An examination of middle leadership in Western Australian secondary schools

Year: 2009

Author: Brooks, Zoe, Cavanagh, Rob

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This study examined the complexities inherent within secondary school middle leadership positions. These formal positions typically have line management accountability through the deputy principal to the principal for the supervision of teaching and/or ancillary staff. The study investigated the formal position requirements, as well as the professional perceptions and expectations of Western Australian, secondary school middle leaders. The results presented in this paper were collected during the qualitative phase of a mixed methods research project. The qualitative phase involved two stages of data collection and analyses. Firstly, a document analysis was conducted on the formal position descriptions of middle leadership positions in a purposive sample of ten Western Australian secondary schools. Documents outlining the organisational structures of schools, as well as formal position descriptions detailing the professional responsibilities of middle leaders were collected and analysed using content analysis techniques. Additionally, nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of discipline-based, pastoral-based and program-based middle leaders across three Western Australian secondary schools. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with a senior leader of each sampled school.

The findings of the document analysis conducted on middle leadership position descriptions are presented using Sergiovanni's (1984) forces of leadership model. The application of this model allowed for the exploration of the technical, human and educational leadership roles typically required of middle leaders working in secondary schools. The results of interviews with middle and senior leaders are also presented here, with a focus on six key aspects of the middle leadership position including: the dual and dynamic nature of middle leadership; the organisational functions of middle leaders; the problems and limitations associated with middle leadership positions; the qualities and skills of effective middle leaders and their training needs; the support and review requirements of the position, as well as the personal goals and experiences of middle leaders.

Key Phrase: Educational Policy, Leadership and Management