Understanding school middle leading practices

While principals are critical in facilitating school conditions that support teacher development, they have limited influence in directly impacting teacher classroom practices to improve student learning.  In contrast, school middle leaders (e.g., Head of Faculty, Stage Leader, Instructional Leader) are classroom teachers with acknowledged pedagogical expertise, who work closely with colleague teachers, and are thus well placed to drive pedagogical classroom reform. For school systems and principals focused on school improvement, middle leaders are increasingly being asked to lead school-based professional development. While middle leaders’ practices are becoming crucial in supporting teacher development to improve student outcomes, there is little empirical understanding on those middle leader practices that positively impact classroom teaching and learning. The presentation provides the findings from Phase 1 of a four-year project that utilises a site-based perspective to empirically investigate middle leading. The overarching research question that frames the research is: How do the leading practices of middle leaders’ impact teaching practices and student learning practices? To begin this inquiry, we wanted to gain insights into how educational middle leaders perceived their practices. So, Phase 1 involved middle leaders across a diverse range of Australian schools [jurisdictional (state and territorial), sectoral (government and non-government), type (secondary and primary)] completing an online questionnaire. The questionnaire had three sections: i] Demographic information including middle leaders’ age, teaching, leadership and professional learning experiences. ii] Perceptions of middle leading practices, measured with Likert scale items (5-point scale), informed by Grootenboer, Rönnerman & Edwards-Groves’ (2017) theory of middle leading practices, under the following headings:·Teaching & learning·Managing & facilitating ·Collaboration & communication·Support of their practices iii] Two open questions, middle leaders could comment on their work and how it may be supported.Preliminary results from the questionnaire data providing an understanding of Australian schools middle leaders will be presented. A Confirmatory Factor Analysis was used to test of the veracity of the theoretical underpinning of the scales,and to generate sub-scales which will inform a developing repertoire of middle leading practices (RoP) to be generated and refined in subsequent phases. Furthermore, multivariate analysis was performed to determine any significant differences and relationships on the subscales vis-à-vis the independent demographic variables. Grootenboer, P., Rönnerman, K., & Edwards-Groves, C. (2017). Leading from the Middle: A Praxis-Oriented Practice. In P. Grootenboer, C. Edwards-Groves, & S. Choy. (Eds.) (2017). Practice Theory Perspectives on Pedagogy and Education: Praxis, diversity and contestation (pp. 243-263). Singapore: Springer