Breakout Session 6 - 17th September at 2:00 - 2:40

The Principal as a Leader of Learning: The case of Secondary Schools in Fiji

Presenter/s: Mohini Devi, Dr Venesser Fernandes
Type: Research paper
Keywords: Leadership, leadership for learning, leadership training and development
Room: Auaha Hīhī

Abstract

This study focused on exploring how principals demonstrate leadership for learning in secondary schools in Fiji. The aim of this study is to improve the leadership capacity of school heads which will directly impact the quality of learning for Fijian secondary students. The main research question that guided this study was to what extent principals demonstrate leadership for learning in secondary schools in Fiji. Data was collected using a multi-case studies design with a mixed-method approach through semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis, and questionnaires. The participants were four principals, four vice principals, four heads of department, and one hundred and forty-seven teachers in four case study schools in the four divisions namely: Central, Northern, Western, and Eastern in Fiji. Data were analysed using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Thematic analysis was used to analyse data from the semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis and the data from the questionnaires were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) software. The study concludes that the extent to which leadership for learning is practiced by the secondary school principals is similar in all four case study schools in Fiji.

This study is an important initiative because the findings can assist principals in becoming more effective leaders of learning in secondary schools. The findings indicate that focus needs to be given to ongoing professional learning and development for school principals; streamlining the principal appointment process; developing a contextualised principal preparation programme; developing short-term leadership and management training programmes for school leaders, and empowering principal voice through decentralized principal roles. The recommendations from this study will contribute to the growing body of research on principals’ leadership as leaders of learning within Pacific island nations through an emerging conceptual framework on school leadership preparation developed through this study. The study has implications for localised social change that may lead to more relevant educational policy and practices focused on improving the quality of teaching and learning and the educational environment in Fiji and other neighbouring Pacific Island countries.

Since this is small-scale research that explored the extent to which principals demonstrate leadership for learning in secondary schools in Fiji, more similar studies using Lunenburg and Irby’s (2006) five dimensions are required to further validate the findings of this study. These studies can be conducted in the South Pacific region, including Fiji.

The session addresses all the three themes fairly well. Leadership requires skills and knowledge relevant to lead and make successful organisations. Leaders should be able to sustain success of individual students by practicing effective leadership. Leaders at all levels of their career must continue to professionally develop so that he/she is current with their practice.

The session will also have time for questions, answers and discussion around the presentation.

Biography

Mohini Devi, Dr Venesser Fernandes

Dr. Mohini Devi is a Lecturer in Education at the University of Fiji, Suva Campus. She taught in various secondary schools in Fiji before joining the University of Fiji in 2012. She also served in various leadership positions such as the Head of Department Languages, Assistant Principal, and Vice Principal in the schools that she has taught. Currently, she coordinates Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Leadership course and Master of Teaching courses at the University. Further to this, she coordinated the teacher training programme namely, Graduate Diploma in Teaching. Dr. Devi has also been endowed with the responsibility of coordinated the Suva Campus operations from 2013 to early 2019. Her research interest lies in the area of educational leadership. She has a vast teaching and learning experience and brings with her years of knowledge and expertise in issues affecting schools in the Pacific Islands mainly, Fiji, educational leadership, teacher education, and teaching and learning.
Dr Venesser Fernandes works as an Educational Leadership Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Australia. Her areas of teaching and research interest include Leadership and Organisational Development Studies; School Leadership; School Accountability and Improvement Systems; Data-Driven Decision-making Processes; Evidence-based School Improvement Systems; Change Management Systems; Quality Management Systems; Effects of Globalisation; and Social Justice Issues in Education. Dr Fernandes is currently involved in a Principal Preparation Program running in partnership with Monash University, the Department of Education & Training, Victoria and Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership. This programme focuses on the leadership development of aspiring principals within state schools around Victoria, Australia. She has previously worked as a School Reviewer for the Department of Education & Training, Victoria and actively researches in this space. Dr Fernandes works as an educational consultant with schools and school systems focusing on whole school continuous improvement systems. She is currently
engaged in qualitative case-study research within schools that investigates the effectiveness of data-informed decision-making processes being used in Victoria across public, independent and Catholic school systems and focuses upon the leadership function that facilitates these processes.