Revisiting, reclaiming and reinvigorating a culture of inquiry within the quality leadership team within the SA Department for Education and Child Development.

Year: 2012

Author: Bills, Andrew

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Back in 2004, Professor Alan Reid published the paper, `Towards a Culture of Inquiry in DECS', after being seconded to the organisation for a period of 12 months.  This paper challenged all educators within the department to engage in processes of systemic, rigorous and critical reflection in their work, in ways that questioned taken for granted assumptions. Reid (2004) argued that inquiry will only flourish when the right conditions are in place to promote it. He then argued that when these conditions do prevail, students become the ultimate beneficiaries.

These inquiry conditions are being promoted in new work within the Quality Leadership (Workforce Development) team in DECD. A Leadership Mentoring Research Pilot involving 15 experienced DECD leaders (including two retired leaders) began in March 2012. In a time when the influence of leaders upon teacher quality and student outcomes is clearly articulated in the Professional Standard for Principals (2011) and the recent OECD educational leadership literature, DECD has recognised the need to investigate a range of leadership capacity building initiatives. As co-researchers, the leaders (mentors) completed an on-line mentoring accreditation process aligned with the National Professional Standard for Principals with selected mentees across four DECD regions. In the pilot, the leaders were foregrounded as co-researchers, providing advice into how a quality mentoring approach within DECD should look into the future.

The research pilot has been instrumental in guiding and informing the roll out of 90 Mentor/Mentee Work-Shadowing Scholarships which have been offered to applicants from the pre-school, school and regional office sector. Each scholarship provides the successful applicant with the opportunity to participate in mentor accreditation, mentoring support and work-shadowing arrangements until December 2013.

These scholarships recognise the professionalism of leaders within the Department and the need for DECD to build leadership capacity throughout the organisation. They also provide DECD with a rich platform for learning and future policy development. This presentation will explore the current moves within the Quality Leadership unit within DECD towards learning with and through the profession. This learning will be placed as background work to inform and support DECD as it begins to establish the DECD Leadership Institute, as detailed in the recently released SA Education Minister's paper (June 2012) on Educational leadership.