Year

2005

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Faculty of Education

Abstract

This thesis provides a case study of the nature of collegiality and how it was established and sustained by a peer-support group of Australian principals over a period of seventeen years as a result of their participation in a Commonwealth Schools Commission professional development course designated as a Project of National Significance. The major research question was as follows: ‘How did the involvement of a group of principals in a collegial-based leadership program contribute to their professional development and social, and emotional well-being?’ The researcher has been a participant in the group from its inception. The case study was constructed from historical and contextual data collected through an analysis of education documents and group artefacts, such as faxes, diaries and photographs, through interviews with key stakeholders such as course designers, consultants and through the use of data from a questionnaire on the concept of collegiality and its sustainability. Contemporary data were collected through individual interviews with the participants in the peer-support group and through participant constructed narratives. Propositions about the nature and changing conditions of collegiality, as experienced by participants in the group, which were derived from an analysis of these data, were clarified through surveys and focus group interviews. As a result of this process of analysis, an ‘ideal type’ of collegiality, captured by the concept of coadunation, was depicted as a model. Structural, behavioural/attitudinal and cultural conditions of collegiality were identified as operating through four stages of the changing group purpose. Some conditions of collegiality were found to have been sustained over a period of seventeen years while others gradually disappeared according to the professional and personal needs of the group. A significant outcome of the case study is the evidence that professional development, based on the central notion of a collegial community of peers, provided the conditions that empowered principals to use reflection, action research and problemsolving strategies in their own learning. This model of professional development was paramount in assisting the principals to achieve their professional goals and enhanced their personal development of attitudes and behaviours that supported collegial practices. In addition, the collegial group, which endured beyond the original training course, played a central role in promoting the welfare of the principals, through their access to a group of supportive, non-judgmental peers.

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