A Story of Headship

Shanks, Rehana Louise (2024) A Story of Headship. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This Doctorate of Education (EdD) Dissertation maps and considers my personal story of Headship. To tell that story, I use autoethnography to scaffold my research journey as a serving Headteacher undertaking an EdD. In this story of Headship, I share 'my way of being and knowing about the world' (Thomson, 2009, p. 1) in two Headships spanning a decade in Scotland and Hong Kong.

The key learning from my Dissertation is the importance of theory to practice and vice versa over time. The Dissertation aims to reflect the process of taking the time to understand myself as an individual keen to serve and to think freely. While this may sound straightforward, it is not. It is challenging to unpack the self, particularly when you wear many hats, in my case those of a mother, partner, Headteacher, colleague and friend. I explore feeling vulnerable, with a particular understanding of vulnerability following Nusbaum (2004) in all areas of my life, but mainly in the context of collaboration with other leaders. I reflect on feeling outside of the loop even when that position was central to my collaborative work and my leading from within the system.

There are uncomfortable and painful awakenings for me as I journey through my own embedded narratives and draw on theory and autoethnographic methods to create clarity. I reflexively unpack my identity and behaviours in the spaces in which I operate, using Nussbaum's (2011) Capabilities Approach to consider my experiences, including the possible impact of those on others. To structure my telling of this journey and recount my reflections, I use a framework of four Elements - Learning, Methodology, Theory, and Understandings - in each Chapter except in the initial and the final Chapters. This framework is constructed using the central ideas of the Capabilities Approach and is designed to help me answer the question: ‘What can I do and be?’ (Nussbaum, 2011, p. 18) and explicitly to address my research question: ‘What am I able to do and be as a Headteacher?’. Simultaneously, the framework is deployed to ensure the 'Combined Capabilities' (Nussbaum, 2011, p. 21), explained in the initial Chapter, are addressed for me as an individual aspiring to ‘educational growth’ following Dearden (1968, p. 25, 1972, pp. 65-84). The concept of educational growth, according to Dearden's perspective, emphasises the importance of personal development through education (Dearden, 1968, p. 25). Dearden views growth as a symbolic image that holds significant meaning and emotional appeal (Dearden, 1968, p. 25). Dearden’s idea of growth is distinct from the idea of moulding, as it highlights the individual's ability to determine their own definition of growth and create their own unique synthesis (Dearden, 1968, p. 25). I relate growth to Nussbaum's concept of flourishing (Nussbaum, 2004, p. 19) and connect it to my own personal development. I see educational growth as the route towards the ultimate outcome of achieving my potential. Therefore both flourishing and growth are fundamental in addressing the question of ‘What can I do and be?’ (Nussbaum, 2011, p. 18), through striving to understand my own educational growth and potential to flourish as a school leader using an autoethnographic methodology.

My educational growth and ‘decisional capital’ (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012, p. 5) as a serving Headteacher are open for observation as part of the critical reflexive process of unpacking my Headships. The Headship journey itself is constructed according to three stages of my personal development and is both chronological and iterative. For each stage of my development, I draw on a particular theoretical influence related to the EdD process and stages of learning. For Stage One, 2013-2016, I draw mainly on Stephen Brookfield's (2005) four lenses of critical reflection. For Stage Two, 2016-2019, I draw mainly on Martha Nussbaum’s (2011) Capability Theory and her ten central Capabilities (pp. 32-34). Finally, for Stage Three, 2019-2023, I draw on Carolyn Ellis’ (2004) autoethnographic research method. The Dissertation is woven together using theory and method to unpack and support me as I share and seek to make sense of my journey of Headship. I conclude my story by considering other Headteacher studies and comparing these with my own narrative and considering questions arising from Southworth (1995, p. 219) around Headteacher maturation and Brighthouse and Woods’ (1999) three phases of Headship development. I ground my findings in the importance of context, agency and process, my Capabilities journey, and the critical influence of the EdD as a professional learning opportunity for Headteacher educational growth.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from BELMAS in the Dissertation stage.
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Hedge, Professor Nicki and Enslin, Professor Penny
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84192
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2024 09:57
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2024 10:01
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84192
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/84192

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