective. Additionally, this study is a reminder of the systemic nature of all living systems, such as schools, and the associated need to ensure well-being for all members of the learning community.

Details

Journal of Professional Capital and Community, vol. 3 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2056-9548

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Article
Publication date: 19 June 2020

Sabre Cherkowski, Benjamin Kutsyuruba and Keith Walker

The purpose of this multiyear research study is to examine leadership in K-12 schools using a positive organizational perspective to understand how to foster, support and…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this multiyear research study is to examine leadership in K-12 schools using a positive organizational perspective to understand how to foster, support and encourage flourishing in schools. In this article, the authors describe the lived experiences of a small group of principals and vice-principals in K-12 schools describing how they have experienced flourishing in their work.

Design/methodology/approach

The research was carried out using a qualitative, phenomenological approach to examine the lived, concrete and situated experiences of a small sample of school administrators (N = 9) in two school districts in the province of British Columbia, Canada. Data were collected through individual interviews that were designed to be appreciative in nature. These lasted between 60 and 90 min, were recorded and transcribed. The interview data were deductively and inductively analyzed and arranged into themes that demonstrate the key components of positive leadership for flourishing in schools, derived from these participants' experiences.

Findings

Building on and extending their findings that school administrators feel a sense of flourishing when they focus on their work from the values of purpose, passion and play, the authors found that a fourth value, presence, was important for these participants to experience well-being at work. Principals’ sense of well-being was strongly related to the notion of balance in their work and life, which helped them address potential stress and ill-being. Findings suggest that a strengths-based, positive approach to school leadership offers an alternative perspective for supporting and encouraging well-being at work.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations of this research include the small sample size and the appreciative focus with which the data were collected that meant that participants were providing their experiences from a positive perspective. This article offers a complementary perspective for researching well-being in schools, from a positive, strengths-based approach to examining the work of administrators.

Practical implications

The authors offer insights into the work of school leaders from an appreciative, strengths-based perspective on understandings and practices that may be useful to principals and vice-principals who wish to enhance their workplace well-being. The authors suggest that administrators can learn to craft their work in ways that highlight existing well-being conditions toward amplifying and sustaining well-being. Working from four animating values for flourishing seemed to promote well-being for this small sample of administrators within the existing challenges and complexities of their work.

Originality/value

This article offers examples of lived experiences of principal and vice-principal well-being that highlight what happens when school leaders attend to their work from a positive, appreciative, strength-based perspective. This research perspective is an additional source of knowledge about well-being in schools complementing the existing research on well-being from a stress management and reduction perspective.

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 58 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

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Article
Publication date: 1 July 2006

Larry Sackney and Keith Walker

This paper sets out to posit that the new economy places a new set of demands on schools and those who lead. Mindfulness, intentional engagement of people and adaptive…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper sets out to posit that the new economy places a new set of demands on schools and those who lead. Mindfulness, intentional engagement of people and adaptive confidence are needed developmental features of beginning principal success. The paper examines how beginning principals in Canada respond to the capacity‐building work of leading learning communities.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper examines data from a number of Canadian studies of beginning principalship and makes sense of these data using learning community and leadership literature.

Findings

Beginning principals must create a learning community culture that sustains and develops trust, collaboration, risk taking, reflection, shared leadership, and data‐based decision making. Mindfulness, engaging people in capacity building and the development of adaptive confidence are key features of new principal maturation.

Originality/value

Beginning principals need to first develop personal, then collective efficacy, as well as mindfulness of their own learning and the learning culture. Further, beginning principals must intentionally engage people in acts of capacity building, together with conveying adaptive confidence in order to effectively foster professional learning communities.

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 44 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

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Book part
Publication date: 8 December 2016

Benjamin Kutsyuruba and Keith D. Walker

It is well known that trust is an essential, yet a fragile part of organizational life. Because trust sometimes has to be placed without guarantees, it will inevitably be…

Abstract

It is well known that trust is an essential, yet a fragile part of organizational life. Because trust sometimes has to be placed without guarantees, it will inevitably be broken, violated, and damaged when parties involved in trustworthy relationships let others down. When trust-destroying events occur, trust is shattered and its level plummets quickly into the domain of distrust. The speed with which trust can be destroyed depends on the magnitude of damage from the act of untrustworthiness and the perceived intentionality of the untrustworthiness. Moreover, if seen as intentional, the destruction of trust is particularly severe, as intentional untrustworthiness reveals malevolent intentions that are seen as highly predictive of future untrustworthiness. Often, leaders are the ones responsible for improper handling of, destroying, or violating trust in their organizations. In this chapter, we explore the consequences of leaders for violating trust and examine how trust changes over time as a function of different types of violations and attempts at restoration. We argue that because distrust may irrevocably harm organizations, leaders as moral agents need to consciously work to rebuild relationships, restore broken trust, and instill hope.

Details

The Dark Side of Leadership: Identifying and Overcoming Unethical Practice in Organizations
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78635-499-0

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Article
Publication date: 1 November 2006

Keith D. Walker

The purpose of the article is to call upon educational leaders to consider the forces that hinder hope‐giving and to consider viewing their work as inspiring warranted…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of the article is to call upon educational leaders to consider the forces that hinder hope‐giving and to consider viewing their work as inspiring warranted hope among their constituents in situations of well‐defined reality.

Design/methodological/approach

The author argues that hope is an essential component of leader agency which when unhindered and defined in a multidimensional fashion may be used to transform the experiences of learning communities.

Findings

The author argues that leaders who foster warranted hope in constituents will gain transformational leverage to improve educational practice and the experiences of learners and their communities.

Practical implications

The author provides leaders with an overview of the utility of a reality‐based notion of hope that may serve to legitimate and focus constituent energies and make sense of key organizational challenges.

Originality/value

Provides a unique framing and synthesis of the multi‐dimensional concept of hope into the context of educational leadership, association with relevant allied constructs, and the challenges of education in the twenty‐first century.

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 44 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

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Article
Publication date: 4 July 2016

Sabre Cherkowski and Keith Walker

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…

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Research limitations/implications

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.

Practical implications

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.

Originality/value

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.

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 54 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

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Book part
Publication date: 8 December 2016

Keith D. Walker and Benjamin Kutsyuruba

We often hear questions like “What must that leader have been thinking?” “What possessed her to do that?” “That leader needs to give his head a shake!” or “It is so…

Abstract

We often hear questions like “What must that leader have been thinking?” “What possessed her to do that?” “That leader needs to give his head a shake!” or “It is so disappointing to see the pain caused by one wrong-headed and self-serving leader!” This chapter describes how leaders may subtly fall into rationalization, self-justification, foolishness, and callous indifference through maleficent internal narratives. How is it that leaders who have found the favor of others in the service of a great cause (i.e., the education of children and youth) find themselves sucked into clearly wrong or unthinkably bad actions? In this chapter, vicious (non-virtuous) thinking, inner political churnings, unconscious reinforcement of systemic evil, and hurtful ways of influencing others are explored, named, and challenged.

Details

The Dark Side of Leadership: Identifying and Overcoming Unethical Practice in Organizations
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78635-499-0

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 16 August 2011

Keith Walker, Benjamin Kutsyuruba and Brian Noonan

The purpose of this paper is to examine the trust‐related aspect of the work of school principals. The authors' exploratory examination of the Canadian school principals'…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the trust‐related aspect of the work of school principals. The authors' exploratory examination of the Canadian school principals' perceptions of their moral agency and trust‐brokering roles described their establishing, maintaining, and recovering of trust in schools. This article is delimited to the selected perceptions of Canadian principals' regarding the fragile nature of trust in their school settings.

Design/methodology/approach

This study used the open‐ended responses from surveys sent to school principals (n=177), who responded to the authors' invitation to complete a survey, as part of a larger study, in the ten provinces and three territories of Canada. The data analyses included theme and cross‐theme analyses.

Findings

This study has pointed to the perception that trust‐related matters are an important, yet a fragile, aspect of the work of principals. Principals often have to deal with trust‐related matters, which have caused trustworthiness to be threatened and trusting relationships to be broken. Trust‐related problems contribute to the fragility of trust and frequently seem to pertain to relationships between principal and other administrators, staff members, parents, and students. Most of the time, principals as leaders felt personal responsibility to make sure relationships among all stakeholders were sustained and, if broken, restored. The prevalent belief among participants in the study was that trusting relationships, though fragile and often broken, are subject to the hope of restoration and renewal.

Originality/value

This study provided valuable findings that enhance the understanding of ethical decision making and trust brokering amongst the Canadian school principals. While the discussions of trust and moral agency are certainly present in the educational literature, not much is known about the self‐perceived role of a principal as both a moral agent and trust broker. Moreover, there is perceived need for qualitative studies in the area of trust in educational leadership.

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 49 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

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Article
Publication date: 30 August 2011

David Walker, David Sloan, Lynn Boyle and Lorraine Walsh

The purpose of this paper is to outline and discuss a multifaceted approach to embedding change in academic practice, resulting in the integration of technology‐enhanced…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to outline and discuss a multifaceted approach to embedding change in academic practice, resulting in the integration of technology‐enhanced learning (TEL) within the wider institutional strategic approach to learning and teaching.

Design/methodology/approach

This approach is evidenced through a discussion of three examples of practitioner engagement and ownership across the institution – “bottom‐up”, “middle‐out” and “top‐down” activities – demonstrating the attendant potential for transferability to other institutional settings.

Findings

The triangulation of all three levels of activity in this way ensures that strategy is informed, developed, discussed, deployed and owned across the institution.

Originality/value

The paper addresses the challenges of integrating TEL approaches within an overall teaching and learning strategic framework through the medium of practitioner‐developed and supported initiatives developed at the University of Dundee but with potential for transferability to other institutions.

Details

Campus-Wide Information Systems, vol. 28 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1065-0741

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