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Article citation: Petros Pashiardis, (2012) "Guest editorial", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 26 Iss: 5, pp. -
About the Guest Editor Petros Pashiardis is a Professor at the Open University of Cyprus. He has been a Fulbright Scholar. Over the last 20 years Professor Pashiardis has taught, researched and published in a variety of areas in education management, leadership and policy making at local, national and international levels. He has been President of the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management.
This special issue of the IJEM on “International and comparative studies in successful school leadership” is a direct result of the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP) which encompasses a range of case studies from around the world in order to identify the personal qualities and professional competencies of successful school leaders in diverse contexts through the collection of data from multiple perspectives. The ISSPP is currently the largest and most sustained network on research on successful school principalship. It began in 2001 with a meeting called by its founder and current co-ordinator, Professor Christopher Day of the University of Nottingham in the UK. Initially, representatives from eight countries agreed to create a range of case studies that would examine successful school principalships in Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, England, Norway, Sweden and the USA. The network now includes more than 14 countries in active research and continues to grow. The origin and methodology of the ISSPP lay in an earlier study of English schools (Day et al., 2000) that included data collected from multiple perspectives, i.e. head teachers, deputy heads, governors, parents, students, support staff and teachers; comparisons of successful leadership in diverse contexts ranging from small primary schools to large urban secondary schools; and the identification of personal qualities and professional competencies generic to successful school leaders.
As we know, principals’ leadership is a complex, non-linear and multidimensional process. Research suggests that contemporary principals’ leadership cannot be explained through a single leadership model but through a combination of practices entailed in various areas of leadership. For instance, the European Union funded the Leadership Improvement for Student Achievement project which showed that the instructional and entrepreneurial leadership styles are two of the most important underlying dimensions of successful school leadership (Pashiardis and Brauckmann, 2009; Brauckmann and Pashiardis, 2011). With the instructional style, we mean that the main point of leading for learning is to improve the teaching which takes place at a school. The improvement of teaching functions bi-directionally as it also improves student learning. Successful principals exhibit a great sense of care for students’ learning and set clear goals and high expectations for students, according to the context in which they work (Leithwood et al., 2006; Hallinger and Heck, 1998). For example, a principal in a school with challenging circumstances may set different goals and have different expectations from a principal who works in a school of high socioeconomic status. Indeed, successful principals care personally for their students and support, encourage and celebrate their success. Generally, they create a culture of learning in which everyone has a significant role to play. Throughout the life of the ISSPP, the discussions, as presented above, have provided the impetus for the birth of this special issue of the IJEM where we are exploring successful school leadership and its impact on creating a successful school. All papers in this special issue are presented in alphabetical order based on the first author's surname. They all came to life because of their authors’ involvement in the ISSPP for a number of years.
In the first paper of this special issue titled, “Successful school leadership in Sweden and the US: contexts of social responsibility and individualism” by Betty Merchant, Helene Ärlestig, Encarnacion Garza, Olof Johansson, Elizabeth Murakami-Ramalho and Monika Törnsén, we are presented with a cross-cultural study of schools in Sweden and Texas. The paper examines the cultural contexts of schools in both settings, and the leadership role of principals in creating and sustaining inclusive schools for diverse populations. The data are drawn from two studies, the first involving school visits, classroom observations and interviews conducted in researcher exchanges between both countries. The second source of data comes from the team's participation in the ISSPP. As the authors inform us, the seven themes that emerged from this study, were manifested in ways that reflected the differing philosophies of each country: engagement and pride, high expectations, student autonomy, early student learning and development, teamwork, diversity and integration and international focus on academic rankings. The authors conclude that the creation of inclusive schools in a diverse context requires that principals maintain a focus on academic accountability while also working consciously to address social and civic issues. The paper provides valuable insights into how national philosophies are reflected in the ways school systems respond to diversity within two countries that differ substantially in their relative emphases on individualism and socialism.
The next paper in this issue, titled, “‘Democratic’ collaboration for school turnaround in Southern Arizona”, by Jeffrey V. Bennett, examines the democratic nature of collaboration and related principal influences in one successful southern Arizona elementary school in a changing demographic and border context in the US southwest and where the principal did not share the same ethnic identity/cultural background. As the author informs us, this case study draws upon a secondary analysis of existing qualitative data from one urban elementary school as part of a larger multi-case study. Participants included the principal, assistant principal, teachers and parents. The study's major findings revealed limitations in democratic, collaborative processes associated with school turnaround on account of principal pressure for compliance with personal agendas and packaged curricular reform expectations. Furthermore, the study tells us that top-down managerial practices sacrificed inclusion of stakeholders, community relationship building and room for more authentic democratic grassroots innovation.
The next paper in this issue, titled, “The construction of a public face as a school principal” by Jorunn Moller, has as its main goal to examine how successful school leaders in Norway frame their public identity and how their narratives may be understood in relation to different discourses on leadership. The author combines analyses of public discourses on school leadership with findings based on the ISSPP, in order to analyse the school principal's construction of a public face. The study demonstrates how the public identity and face of a school principal is multiple, subjectively constructed and intersects with public discourses. Moreover, it highlights why principals need greater capability to lead their schools in a dynamic context. A striking feature was the principals’ commitment to make a difference for the kids and their hard work within the system to balance all of the demands placed on their shoulders in order to ensure more equitable learning environments for all students. Furthermore, as the author concludes, the study indicates the importance of principals being reflexive about their own positions. There is a need to locate personal experience within wider relations of power. The creation of educational biographies may serve as an approach to helping principals understand how and why they learned in the past and what motivates them to pursue new educational opportunities.
In the next paper titled, “Educational leadership in a competitive state: a contradiction in terms?”, Lejf Moos informs us that the purpose of the study is to explore how important the choice of a theoretical perspective is on the analyses of empirical data from a Danish case study point of view. The empirical bases for the analyses are qualitative, longitudinal case studies of school leadership, again within the ISSPP. As the author stresses, this paper discusses and compares analyses from two analytical perspectives. The first is a welfare state perspective, which includes education for democracy and social justice. The second perspective is a competitive state perspective. Here the educational focus is on educating for employability in a labour market. Some of the findings inform us that school leaders are seen to comply with most of the demands of the competitive state, such as demands for negotiations and effectiveness. At the same time, leaders also intended to lead schools and education for democracy and social justice.
The next paper titled, “Intrapersonal factors in sustaining New Zealand school leadership success” is written by Ross Notman, who informs us that the purpose of this paper is to share New Zealand findings from the ISSPP which relate to intrapersonal dimensions of leadership that promote principals’ sustained success over time. He also used a multi-site case study methodology to describe the on-going success of ten educational leaders, using ISSPP qualitative protocols for data gathering and cross-case inductive analysis. Some of the findings identified the following influential intrapersonal factors that impacted positively on principals’ leadership behaviours over time: their physical, mental and intellectual well-being; their levels of resiliency; and critical self-reflection. The author concludes by stressing the fact that, in light of these research findings, it can be argued that these intrapersonal factors of a successful principalship are optimised when supported by an external agent.
The final paper included in this special issue, titled “Successful secondary principalship in Cyprus: what have ‘Thucydides’ and ‘Plato’ revealed to us?” by Petros Pashiardis, Antonios Kafa and Christiana Marmara, inform us that this paper seeks to provide an insight into successful secondary school principals in Cyprus focusing on identifying their actions and behaviours through the adoption of a systemic view of the quality of leadership in school organisations from multiple stakeholders (i.e. self, parents, students and teachers). As the authors mention, this paper is the sequel to another paper on successful principalship which was written about successful primary school principals in Cyprus. Again, a multi-case study methodology was followed where data were gathered from a wide range of school stakeholders employing a common, semi-structured interview protocol developed specifically for the ISSPP which was translated in Greek and adopted to the Cyprus’ educational context. In their findings, the authors argue that the principals exhibit behaviours and actions which can be grouped within four domains as follows: first, successful principals develop external relations; second, successful principals have a clear vision; third, successful principals create a collaborative learning and instructional environment; and fourth, successful principals have a sense of shared ownership and passionate commitment.Guest editorial
Note from the editor of IJEM, Brian Roberts I am very grateful as editor of IJEM to Prof. Pashiardis for preparing this special issue on International and comparative studies. He has brought together some very good papers from authors who are expert in their field. Given the success of the previous special issue which Petros guest edited I am confident that these papers will feature again on the list of papers considered for the Best Paper award. Once again my thanks to the guest editor and the authors for their significant efforts.
Brauckmann, S. and Pashiardis, P. (2011), “A validation study of the leadership styles of a holistic leadership theoretical framework”, International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 11-32
Day, C., Harris, A., Hadfield, M., Tolley, H. and Beresford, J. (2000), Leading Schools in Times of Change, Open University Press, Buckingham
Hallinger, P. and Heck, R.H. (1998), “Exploring the principal's contribution to school effectiveness: 1980-1995”, School effectiveness and School Improvement, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 157-91
Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., Harris, A. and Hopkins, D. (2006), Seven Strong Claims About Successful School Leadership, National College for School Leadership, Nottingham
Pashiardis, P. and Brauckmann, S. (2009), “From PISA to LISA: searching for the right leadership cocktail mix across Europe”, paper presented at the Cyprus Educational Administration Society Conference, The Leader of the 21st century School, Nicosia, December