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Article
Publication date: 25 January 2013

David Gurr and Lawrie Drysdale

The aim of this paper is to bring together for the first time three studies of middle‐level leaders in secondary schools in Victoria, Australia. The studies span more than…

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Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to bring together for the first time three studies of middle‐level leaders in secondary schools in Victoria, Australia. The studies span more than a decade and allow consideration of the progress in developing middle‐level leadership roles.

Design/methodology/approach

All studies followed a consistent approach using multiple perspective interviews of middle‐level curriculum and subject leadership in government and Catholic secondary schools in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Principals, senior leaders, middle‐level leaders and teachers were interviewed to gain their perceptions on middle‐level leadership. Interviews were supplemented with school document analysis.

Findings

The work of middle‐level leaders is heavily dependent on how their roles are constructed and the capacities, abilities and attitudes of the leaders. Some are expected to be leaders that influence teaching and learning, and they may be developed and supported to do so. Too often, however, teachers in these key roles have few expectations or opportunities to exercise leadership. Whilst many have the capacity to be leaders of teaching and learning, others are not sure about their ability to influence teaching and learning. Suggestions are made for how leadership might be structured in schools to emphasise the importance of middle‐level leaders, and how these leaders can be better prepared and supported.

Research limitations/implications

Observational studies, studies of primary school contexts and cross‐country comparisons would extend this research.

Practical implications

Middle‐level school leaders need to be seen as key personnel in improving teaching and learning, school structures need to reflect this, and developing leadership capacity needs to be prioritised.

Originality/value

This paper highlights continuing issues with how the work of middle‐level school leaders is conceptualised and supported, and makes suggestions for leadership structure and the preparation and development of school leaders.

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 51 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 11 June 2018

Martin Bassett and Nicholas Shaw

Middle leaders play an important role in the education landscape, first and foremost as teachers, and second as leaders. The purpose of this paper is to identify the…

Abstract

Purpose

Middle leaders play an important role in the education landscape, first and foremost as teachers, and second as leaders. The purpose of this paper is to identify the expectations and challenges experienced by first-time middle leaders in New Zealand primary schools, and identify the leadership development and support they were provided with.

Design/methodology/approach

This was a small qualitative study designed to collect data from the perspectives of first-time middle leaders and principals in New Zealand primary schools. Three methods were employed. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six middle leaders who had been in the role for one to three years. These participants were identified through an analysis of recent public appointment records and then e-mailed with an invitation. Four principals from a local principals’ association were invited to comprise a focus group and relevant documents were analysed.

Findings

The findings from this study are presented in three sections: expectations, challenges and leadership development and support. Whilst the principals described wide and varied role expectations the middle leaders highlighted the importance of their teaching role with leadership responsibilities as secondary. From both perspectives time to do the administrative work was an overwhelming difficulty. A key finding was related to a lack of confidence to undertake the role in spite of efforts to provide and receive support. Overall, there was agreement that further development for new middle leaders was essential.

Research limitations/implications

This small, limited study highlights the central role that middle leaders play in leading learning and teaching, and the existence of a lack of confidence. Further research is needed to delve into conditions that would enable new middle leaders to manage the challenges of time and confidence.

Practical implications

The research recommends that practitioners who are new to a middle leadership role be allocated dedicated time for performing the administrative tasks and participating in an ongoing induction programme. The middle leaders themselves and their schools would benefit from efforts to strengthen middle leadership development.

Originality/value

Although a great deal has been written about middle leadership, there is only a small amount of research about primary schools. This research adds valuable new information in a primary school context and breaks new ground in researching early career, first-time middle leaders in this context.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 32 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 22 June 2022

Jianjing Tang, Darren A. Bryant and Allan David Walker

This paper aims to explore developments over the past 25 years in the knowledge base on instruction-oriented middle leadership in schools. The authors document the trends…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore developments over the past 25 years in the knowledge base on instruction-oriented middle leadership in schools. The authors document the trends in the literature since middle leadership began to attract scholarly interest in the late 1990s and explore the shifting structural and content patterns in the knowledge base.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors use a topographic methodology to analyse both structural elements and major results drawing from 147 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Findings

The authors draw on the review's outcomes to propose a model that frames a core set of middle leaders' instructional leadership practices. They also identify the personal, departmental, organizational and external influences shaping middle leadership practices and identify a lack of research conducted outside Anglo–American societies. This gap in the literature suggests the need for the increased study of middle leadership in different national settings and systems and how these influence the practice and enactment of middle leaders around instruction. There is also a need to employ a greater range of methodologies to understand middle leaders' instructional roles.

Research limitations/implications

The paper lays a foundation for the future development of middle leadership for instruction and highlights signposts to guide future inquiry.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the middle leader knowledge base by focussing on their enactment of instructional leadership.

Details

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

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 11 January 2013

Pik Lin Choi

The purpose of this paper is to examine gender identities of Chinese male and female middle leaders in secondary schools and how gender dynamics play in the leadership…

1477

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine gender identities of Chinese male and female middle leaders in secondary schools and how gender dynamics play in the leadership process and impact on career aspirations and career development.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper draws on the data of a larger qualitative study conducted using the life history approach. Cases of four male and female middle leaders, which are able to demonstrate the “efficacy” of life stories to enhancing our appreciation of the process of gender negotiation and the impact of gender dynamics on leadership behaviour, are reported.

Findings

Evidence suggests that traditional Chinese gender identities played out in the leader‐follower relationships although signs of hybrid gender identities were also evident in some cases. Gender identities and the family role perception of the middle leaders have impact on their career aspirations and development.

Research limitations/implications

Findings yield implications for the professional development needs of Chinese middle leaders not only regarding their professional role but also their personal understanding of how gender identities and family role perception impact on their career development. Further study with overlapping and complementary methods to a larger sample could be more illuminating to this complex and multifaceted issue.

Originality value

In the context of global concerns about the shortage of leader talent, the present study illuminates gender identities and the dynamics of the interactions between Chinese superiors and subordinates of different sexes and adds perspective to the leadership development literature.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 27 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 29 July 2020

Pascale Benoliel, Haim Shaked, Nehama Nadav and Chen Schechter

Relying on information processing and attribution theories, which relate to the formation of leadership perceptions and attributes, the current study seeks to examine the…

Abstract

Purpose

Relying on information processing and attribution theories, which relate to the formation of leadership perceptions and attributes, the current study seeks to examine the relationship between demographic variables and principals' systems thinking (PST) in an integrated model. The present study purpose was threefold: first, the study seeks to examine whether attributions middle leaders make about PST may show substantial and systematic variance in a management team. Second, the study seeks to investigate the influence of principal–middle leaders’ relational demography variables (gender, education and tenure) (dis)similarity on middle leaders’ PST attribute. Finally, the study seeks to explore the moderating role of duration of principal- principal–middle leader acquaintance in the relationship of demographic (dis)similarity to PST.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected from 305 dyads (middle leaders and their principals) from 101 schools. MANOVA analysis and hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the hypothesis.

Findings

Findings showed that it is both appropriate and important to examine group-level effects when studying PST effects. Also, PST levels were higher in gender-similar relationships than in gender-dissimilar ones. Finally, duration of acquaintance was found to moderate the relationship between principal–middle leaders’ gender (dis)similarity and PST appraisal.

Originality/value

Focusing on principal–middle leader relationships, which are explicitly relational, with a consideration for level relationships may potentially highlight the need to consider multiple levels of analysis in order to understand how PST attribution occurs. This focus can help us to capture the core of PST social dynamics among the dyad, as well as highlighting the distinction, if any, between in-groups and out-groups. Acknowledging that school faculty are motivated by their interpersonal relationships with their principals and how such relationships are contingent upon demography (dis)similarity and the duration of acquaintance between dyads may help to broaden the understanding regarding potential antecedents of middle leaders' PST attribution and its implication for school organizations.

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 59 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 10 August 2012

Steven Gregory Marshall

The purpose of this paper is to report findings from a larger study into the role of middle leaders of change in New Zealand higher education.

2993

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report findings from a larger study into the role of middle leaders of change in New Zealand higher education.

Design/methodology/approach

In total, ten middle leaders from the New Zealand higher education sector took part in a recent research project which examined successful change leadership in higher education. As part of that larger study, each middle leader answered questions about their views on being in the “middle” in their change leadership roles and their views on middle leadership in general.

Findings

The ten middle leaders all described their place in their respective organisations in terms of being “caught in between”, or “sandwiched between” senior management to whom they were accountable, lecturers whom they described as colleagues or peers, and subordinates for whom they had some functional and often moral responsibility. The paper discusses the perceptions of being in the “middle” and how change leaders reconcile their position as a subordinate, an equal and a superior. Insight is gained into how educational leaders reconcile their position in the “middle” as they hold management responsibility for both academic and general staff who are hierarchically, beneath them; lead teams of colleagues in collegial decision making; and answer to higher authority in the form of senior organisational leadership.

Research limitations/implications

The participant contributions of personal observations and unfolding real life stories which meld personal common sense with local meaning have formed a unique local ontology therefore allowing for a deeper understanding of the contributing factors toward being in the “middle”. Some of these perspectives have been used by the author's own organisation in the development of leadership training for future organisational change, particularly those aspects concerning communication and participation that are tailored to meet the unique needs of management and staff.

Practical implications

For middle change leaders the focussed examination of the working relationship between middle change leaders and staff groups might prove to be a rich area of further study. These relationships take a variety of forms, including where a staff member has risen through the ranks (off the shop floor as it were) to take on the mantle of leadership, or simply where there is a shared understanding based on subject or professional backgrounds which binds the two together. Further investigation into these relationships may provide perspectives that enable leaders to develop a greater understanding of how change occurs.

Originality/value

The paper shows how the participants locate themselves as being “very much” in the middle in terms of line management of both resources and academic matters and often as being caught between competing imperatives, institutional dynamics and institutional structures.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 26 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 26 August 2014

Shun-wing Ng and Tsan-ming Kenneth Chan

The purpose of this paper is to report on an exploratory study regarding the present situation of middle managers in schools; their professional development needs; and…

1519

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report on an exploratory study regarding the present situation of middle managers in schools; their professional development needs; and requirements of middle leaders for quality school management so that contents of existing professional development programmes could be improved to meet the needs of middle leaders of primary school education.

Design/methodology/approach

Employing both quantitative and qualitative methods, this paper reports on a study of the training needs of middle leaders in primary schools in which their present situation, their needs for professional development and requirements for quality school management and leadership are explored. The study adopted survey questionnaires as the main method of data collection. To supplement quantitative data with regard to the professional development needs, six middle managers were purposefully selected for semi-structured interviews.

Findings

The findings suggest that there are insufficient training opportunities for middle leaders in primary schools and that there is a strong demand for including the notions of interpersonal skills, crisis management, resources management and understanding of education ordinances in the professional development curriculum for middle leaders. The study recommends that training programmes should exert focus on meeting the specific needs of middle leaders and the content and approach be multi-dimensional.

Originality/value

In spite of the small scale of the survey study, the data collected from individual in-depth interviews can provide the investigators with supplementary information on their professional development needs which also serves the purpose of triangulation. The finding can also be a very constructive reference for course providers who wish to re-engineer and improve the quality of professional development programmes for middle leaders. This may help arouse their interests and enhance their learning motivation.

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 52 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 7 May 2019

Darren A. Bryant and Chunping Rao

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the influence of teacher leadership on the enactment of educational reforms in southeastern China. It considers how the work of…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the influence of teacher leadership on the enactment of educational reforms in southeastern China. It considers how the work of middle and teacher leaders in schools is structured to support reform enactment at the school level.

Design/methodology/approach

The research was conducted in three case study sites in one school district in Shenzhen, China. Low, moderate and high academic achieving schools which had engaged teacher leaders in instructional reforms were selected. A combined total of 34 senior, middle and teacher leaders participated in semi-structured interviews, which were analyzed through a comparative coding process.

Findings

Across the three schools, teacher leaders without positional authority strongly influenced the instructional reforms. Their influence was strongest when bolstered by a combination of formal recognition systems, opportunities to lead projects that were directly related to the reform efforts, and mentorship systems that skilled novice teachers in reform-related skills and experienced teachers in leading reform enactment. Mechanisms and structures embedded in schools, when coherently focused on selected reforms, supported the efficacy of teachers without formal authority. And, middle leaders’ impact was enhanced when working collaboratively with formal and teacher leaders.

Originality/value

This research yields insight on teacher leaders’ influence of reform. It considers how the work of middle and teacher leaders can be structured as a collective that impacts on reform enactment at the school level. And, it illuminates teacher leadership in a Chinese context other than the scrutinized Shanghai school system.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 33 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 24 August 2020

Linda Bendikson, Mark Broadwith, Tong Zhu and Frauke Meyer

This article investigates goal pursuit practices in a sample of 31 New Zealand high schools. It examines goal knowledge of middle and senior leaders, the alignment of this…

Abstract

Purpose

This article investigates goal pursuit practices in a sample of 31 New Zealand high schools. It examines goal knowledge of middle and senior leaders, the alignment of this knowledge and factors related to improvement.

Design/methodology/approach

Goals from schools' annual improvement plans were identified and counted at the beginning of the academic year. Senior and middle leaders were asked to recall their school's academic goals from memory. Responses were scored against the goals in the schools' plans to produce an accuracy score for each leader and for each middle and senior leadership team (SLT). At the end of the academic year, leaders recounted their goals and rated and commented on their SLT’s goal focus. Data analysis examined goal knowledge, alignment of middle and senior leaders' goal knowledge and SLT's goal focus. Comments were analyzed thematically in regard to the number and clarity of the goals and how goals were communicated, enacted and monitored.

Findings

Our findings show a lack of goal clarity, persistence across the year and effective strategy hampered the majority of schools in their goal pursuit. Only a few schools had a strong and aligned goal focus. Factors influencing perceived improvement included: fewer and greater clarity of goals, engagement of middle leaders in setting goals, establishing sound supporting structures and regular monitoring of progress.

Originality/value

While annual improvement plans outlining multiple goals are often compulsory for schools, little is known about their impact on practice. This research clarifies the state of goal pursuit in a sample of high schools.

Details

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 58 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0957-8234

Keywords

Book part
Publication date: 15 July 2009

Val J. Arnold

I remember talking with Hugh Stephenson some time in the early 1980s after he returned from a trip to the Middle East. Hugh was in charge of Career Development for NCR and…

Abstract

I remember talking with Hugh Stephenson some time in the early 1980s after he returned from a trip to the Middle East. Hugh was in charge of Career Development for NCR and had been assessing the leadership and management skills of NCR leaders in the Middle East. I recall his amusement and his frustration as he remarked on how difficult it was from his Western perspective to interpret leadership motivation and drive when the answers to so many of his questions was tempered by, “If Allah wills.” This led us into a long discussion about assessing across cultures, including the challenge of seeing and interpreting things from a different cultural perspective, and the relevance of the NCR corporate model to leadership effectiveness in the Middle East. It would be another 18 years, however, before I was to gain first hand experience assessing and developing leaders in the Middle East.

Details

Advances in Global Leadership
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-84855-256-2

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