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date: 24 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Research in educational leadership and management spans settings from early childhood to tertiary education and life-long learning. From its mid-20th-century beginnings as a tool for organizing educational systems, the wide range of methodologies in present use reflects the shifting focus of the field. The current mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches indicates differing epistemological stances and a range of purposes from instrumental responses to government policy initiatives, through investigation of issues of social justice, to personal enquiry into leadership influence on environments for learning. Research in the field encompasses the values and dilemmas underpinning educational leadership roles, the enactment of middle leadership, teacher leadership and student leadership, and includes leaders conducting research to improve their own practice.

Multiple aspects of decision-making are involved in educational leadership research. The philosophical assumptions of researchers inform their positivist or interpretivist stance and the associated choices of quantitative or qualitative methodology. The external drivers of the investigation, together with its purpose and scope, influence the choice of research approach —for example, data-mining, survey, case study, action research—and technique—interview, questionnaire, documentary analysis, narrative, and life-history. These approaches and techniques in turn invite a range of analytical methods, from statistical modeling, systematic qualitative data analysis and discourse analysis to auto-ethnographic critical reflection and reflective narrative. The interpretation of the analysis hinges on the purpose of the research: to understand, inform, improve, or bring about change.

Twenty-first-century challenges for the field include expanding theory beyond a largely Western-centric focus; responding to the development of new theories of leadership, including the voice of non-leaders in perspectives on leadership; ensuring that research informs policy rather than vice versa; and addressing the sheer volume and nature of data available through emerging technologies.

Keywords: ontology, epistemology, positivism, interpretivism, quantitative, qualitative, research approaches, research tools, data analysis

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