Critical perspectives in educational leadership: Limitations of the field and a new ‘theory turn’

Year: 2016

Author: Niesche, Richard

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

AustraliaIn this paper I make the case for critical perspectives in educational leadership. Despite the increased calls for and a renewed interest in the inclusion of more ‘theory’ or theoretically rich approaches in the field educational leadership, it is still a remarkably ‘theory-free’ zone if the current schedule of books and journal articles are any indication. The field remains not only impervious to a broader theoretical engagement but is relentless in its drive for articulations of best practice and school effectiveness. This drive is undoubtedly due to the particularly neoliberal flavour to the education reform agendas that are happening in many countries around the world and the conscription of ‘leadership’ as the panacea to many educational problems. By way of background to this paper I propose that these conceptualisations of leadership are part of the problem not the solution. While this point is not a new one, the field has previously engaged with a finite set of tools and concepts with which to make this case. This is where critical approaches can be of significant value, both in understanding and pointing out the problems and limitations of educational leadership discourse, but also in terms of being able to make space for different and alternative approaches and perspectives to thrive and nourish the field. My aim here is to provoke further debate in theorising educational leadership and also to hopefully strengthen the field through knowledge construction and not simply critique.