Leadership practices to build school capacity for improvement in academically gifted public high schools

Year: 2015

Author: Barnett, Kerry, Rogers, Karen, Chan, Lye Long

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Abstract: Educational reforms focused on school improvement for enhanced student outcomes are well underway in Australia. The reforms comprise a number of different accountability policies such as implementation of a national curriculum and testing program (NAPLAN), professional teaching standards, and increased school autonomy. Anticipated by policymakers to be a catalyst for school improvement, the accountability polices presume every school has the capacity for improving teaching practices and student learning, but overlooks the significant challenges schools face, if this capacity is absent. Generally, research on school improvement has emphasised leadership practices, school conditions and teachers as critical to improving teaching practices and student learning outcomes. Further, leadership practices are considered to be important drivers of school capacity for improvement, contributing indirectly through influence on teacher motivations and work conditions. Yet, this evidence is sparse. Hence, further research is an important step in the development of the knowledge base linking leadership practices to school capacity for improvement. The presentation will report on a multiple case study which explored leadership practices to improve teaching practices and student learning outcomes in an under-investigated school context (in the school leadership literature), the academically gifted public high school, which is focused on advanced learning for grades 7-12 and is solely composed of students with academic gifts and talents. Five academically gifted public high schools participated in the study. Data were obtained through semi-structured interviews, transcribed verbatim, cross-checked for reliability, and analysed with strategies recommended by experts in qualitative methodology. The findings will be discussed in the presentation.
Presenter biography: Kerry Barnett is a lecturer in the Educational Leadership Program in the School of Education at UNSW, Australia. Her research focuses on applying group and team process theory to leadership in educational contexts.