Enhanced Pedagogical Leadership: A Critical Participatory Action Research Approach

Year: 2018

Author: Forssten Seiser, Anette

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this presentation, I describe how a group of Swedish school leaders, in a joint critical participatory action research (CPAR) (Kemmis, McTaggart & Nixon, 2014) project, explored and strengthened their pedagogical leadership. 
In the same way that teaching is sometimes reduced to a kind of technology, the idea persists that there is an effective leadership model that principals can apply regardless of the context. There is a tendency to look at school and school leadership as technical processes whereby high student outcomes are expected to be achieved through rational and effective methods and models. This idea is contradicted by the findings of this action research study, which show that the knowledge that a good pedagogical leader needs is above all the ability to make wise decisions in ethically and morally challenging situations. 
In this study, the theory of practice architectures (Kemmis & Grootenboer, 2008), which interacts with the choice of methodological orientation, was used to analyse the results. The results of the study show how principals’pedagogical leadership involves having good relations with others, specifically in terms of learning and making wise assessments during workdays that are filled with moral dilemmas. This means that principals need to possess the ability to handle tense relationships and complex situations. An experienced and well-developed principal is able to make wise decisions during a working day that is full of incompatible circumstances. It is this same ability—or wisdom—that allows skilled principals to stop, reflect and critically review their own practice. 
Furthermore, the study shows how the principals, through a process of communicative action in which intersubjectivity and unforced consensus were the ideals, developed a common scientific language and critical approach. This development was emancipatory in that this more critical approach prevented the principals from uncritically adopting new leadership and school improvement models and teaching methods. A critical emancipatory approach can strengthen principals’ pedagogical leadership in areas where a technical solution is lacking. For example, such an approach can visualise the structures and norms that constrain and enable a school’s ability to improve successfully, which can make a real difference for students.