Reflections On A Decade Of Research Of The International Successful School Principalship Project

Year: 2015

Author: Gurr, David, Drysdale, Lawrie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Beginning in 2001, International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP) was developed to address the need to better understand how principals contribute to school success, to gather this information from people other than just principals and in countries other than the USA and the UK, research aspects that dominated at the time. The project has been an outstanding success with research groups from more than 20 countries contributing to four edited project books (Day & Gurr, 2014), seven special issues of journals (e.g. Drysdale, 2011), and more than 100 book chapters and journal papers of which Gurr and Drysdale have contributed 14 book chapters and 13 journal articles. The ISSPP has completed two phases (initial case studies and then revisiting these to explore the sustainability of success) and is embarking on the third phase which involves conducting mixed method case studies (interview, observation, document analysis and survey) in more than 20 countries.

In this paper we want to begin the process of reflecting on the work of the ISSPP. We are troubled by the lack of significant interest in the project. For example, even the leader of the project, Professor Chris Day, in a recent review of successful school leadership (Day & Sammons, 2013) only referenced the first book of the ISSPP (Leithwood & Day, 2007) and some journal articles related to these early case studies; there was little engagement with the rich findings of the ISSPP. Again, North American and English research was privileged, and within this, quantitative research.

Whilst we come as friends to the collection, we are also strongly of the opinion that leadership can be defined with some clarity, that it is perhaps a more relevant and important concept than it ever has been, that those in leadership roles need to understand the opportunity, privilege and responsibility that goes with these roles, that leadership is a dispersed phenomenon (those in middle-level leadership roles can be important) but there are organizational and human constraints to this, that other types of leadership in schools needs more careful consideration (teacher leadership, student leadership), and that whilst we need great leaders, leadership as a concept has become too broad and it needs to be wrestled back to something that it more special and privileged.