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JELPP – Volume 30, Issue 1 (Jun 2015)

Multiple hues: New Zealand school leaders’ perceptions of social justice

Michele Morrison1, Rachel McNaea, and Christopher M. Branson2
1University of Waikato, New Zealand; 2Australian Catholic University, Australia

Abstract

Social justice is a fluid and contested notion. In the absence of a nationally accepted definition of, and commitment to, social justice, New Zealand school leaders and their communities must interpret the nature and substance of this phenomenon. This article examines the perspectives of eight secondary principals who participated in the International School Leadership Development Network’s (ISLDN) study on leadership for social justice. Whilst not explicitly theorized as such, participant perspectives of social justice reveal distributive, cultural and associational dimensions. These notions are grounded in, and shaped by, seminal experiences of social justice and injustice, both personal and vicarious. They reflect the amorphous and tentative nature of school leaders’ social justice conceptions, and a clarion call for a wider professional conversation.

Keywords

Social justice; equity; distributive justice; cultural justice; associational justice; school leadership; Aotearoa

E rua taha o te awa: There are two sides to the river… Navigating ‘social justice’ as an indigenous educator in non-indigenous tertiary education

David McLeod
University of Waikato, New Zealand

Abstract

Providing a very different perspective on social justice, this narrative explores and discusses the inherent social justice tensions of being a Māori educator (indigenous to Aotearoa New Zealand) within a mainstream nonindigenous higher education institution in New Zealand. Here the social justice tension is not so much about how
to help others but how to correlate widely accepted professional standards and practices with competing personal cultural sensitivities and insights. Specifically, this article describes four of my inner tensions as associated with issues around the Treaty of Waitangi, the principle of cultural diversity, the moral purpose of New Zealand education, and the inherent cultural dilemmas within leadership as a Māori educator. A key outcome of this discussion is the perception of tokenism and resistance in the bicultural preparation of our future New Zealand primary school teachers. Hence, this article seeks to provide my Māori worldview perspective for achieving a more socially just New Zealand society by better preparing our future teachers to meet this challenge.

Keywords

Māori worldview; cultural diversity; inclusion; teacher preparation; educational leadership; biculturalism

The importance of safe space and student voice in schools that serve minoritized learners

Katherine Cumings Mansfield
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA

Abstract

This article is based on an ethnography conducted over a six year period that used participant observation, photography, focus groups, and interviews to discover and describe the emergent school culture and the lived experiences of female secondary students in an all-girls college preparatory school. This article shares the story of a group of women educators who created a novel school culture, and the female students who meet them there, to disrupt and transform the dailiness of sexism, racism, and classism. Through a commitment to building a supportive school culture that includes developing robust relationships and forefronting the voices of women,
this community of learners is working in a very socially just way so as to confront the past and interrupt the present, and revolutionize future trajectories of historically minoritized peoples.

Keywords

Safe space; student voice; gender, race/ethnicity; social class; leadership for social justice; urban school reform; single-sex schooling; diaspora

Dialogue as socially just communication

Jeremy Kedian
University of Waikato, New Zealand

Abstract

Today’s school leaders seemingly face an ever-increasing array of competing demands and challenges. They are expected to be innovative, transformational and expert while, at the same time, sharing many of the leadership processes, acting in ways that are ethical and socially just, and being highly consultative (Senge, 1994; Stoll, Fink, & Earl, 2003; West-Burnham & Coates, 2006). Together, these expectations place the building of effective interpersonal relationships at the heart of leadership and, thereby, raise the primacy of pervasive communication as an essential aspect of leadership. Thus, this article focuses on dialogue as a form of communication befitting the requirements of contemporary school leadership. It argues that dialogue contributes to a form of communal professionalism in which there is a reduction in barriers between school principals, other leaders, teaching staff, parents in schools, and students. It is in this respect, it is argued, that dialogue is able to automatically promote school leadership practices that effectively address equality and social justice concerns.

Keywords

Social justice; dialogue; communication for social justice; communication coaching and mentoring; communication for learning; effective communication for leading/leadership

Shifting leadership out of the backyard: Expanding opportunities for women leading in higher education in the Solomon Islands

Susanne Maezama
University of Waikato, New Zealand

Abstract

In the Solomon Islands, the paucity of women represented in educational leadership positions is an issue of social justice. This is an area of concern as, although women experience opportunities to practise leadership in a range of community contexts, their access to leadership in the field of education is restricted by a number of social and cultural discourses that marginalize women leaders. This qualitative research investigated the leadership experiences of ten women leaders located in one cultural context, the unique island of Santa Isabel in the Solomon Islands. Semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions were engaged to explore women’s
leadership perceptions and experiences and how these ideas were realized in the way they practised leadership. Findings indicated that women’s perceptions of, and participation in, leadership was immersed in a cultural context which was founded on a belief of matrilineal leadership culture providing opportunities for women to have power and respect in community contexts but not necessarily organizational contexts. However, the findings also illustrated the challenges met by these women when they sought to extend their leadership practices beyond the home and their close communities, into organizations. Although a complex concept to negotiate, extending the cultural discourses of matrilineal leadership into educational leadership contexts may provide an alternative and supporting mechanism to enhance the representation of women in formal educational leadership positions in the Solomon Islands.

Keywords

Women’s leadership; educational leadership; matrilineal culture; Solomon Islands; Santa Isabel; community leadership; belief; practice; Melanesia; higher education, embodiment

Leading for social justice in Ghanaian secondary schools

Jill Sperandio and Joyce Wilson-Tagoe
Lehigh University, PA, USA and University of Education, Winneba, Ghana

Abstract

This article describes a study undertaken to examine what social justice leadership looks like and accomplishes when practiced by three women heads of school in the West African county of Ghana. Definitions of social justice and social justice leadership abound and range from the all-encompassing to the tightly constrained
(Berman, 2011; Cribb & Gerwirtz, 2003; Larson & Murtadha, 2002; North, 2008; Theoharis, 2007, 2009). However, this study seeks to examine the leadership responses of self-identifying or peer-identified school leaders for social justice to the unique challenges of a national school system in a developing country. The study assumes that personal definitions of social justice leadership, shaped by the cultural understandings of the study participants interacting with their life and professional experiences, will influence the approach of school leaders to providing for their students. The differences and similarities in their understanding of social justice, and the leadership practices they employ, will reflect the complexity of the interactions amongst national and school contexts, individual leadership identity, and the socially constructed understandings and practices that emerge to solve specific social justice issues in each unique school environment (Bogotch, 2002).

Keywords

Social justice; Ghana; female school leaders; principals; women’s educational leadership

Researching social justice for students with special educational needs

Rose Symes
Arohena Primary School, New Zealand

Abstract

Following international trends, and research evidence from New Zealand, England and the USA, it is likely that there will be an exponential increase in the number of students with special educational needs (SEN) enrolling in New Zealand schools in the ensuing years. Furthermore, the face of special needs is changing such that what is meant by the term, ‘special needs’, appears to be highly contestable and somewhat elusive. Although international literature uses the term ‘special needs’ unproblematically, what is now considered to be special needs appears far more complicated. Research by Graham-Matheson (2012a), Richards (2012) and Hall (1997) shows that the term ‘special needs’ leads to preconceptions which often ignore contextual issues. This can exacerbate the learning difficulties of students with special educational needs because it tends to support inappropriate leadership practices, ineffective teaching techniques, and insufficient resourcing in the context of these particular students. While education is considered to be a moral enterprise, the field of special education is arguably wrought with ethical dilemmas and moral problems, especially when educators are called upon to advocate for children with disabilities who often comprise a minority group within a school community (Fiedler & VanHaren, 2009; Hallett & Hallett, 2012). This article elaborates upon these perspectives so as to highlight the seriousness of this issue and, hence, to stress the need for its implications upon socially just school leadership practices in New Zealand to be far more thoroughly explored.

Keywords

Special needs; social justice; moral purpose; ethics; equity

When the walls have fallen: Socially just leadership in post-traumatic times

J. Tim Goddard
University of Prince Edward Island

Abstract

Although educational researchers and theorists accept that there is a degree of ambiguity and uncertainty endemic to organizational life, school leaders in democratic countries tend to address issues through the use of strategies structured to take place within a stable environment. However, many would argue that such stability is a false perception. Traumatic events can occur at any time and at any place. Every country might one day find itself having to cope with the after-effects of colonialism, conquest, conflict or catastrophe. This article describes the impact of traumatic events upon the decision-making processes of school leaders. Specifically, it describes the ways in which personal value systems influence how school leaders attend to appropriate, diligent and socially just responsibilities following a traumatic event. The purpose of this article is to identify and examine possible future strategies for a socially just school leader when confronted with an unanticipated and demanding environment.

Keywords

Socially just leadership; post-catastrophe education; post-conflict continuum; Organizational Post-Traumatic Disorder

Tui tui tuituia - Weaving together: What can be generalized from these articles?

Christopher M. Branson1, Michele Morrison2 and Rachel McNae2
1Australian Catholic University, Australia; 2University of Waikato, New Zealand

Abstract

As has been often acknowledged amid the articles presented in this JELPP special issue, the impetus for its focus on leadership for social justice arose out of the editors’ involvement in the international research project exploring the same phenomenon. One of the key questions guiding this particular international research project is: How can an international and comparative research enhance our understanding of what social justice leadership means in different national contexts? To date, this research project has attracted the involvement of some 36 universities across 25 different countries. Indeed, there are research sites in each and every continent. It seems that the issue of social justice, and how it can be proclaimed and established through suitable leadership, has become a global concern. Arguably, there is growing scepticism about the panacean social benefits of neo-liberal economic policies. Despite the economic influence of such policies for more than 20 years, people are not witnessing the heralded social benefits of a free market. Quite the contrary, it seems that the rich are getting richer and more people are becoming disadvantaged (OECD, 2011). Now it seems that rather than leaving socially just outcomes to the insentient vagaries of national economic policies, a significant number of people around the world are striving to reclaim this perceived essential human responsibility. Thus, a laudable aim of this international research project is, first, to understand what constitutes leadership for social justice and then, provided there are discernible universal norms and principles, propose ways in which such leadership can be nurtured and enhanced. Surely any means for broadening and hastening the spread of leadership for social justice is a worthwhile achievement.