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date: 09 May 2021

Educational Leadership as Practicelocked

  • Jane WilkinsonJane WilkinsonMonash University

Summary

In the first part of the 21st century there has been a turn to practice in the social sciences including organizational studies, critical management sociology, philosophy, and some domains of education inquiry. Despite a rich tradition of epistemological and ontological debates, educational leadership scholarship has been slow to recognize the productive nature of the practice turn. This is partly due to its historical location in North American pragmatic traditions and a concomitant privileging of more instrumentalist, positivist, and functionalist accounts of how we come to know, be, and learn to go on in the social world that constitutes educational organizations.

Educational leadership scholarship has had two dominant tendencies when it comes to explaining the phenomenon of organizational change. The first relies on individualist and frequently decontextualized accounts that privilege individuals, for example, the hero leader who turns around a “failing” educational organization. The second draws on dominant societist accounts that foreground systems, for example, principals as role incumbents in schools. In so doing, the latter privileges the system above the lifeworld of educational organizations.

In contrast, a practice account of leadership or leading draws our attention to the materiality and “happeningness” of leading practices as social phenomena, unfolding in the ontological specificity of particular sites at particular times, rather than as a set of espoused ideals. It foregrounds the cultural-discursive, material-economic, and social-political arrangements or practice architectures that hold in place particular educational practices, and that in turn create the kinds of enabling or constraining conditions for educational transformation to occur. By understanding the practices and arrangements that hold particular kinds of educational practices in place, we are better able to understand possibilities for educational change and transformation.

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