Developing Leaders in Victoria: Exploring the intended (and unintended) outcomes of the Unlocking Potential Principal Preparation Program

Year: 2017

Author: Brooks, Jeffrey, Wilkinson, Jane, Sum, Nicola

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Unlocking Potential Program is a school leadership development program created through a partnership between the Bastow Institute and Monash University. While participant feedback suggests high levels of satisfaction (Clemans, Rickinson, Wilkinson & Brooks, 2017) there has to date been no research that examined how the programme shaped participants' thought and action in relation to the practice of school leadership. In order to address this gap, we designed a mixed method case study to explore three research questions:
1. What constitutes best practices in leadership preparation, both in Australia and worldwide?
2. What do program graduates see as the strengths and weaknesses of their pre-service preparation?
3. How do program graduates practice (and not practice) what they learned in the Unlocking Potential Program in their school?
This paper includes (a) an integrated literature review on leadership preparation that identifies best practices in Australia and globally; (b) a statistical profile of Unlocking Potential Participants and their schools, and (c) preliminary results from a mixed method case study of program graduates.
The literature review explores current thinking on provider structures, recruitment and selection of aspiring principals, issues pertaining to the induction and socialisation of leaders, and the content and structure of preparation programmes. By reviewing the literature available on models and approaches from around the world, it aims to contextualize the AITSL standards for Australian leadership, and establish the current position of Victorian leadership preparation. Findings indicate that Victoria is in some ways consistent with global approaches of delivering leadership preparation programmes in collaboration with universities, but in other ways it falls short.
The statistical profile yielded interesting and a few unexpected results. First, the program included an even distribution of urban and rural leaders, and was evenly distributed across primary and secondary levels. Interestingly, the program showed little ethnic or racial diversity, though Victoria is an incredibly diverse Metropolitan area. Further, participants' years of teaching experience varied greatly, but was skewed toward early-career professionals.
Case study data are still being analysed, but will be available in full at the time if the AARE conference. Data were collected via an adapted survey of Orr and Orphanis' (2011) principal preparation index (N = 242) and cross-walked with the AITSL and Victorian Department of Education and Training's FISO framework (Clemans, et al., 2017). The research team is in the process of conducting extensive interviews and observations to triangulate and help interpret survey results.