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Learning to lead in the 'year of the firsts' : a study of employer led mentoring for new school leaders in Scotland.

Brydson, Gillian (2011) Learning to lead in the 'year of the firsts' : a study of employer led mentoring for new school leaders in Scotland. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The study explores the process and outcome of a mentoring programme for newly appointed school leaders in a Scottish Case Study Local Authority (CSLA). This research contributes to professional knowledge and practice in school leadership as it takes an employer perspective and offers a conceptualisation of post-appointment mentoring in Scotland. This study is contextualised by two conflicting accepted realities which are reflected at a local, national and international level. Firstly, that it is widely accepted that school leadership makes a difference and secondly, due to the reported challenges of the job, the recruitment and retention of school leaders has attained crisis status in some areas. Accepting that it is important to prepare people for school leadership roles, the focus of this thesis turns to supporting teachers in the transition to headship. Mentoring is a frequently used approach in the development of school leaders but there is lack of agreement on the concept of mentoring and empirical evidence demonstrating the benefit of mentoring is inconsistent. A conceptual framework of socialisation and development is used to explore mentoring in this study. Forty-two interviews were undertaken with newly appointed headteachers and depute headteachers and their mentors with the aim to establish whether there was a consistent interpretation or implementation of the mentoring policy and whether the claims about anticipated outcomes were substantiated. Assumptions about the mentoring policy in the CSLA were tested in order to build understanding and make meaning about how mentoring worked in practice. This research suggests that experiences of formal employer-led mentoring, as operating in the CSLA, were mainly positive and valued by both mentors and mentees. Findings indicated that mentoring supported self-confidence, wellbeing, independence and effectiveness in the novice school leader, particularly in relation to leading and managing people. The policy assumptions that experienced headteachers would agree to mentor others because there were professional gains for them, and that mentoring offered something extra to other forms of leadership and management support, were supported by the findings of this study. However this research also found that there was a lack of shared understanding over the purpose of mentoring with differing views on the importance of psychosocial or career related functions. Data indicated there were differences in how primary and secondary school dyads enacted the mentoring relationship. This thesis explores the motivations for mentoring, the characteristics that make a good mentor and the place of mentoring compared to other forms of leadership preparation and support. The findings of this study indicate that mentoring in the CSLA is understood both as a form of psychosocial support and as context specific training which prepares the mentee for the role of headteacher as it exists now and socialises them into that view. A conceptualisation of mentoring as a form of initiation which supports the prevailing orthodoxy is challenged in this thesis. It is proposed that this work progresses knowledge about mentoring as it offers two models: a chronological model to explain how mentoring relationships can evolve and a model to explore the learning that takes place. Each model provides a schematic which can be challenged and adapted to help share understandings of mentoring, an umbrella term which has morphed over the centuries from Greek myth to urban mythology in the corporate human resource world. The thesis highlights tensions and ambiguities for the local education authority as it attempts to meet its legal duty for educational provision while interpreting national policy, employing teachers and meeting Government‘s expectations for schools. This study identifies the complexity over the role of the employer in managing a formal strategy which is predicated on a personal relationship; recommendations are offered which may be of significance to those with an interest in school leadership development and organisational mentoring. This research set out to advance practice in managing a real-world leadership problem. This thesis proposes that leadership development does matter in Scotland today; the scale of the task to make our public services fit–for-purpose and fit-for-purse is considerable. Tomorrow‘s leaders should be prepared for this new landscape with vision and pragmatism.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Education, Leadership, Mentoring, Headteachers, Leadership Development, Public Service
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: McMahon, Dr. Margery
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Ms G Brydson
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2660
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 May 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:58
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2660

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