JELPP – Volume 31, Issue 2 (Dec 2016)

Performativity in an era of mandated change: New Zealand teachers tell it as it is

Brenda Service
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand


The premise of performativity is that through established targets, evaluation and accountability mechanisms, governments or organisational leaders can expect effective and often ambitious change within an organisation. However, this article challenges such assumptions, and suggests a different narrative by presenting the findings of a study which investigated the significance of pre-determined change in a mandated new curriculum for New Zealand secondary school teachers. Over a two-year period involving semi-structured interviews with twelve secondary school teachers across three schools, observations of the classroom practice, and document analysis, this research shows that the pressures of a performative environment determined leadership and teacher priorities and ironically, became the barrier for authentic change. As the findings show the teachers adhered to the philosophy of the new curriculum, yet appeared reluctant to change their practice. These teachers’ espoused beliefs were incongruent with their practice, and this article offers an insight into this complex context.


Educational change; performativity; resistance; managed professionals

Decision making in senior secondary school curriculum innovation

Lee Austin1 and Louise Starkey2
1Wakatipu High School, 2Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand


New Zealand has a flexible curriculum and assessment structure that enables unique courses to be offered in senior secondary schools. Five medium sized secondary schools that have developed unique courses were examined using a socio-material methodology to explore who was involved in the development and what considerations guided the decision making process. The principal and course developers from each school were interviewed and the data was analysed using Actor-Network Theory. It was found that each unique course was influenced by its specific context. Three conditions were identified across the case studies that enabled the innovative curriculum design: a perceived flexibility in national curriculum and assessment structures, a clear motivation or idea, and a passionate person (or people) to develop and maintain strong relational networks. School leaders can nurture these conditions by clarifying alignment between curriculum innovation, the school’s strategic direction and values of the context, by strengthening the connections across the actors in the network and by encouraging flexible thinking about constraints and possibilities. This study provides an example of the use of Actor-Network Theory to explore curriculum innovation and explores the positioning of the environmental context as an actor within socio-material networks.


NCEA; Actor-Network Theory; curriculum; secondary school; innovation; New Zealand; course design; decision making

Researching and evaluating secondary school leadership in New Zealand: The Educational Leadership Practices Survey

Ross Notman1 and Howard Youngs2
1University of Otago, 2Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand


This research study investigates the use made of the Educational Leadership Practices Survey (ELP) by a sample of New Zealand secondary schools. The paper presents an overview of selected literature on leadership for learning and distributed leadership principles. The study’s methodology and contexts of three case study schools are then outlined, together with findings that reveal variable use of the ELP by school leaders in accordance with each school’s priority development needs. The discussion raises implications for leadership practice in regard to student input into decision making; teachers’ pastoral/academic roles; interpretive support for the ELP; and professional learning for the range of school leaders.


Secondary school leadership; leadership evaluation; school improvement

The characteristics and career trajectories of career assistant / deputy principals in New Zealand secondary schools

Kevin Shore1 and Margaret Walshaw2
1Cullinane College, Whanganui, 2Massey University, New Zealand


This paper focuses on a largely unrecognised group of educational professional leaders. It seeks to develop an understanding of AP/DPs working in New Zealand secondary schools who considered themselves career AP/DPs. The investigation explored the characteristics and career paths of these leaders who view their position as a vocation and terminal career. Based on findings from a nationwide survey, career AP/DPs, when compared with AP/DPs who aspire to full principalship, experienced a serendipitous and much slower career progression, were less educationally qualified, and were less likely to be employed in larger, high decile schools. It was also found that female career AP/DPs made the decision not to seek principalship at a much earlier age than did males. It is suggested that the education system, in general, and principals, in particular, have important roles to play in ensuring that career AP/DPs receive the support necessary to fulfil their career goals.


Principalship; career AP/DPs; career trajectories; secondary school

Procuring advantage in a competitive landscape

Christine Harris
Thorrington School, New Zealand


This article discusses the findings of one aspect of a larger research project which asks “What motivates parents to engage with their children’s schooling?” The New Zealand education system already encompasses and supports private schools, state integrated schools, special character schools, charter schools and public partnership schools along with state schools. This gives parents a myriad of options, and adds to the nimbus of competition and choice within the New Zealand education system. Emerging themes in this section of the research are viewed theoretically through a social capital lens and indicate that middle class parents are active participants in their children’s education for many disparate reasons. This article does not consider the drivers for parents to participate in children's education in other demographics of society, nor does it include the voices of teachers or children. Knowingly or unknowingly the parents in this research seem to have bought into market driven notions of transparency and data and are seeking advantage for their children to quell their own anxiety about their children’s future prospects in a competitive society. The research uses grounded theory methodology to distil emerging themes from within and around open ended focus group interviews with fourteen parents.


Parent engagement; children; middle class; school; competition; advantage; education; neo-liberal

Teachers’ perceptions of social justice and school leadership in Costa Rica and Mexico

Charles Slater1, Gema Lopez Gorosave2, Virginia Cerdas3, Satya Rosabal3, Nancy Torres3, Fernando Briceno3
1California State University Long Beach, California, USA, 2Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, México, 3National University, Costa Rica


This study is part of the International Study of Leadership Development Network (ISLDN) to examine school leaders who are addressing conditions of social injustice. The purpose is to get a better idea of how they conceived of social justice and what actions they took to put those beliefs into practice. This study will focus on two Spanish-speaking countries in the network, Costa Rica and Mexico, by addressing the following questions:

  1. How do teacher leaders make sense of social justice?
  2. What do teachers do to promote social justice?
  3. What factors help and hinder the work of teacher leaders?
  4. How did teachers learn to become social justice leaders?

These teacher leaders shared some common intentions and actions: they believed that education functions as a lever of social mobility, which allows students to achieve better living conditions in the future, but also, will allow them to build a more just world. The main actions that they took were to: a) ensure that students had the minimum resources to learn; b) establish a deep connection with students and their parents; c) model ways to resolve conflicts; d) participate in building a socially just environment.


Teacher leadership; social justice; international; Latin America

Repositioning diagnostic school reviews using appreciative inquiry: A way of eliciting student voice for school improvement

Andrew Bills and David Giles
Flinders University, Australia


Concerned by the lack of student voice in strategic planning and school improvement processes within schools in general, secondary students from the Australian Science and Maths School (ASMS) were invited to participate in conversations about their lived experiences of schooling. Invariably, these conversations evoked affirming and critical discussions from the students in relation to their learning, school culture, dominant pedagogies and other arrangements. The research used techniques from an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) methodology which is underpinned by strength-based and affirmative philosophy and practices. Stories were gathered through semi-structured conversation that occurred in focus groups. The emergent themes became the basis of a discussion with senior leaders responsible for the strategic planning of the school.

A powerful emergent theme was co-constructed around a notion of freedom. The sense of freedom was found within experiences associated with the teacher-student relationship, decision-making, preferred pedagogies, negotiation of curriculum, movement within an open physical environment, and the students' sense of well-being. This powerful theme was subsequently presented to the ASMS Strategic Planning Leadership Committee (SPLC) to promote discussion amongst leadership in terms of generating new understandings about the ‘life’ within the school as this might be sustained and enhanced by the school’s strategic planning agenda.


Student voice; Appreciative Inquiry; organisational development

A study of a head teacher’s perception about her role as an educational leader

Abida Begum
Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development, Pakistan


Understanding a head teacher’s role as an educational leader is a mostly neglected area especially in developing countries including Pakistan. Most of the head teachers perform managerial and administrative roles, and very little time is given to academic leadership, which negatively affects the quality of education in the schools.

I conducted a study to understand a head teacher’s perceived and performed role in a community school located in Karachi. In order to understand the head teacher’s different dimensions of the role a qualitative approach was used. Data was gathered through a variety of methods including interviews, classroom observations, discussions and document analysis to cross-check information for triangulation purpose.

The findings suggest that the head teacher perceived her role as a facilitator, team builder and change agent. She also acted as an instructional leader and a manager. These role dimensions indicate that the head teacher acts as an educational leader by giving professional support to teachers, by enriching curriculum, creating close relationships with community and by creating a collaborative learning environment at school. There seems to be harmony to some extent between the head teacher’s perceived and performed roles.


Educational leadership; school management; perceived roles; performed roles

Transcending the contexts of a rural school in Texas and an urban school in California: A cross-case comparison of principal leadership for student success

Betty J. Alford1 and Pauline M. Sampson2
1Cal Poly Pomona University, USA, 2Stephen F. Austin State University, USA


This study examined elementary high needs schools in California and Texas where leaders strengthened learning within unique contexts but common goals of increasing rigor and support for low-income students. The purpose was to identify the practices that led to improved performance. The schools were purposefully selected as high needs schools whose principals had served for at least three years and engaged in the improvement process.

The researchers used the research protocol developed by the International School Leadership Development Network and High Needs Schools (Baran & Berry, 2014). This had interview protocols for the administrators, faculty, parents, and students. Data sources included interviews with administrators and faculty, on-site observations, and document analysis of campus reports.

Both settings demonstrated a commitment to student learning with leadership that ensured collaborative planning, progress monitoring, use of data, supporting students, staffing decisions, and sustained quality professional development. Specific actions varied, but core practices were similar suggesting that while context influences the specific actions, certain areas of focus transcend different contexts. This crosscase comparison affirmed that school improvement is a long-term commitment to achieving learning for all. Through targeted, meaningful professional development with follow-up and ethical principal leadership, positive learning goals were achieved. A sustained focus with emphasis on caring, support,
and engagement of all stakeholders characterized leadership in both the rural and urban settings.


Leadership for learning; high need schools; equity; excellence