Year

2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Education

Abstract

This thesis examines the development and introduction of a middle schooling model in a traditional, Catholic girls’ high school in Australia. Utilising a Foucauldian approach, it follows the initiative from its early emergence as a discourse amongst the school leadership to its eventual existence as a concrete object in the school context. Through the format of an analytical narrative, the thesis explores the role of leaders in the school who were key players in the rise of the idea as a change possibility, as well as the involvement of other leaders and teachers in the development of the Middle School. In particular, it explores the ongoing influence of one leader, whose specific and targeted decisions directed, shaped and enacted the initiative.

Change in schools is acknowledged as an everyday reality of the profession. It is usually the role of school leaders to manage and negotiate these change processes in association with their staff and colleagues. Most of the literature in the field of educational leadership and organisational change explores the means by which teachers and leaders implement change, viewed from the position of the external, academic fieldworker. Alternatively, research conducted by practitioners often takes the form of localised ‘reflexive inquiry’ with the goal of improving school practices for the benefit of students. This thesis seeks to combine elements of these two modes of investigation and examine change from the position of the ‘insider’ researcher, a teacher at the site of study, who was critically involved in the change and gained a high level of access to the detailed intricacies of the process. In the dual roles of researcher and participant, I accessed the ‘space between’ to become both insider and outsider in the investigation.

This thesis confirms that educational change is an unpredictable and complex process. Leading change requires more that just will alone, but a carefully strategic series of ‘actions upon actions’ to render subjects complicit in its implementation. This raises certain ethical questions in the deployment of the power of leadership. Power can be enacted in ways that are dominant or repressive, but these are not its only characteristics. It is in the generation of new objects, new discourses and new subjectivities that the productive function of power is apparent, and school leaders are positioned to make choices about the use of this power in the management of change. This thesis, through the use of an analytical rather than a reflexive window onto insider research, draws attention to making leadership practices ‘strange’ in a context familiar to teacher and leader practitioners: the school setting. It also highlights the ‘strangeness’ of the embedded nature of the insider-researcher and suggests that reflexive practitioner inquiry is not the only form of insider research available to the practitioner with an ‘academic’ bent; rather it situates the alternative researcher as coming from ‘within’.

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