Key factors in early headship development in the Scottish secondary school sector: an analytical autoethnography

Purdie, Jacqueline (2014) Key factors in early headship development in the Scottish secondary school sector: an analytical autoethnography. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This professional doctorate research focuses on the early headship experience of a small group of female secondary school head teachers in Scotland. A key feature of the research is that the researcher is a head teacher and her narrative of headship is considered in an analytical autoethnographic approach, alongside the experiences of the sample group of head teachers. The autoethnography is included, as an appendix, as it provided a major data source, which was considered within the context of the literature. This in turn provided a framework that allowed the generation of areas for exploration in open-ended interviews with the other head teachers. This is an important feature of the research as it allowed the head teachers to co-construct the areas of investigation and expand on the topics explored, which permitted the surfacing of key challenges in early headship allowing the participants to make explicit how they felt and how they coped with these challenges.

The research focuses on the interface of professional socialisation and the development of professional identity, especially in the reaction to specific ‘crisis’ situations in the early days of headship. Individual career trajectories on the journey to headship have also been considered. The complexity of the conceptual framework of career trajectories, socialisation and identity, lies in the interaction of these areas and with individual responses to the varying factors which influence them, particularly individual differences relating to specific school contexts as well as to the different personalities of head teachers. A conceptual framework for head teacher development was developed, suggesting that head teacher preparation should extend into the first year of appointment.

Head teacher development can therefore be viewed in two phases: pre and post appointment. The head teacher is shaped by her individual career trajectory and personal and professional socialisation prior to taking up post, all within a specific policy context. Having been appointed, her professional identity is shaped by these aspects as well as her conception of the role and her values and relationships. Her reaction to and reflection on a crisis situation will subsequently impact on her professional identity.

By considering individual experiences of early headship, this study has revealed:

• The influence of role models and previous SMT experience for head teachers;
• The emotional intensity and all-consuming nature of the job, particularly in the early days in post;
• The inevitability of an early critical incident;
• The impact of legacy issues on head teachers’ early experiences;
• The role of emotional intelligence in headship, in particular the need for self-awareness, resilience and finely tuned interpersonal skills;
• The importance of self-reflection in successfully building head teacher identity;
• The need of support from head teacher colleagues.

Of particular importance has been the emergence of the inevitability that there will be a crisis situation during the early years of headship, the handling of which will impact on the head teacher’s developing identity, as well as the staff’s perception of the new head teacher, both of which are intertwined.

The back-drop to the research was the influence of national policies and the impact of the performativity and accountability agenda on the role of head teacher, as well as the international challenges of recruitment and retention of head teachers. By a detailed consideration of early headship experiences, it will contribute to the discussion on recruitment and retention, in that if new head teachers are more prepared and supported in post others may be encouraged to apply.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: headship preparation, analytical autoethnography, early headship experience, principal preparation, professional socialisation, organisational socialisation
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Professional Learning and Leadership
Supervisor's Name: Forde, Professor Christine
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Ms Jacqueline Purdie
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5718
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2014 11:12
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2014 11:31

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