Democratic Leadership in Education
Publication Year: 2005
'The theory and practice of democracy and democratic leadership have implications for how we understand what ought to be counted as 'improving schools' In this book Woods focuses on the idea of democratic leadership, examining what is meant by democratic leadership, what forms it can take, and how it is relevant to school education and learning. He shows how the ideals and theories of democratic leadership can translate into practice, and sets out some of the challenges that democratic leadership poses in the context of contemporary education . Democratic Leadership in Education challenges conventional approaches to leadership and many of the assumptions inherent in educational policy. It is about understanding and exploring both the idea of democratic leadership and its practical relevance through examples drawn from practice and ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Meanings of Democratic Leadership
- Chapter 2: A Developmental Conception of Democratic Practice
- Chapter 3: Models of Leadership
- Chapter 4: Why Democratic Leadership?
- Chapter 5: An Open Approach to Knowledge
- Chapter 6: Links to Learning
- Chapter 7: Obstacles and Challenges
- Chapter 8: Free Space and Firm Framing
- Chapter 9: Capabilities and Skills for Democratic Leadership
- Chapter 10: Complexities and Demands of Practice
- Chapter 11: Dualities of Democratic Leadership
Biographical Details[Page ii]
Philip Woods is Professor of Applied Research in Education, in the Centre for Research in Education and Democracy, University of the West of England, Bristol. He has written extensively on educational policy, leadership and governance, as well as exploring issues of creative social action and governance in sociological theory. Current research includes investigation of diversity and collaboration amongst schools (including Steiner schools as an alternative form of education), distributed and democratic leadership, and the relationship and interaction of private sector entrepreneurialism and public service ethos and values in the drive to modernise leadership in education.
© Philip A. Woods 2005
First published 2005
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For Glenys[Page vi]
Figures and Tables[Page viii]
- Figure A: Trialectic Framework of Social Dynamics xvii
- Table 1.1: Models of democracy 5
- Table 1.2: Key words and interests-focus of models of democracy 6
- Table 2.1: Principles of developmental democracy 11
- Figure 2.1: Rationalities of a developmental conception of democratic practice 12
- Figure 2.2: Respective centres of gravity of democracy and social justice 16
- Figure 3.1: Concepts of leadership 20
- Figure 3.2: Components of ethically transforming leadership (extract from G.J. Woods, 2003) 25
- Figure 4.1: Comparative profiles of distributed and democratic leadership (showing democratic principles) (adapted from P.A. Woods, 2004) 34
- Figure 4.2: Challenges of modernity 35
- Table 5.1: Perspectives on knowledge 48
- Figure 5.1: Stages of teaching (extract from MacBeath, 2004: 43–4) 52
- Figure 6.1: Framing of democratic pedagogy 64
- Figure 6.2: Social justice and framing of democratic pedagogy 65
- Figure 7.1: Obstacles and challenges to democratic leadership 73
- Table 7.1: Forms of pseudo-participation (from Ball, 1987: Table 5.1, p. 124) 83
- Figure 8.1: Creating and sustaining democratic leadership – structural characteristics 104
- Figure 9.1: Creating and sustaining democratic leadership – capabilities, skills and attitudes 115
- Figure 10.1: Creating and sustaining democratic leadership – key elements of practical engagement 129
- Figure 11.1: Principal aims of democratic leadership 131
- Figure 11.2: Dualities of democratic leadership 139
This work emerges from years of study and exploration of concerns and issues close to my heart – encouraged, stimulated and challenged by a wide variety of colleagues and friends. To name all of these would be impossible. I would like to acknowledge the support of the Centre for Research in Democracy and Education in the University of the West of England's Faculty of Education, which has enabled me to concentrate on the theme of democratic leadership – particularly Saville Kushner, Director of the Centre, and Ron Ritchie, Dean. Particular thanks are due to Peter Gronn who is a gem of a colleague; for his support and valued friendship, his humour and intellectual rigour, and for the trenchant, insightful and constructive comments he gave on drafts of the manuscript which helped to improve the ideas I have struggled to express. This book would not have come to fruition without my colleague and partner, Glenys Woods. I have benefited from her loving support and inspiration, which have been crucial to the book's development, and her insight into an elevated dimension of the human spirit which is vital in understanding the ideals of democracy and democratic leadership. Last but not least, thanks are due to Stephen and Elizabeth, my son and daughter, for their forbearance, encouragement and understanding throughout the writing of this book.
The author and publisher are grateful for permission to reproduce the following:
Figure 4.1 and the quote on p. 132, Woods, P.A. (2004) ‘Democratic leadership: Drawing distinctions with distributed leadership’, International Journal of Leadership in Education, vol 7: 1, pp. 3–26, http://www.tandf.co.uk
Figure 5.1, MacBeath, J. and Moos, L. (2004) Democratic Learning: The Challenge to School Effectiveness, RoutledgeFalmer, London.
Table 7.1, Ball, S.J. (1987) The Micro-Politics of the School, Metheun, London.[Page x]
It appears that no modern concept has been more powerfully received in the consciousness of those concerned with school reform and improvement than leadership. The importance of leadership in generating and sustaining school development and change has been highlighted and reinforced in the contemporary literature (Fullan 2001; Day and Harris 2003). Over the last three decades, the sheer volume of writing on the subject is testament to the popularity of the idea despite challenges to the very existence of leadership as a concept. For example, there are writers who argue that the popularity of leadership ‘is no proof of anything’ and that to take an a priori assumption of the existence of leadership is ‘a poor place to begin’ (Lakomski 2005: 3). Others suggest that ‘it seems very difficult to identify any specific relationship, behavioral styles or an integrated coherent set of actions that correspond to or meaningfully can be constructed as leadership as important or intended’ (Alvesson and Sveningsson 2003). Yet despite such criticism leadership remains firmly centre stage in contemporary discussions about organisational change and development.
At this moment the educational leadership field is experiencing a paradigm shift in terms of its current theorising. The traditional view of leadership as that associated with individual role or responsibility is gradually being replaced by alternative leadership theories that extol the virtues of multiple sources of leadership. Contemporary theorising about leadership has moved away from the traditional ‘transactional versus transformational’ divide into a more sophisticated amalgam of theoretical lenses. One of these powerful lenses is distributed leadership which reinforces that leadership is not the preserve of one individual. Implicit within the current discourse about distributed leadership theory is the idea that leadership is something many people are able to exercise and that leadership ‘is not the realm of certain people in certain parts of the organization’ (Ogawa and Bossert 1995: 225). As Lakomski (2005: 57) summarises: ‘the weight of the leadership argument has been re-located from its over reliance on the leader's influence to determining relevant variants of leader influence, to findings substitutes for it and to arguing for distributed leadership practice’.
The ascendancy of distributed leadership has been prompted, in part, by new understandings about the relationship between leadership and organ [Page xii]isational change. Here leadership is seen as a ‘social influence process whereby intentional influence is exerted by one person (or group) over other people or groups to structure the activities and relationships in a group or organization’ (Yukl 1994). The ‘post corporate’ organisation is one in which leadership is not identified with the qualities of an individual but as behaviour that facilitates collective action towards a common goal. There is also a recognition that emerging conceptions of leadership stress the need to enable entrust and empower personnel and that successful organisations depend on multiple sources of leadership.
In short, educational leadership is being redefined and re-routed towards notions of distribution where leadership permeates organisations rather than being confined to particular roles or responsibilities. Here leadership is an organisational characteristic or property that is interactive in design and relational in form and by implication it is widely shared throughout the organisation. However there are a number of questions we need to ask. Firstly, what does distributed leadership look like in practice? Secondly, how do we know it makes a difference? Thirdly, what is the extent of this difference? Simply signing up to the idea of distributed leadership without addressing such fundamental questions would seem ill advised.
Turning to the issue of democratic leadership, the same questions would apply. Is it simply the case that leadership takes on a new meaning when a new word like ‘distributed’ or ‘democratic’ is added? The leadership field is already replete with different labels for leadership and seems to generate new types, forms, definitions of leadership daily. Is there really any substance to these new leadership ideas, do they have any empirical weight and how far do they either reflect or describe actual leadership practice?
In this book Philip Woods turns his attention to issues of democracy and leadership. He has provided an eloquent, intellectually compelling and sophisticated account of a new leadership label – democratic leadership. He argues that the purpose of ‘democratic leadership is to create and help sustain an environment that enables everyone who is deemed a free, creative agent to be part of … inter-linking democratic rationalities’. Furthermore, he argues that democratic leadership has an intimate relationship with social justice insofar that democratic participation is a means of offsetting distributive injustices. His argument is carefully crafted and richly informed by a range of theoretical perspectives. The book is well grounded and challenging, making the case for an intimate connection between democracy and the creative human potential. It is benign creativity, Woods suggests, that underpins the understanding of democratic leadership in this book.
Throughout the book, democracy is anchored in a particular philosophical anthropology; it takes a particular view of what it means to be human and the potential of human creativity. Woods proposes that the aims of democratic leadership are to share power (by dispersing leadership) [Page xiii]share hope (by extending opportunities to realise humanistic potential) and share the fruits of society (through fair distribution of resources and cultural respect). Most of us, I assume would readily sign up to these core aims and endorse much of what Woods proposes as democratic leadership. Understanding how democratic leadership may look and play out in practice is a challenge. Continuing research and development are required to build up the evidence base concerning the conditions that nurture, support and sustain democratic leadership practices and the educational consequences of differing styles and approaches to democratic leadership.
As the leadership field emerges from several decades of being over-shadowed by management and overlooked by policy makers and practitioners, it needs books like this to challenge, confront and inspire. There is much to be considered from reading this book and some would argue much to be contested. Philip Woods has provided a much needed alternative to the instrumental rationality and mechanistic management theories of years gone by. This is a refreshing and engaging book that will, no doubt, prompt further debate and discussion. It is a considerable asset to the educational leadership field.References[Page xiv]2003) ‘The great disappearing act: difficulties in doing “leadership”’, Leadership Quarterly14 (3): 359–81. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1048-9843%2803%2900031-6and (2005) Managing without leadership Towards a theory of Organisational Functioning, London: Elsevier.(1990) ‘An evaluative essay on current conceptions of effective leadership’, European Journal of Work and Organisational Psychology8 (1): 33–48. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/135943299398429(
The impossibility of defining democracy is beside the mark, for though it is indefinable it is understandable, and not only by philosophers but by ordinary people.(Hughes 1951: 12)
The prospects for democratic leadership look promising, at least from a cursory glance at leadership trends. Faith in the idea of the heroic, transformational leader has diminished, though certainly not disappeared. The times favour a shift towards a leadership model ‘which shapes a context in which practice is made public in a collaborative culture and … which is open to challenge, testing and refinement’ (Storey 2004: 33). But this book is a work that signals caution as well as hope.
Caution is justified for at least three reasons. Firstly, the very idea of what comprises democracy is contested. Even before making any attempt to create a more democratic environment there is a danger of being confounded and diverted by the problems of defining it, or of setting out on a journey of change in the name of democracy that looks towards a destination that struggles to be worthy of that title. Secondly, the rich conception of democracy that underpins the exploration of democratic leadership in these pages necessitates an ambition and aspirations that reality will often – in fact, more often than not – fail to live up to. Thirdly, this conception of democracy challenges the dominant economistic relationships and instrumental rationality of contemporary society, and is in turn ‘cabined, cribbed, confined, bound in’1 by these social forces and existing hierarchies. Democracy demands that the world be turned upside down, but worldy powers are resilient and persistent.
Hope arises from the positive view of human nature and potential that is inherent in democratic ideals and practice. It may be difficult to define democracy, or impossible as Hughes suggests at the beginning of this chapter, but the contours and landmarks of its terrain can be drawn. Democracy is about liberty, belonging, growth towards our true potential as human beings and a unity that suffuses diversity and difference. Its practice is self-governance by equals. Its core themes are creativity and the freeing of the creative social actor to seek, with others, the truths that render life and learning meaningful.
[Page xvi]This is an expansive conception of democracy. Other versions are possible (see Chapter 1). But they do not push us to achieve our maximum capability. Accordingly, much is demanded of democratic leadership. Its key aims are developed in this book and summarised here.
Democratic leadership aims to create an environment in which people are encouraged and supported in aspiring to truths about the world, including the highest values (ethical rationality). Leadership, therefore, as part of this, entails searching for the common human good.
Democratic leadership aims to create an environment in which people practise this ethical rationality and look for ways of superseding difference through dialogue (discursive rationality). Democratic leadership both exercises and facilitates deliberation.
Democratic leadership aims to create an environment in which people are active contributors to the creation of the institutions, culture and relationships they inhabit (decisional rationality). Democratic leadership occurs throughout the organisation and works to recognise and enhance this by encouraging dispersal of leadership. Crucially, dispersal of initiative amongst a multiplicity of democratic leaders – if it is to justify the description ‘democratic’ – involves the exercise of some decisional rights, such as
- exercising democratically legitimated authority; that is, making or influencing decisions as an accountable post-holder (acting as a positional leader);
- activating accountability processes; for example, taking the initiative as an organisational or community member to elect or hold others to account (initiating a vote and so on);
- taking the initiative in participatory, decision-making forums; for example, by initiating a debate or motion.
Democratic leadership aims to create an environment in which people are empowered and enabled by the institutional, cultural and social structures of the organisation (therapeutic rationality). Democratic leadership contributes to leaders' and others' growth towards human potential.
Democratic leadership promotes respect for diversity and acts to reduce cultural and material inequalities (social justice). These components of social justice are, accordingly, symbiotically linked with democracy.The Terrain of Democratic Leadership
Discussion about leadership often makes it sound as if it is purely a matter of individual will and action. However, it is important to grasp the emergent character of leadership, which we will come across in relation to distributed leadership (see Chapter 2). The broad principles of this emergent [Page xvii]character apply to democratic leadership. Leadership is not simply a set of free-standing actions, but is also a collective property. That is, leadership comprises the impetus and direction that emerges from the group, which is more than the sum of the parts (the individuals) who make up a group or organisation. The leadership of a group or organisation comprises the direction, impetus and energy which arise from the circulation of initiative. An initiative is passed on, as it were, to colleagues who react, respond and add to the circulation, generating their own initiatives. Throughout this process there are a multiplicity of leaders engaging in actions which comprise this continual circulation.
It follows from this that the capacity for leadership lies not only within individuals, but is constituted by the institutional arrangements, culture and relationships of an organisation. Clearly, these collective, emergent properties are not disconnected from the actions of people who activate and, over time, evolve them. Hence, it is appropriate to understand leadership in terms of a trialectic framework of social dynamics (P.A. Woods 2003) involving structure, people and engagement. It is a framework that will assist in considering what is involved in creating and sustaining democratic leadership by a multiplicity of actors (see Chapters 8, 9 and 10). Figure A shows the process and inter-connections over time.Figure A: Trialectic Framework of Social Dynamics
The structural properties of social life give an organisation, such as a school, some enduring characteristics which make it ‘our school’. These organisational ‘footprints’ (enduring features of the structural environment) are the institutional, cultural and social patterns which are the product, over time, of the fleeting passage of individual social actions. Similar or reinforcing actions have a combined impact which creates institutional roles, symbols and ways of working that then have some sense of permanence. The structural properties guide and orientate people in what otherwise would be perpetually free-floating interactions of perpetually creative, but overtaxed, individuals eternally making everything anew. These structural properties have three dimensions:
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- the institutional – organisational arrangements and roles, distribution of power and resources;
- the cultural – dominant or shared systems of knowledge, ideas and values;
- the social – qualities and patterns of social relationships.
The person is made up of the capabilities and properties of the individual, who draws from and is enabled on some occasions and, on others, constrained by the structural order in which he or she finds him/herself.
Engagement is social action which emanates from people's utilisation of and ‘inner working’ with the structural properties. The person draws from the structural context in which they find themselves – that is, the institutional roles and resources, the cultural ideas and the patterns of relationships. In addition, the person brings to bear his or her own interpretations on the organisational footprints others have left – interpretations which are the result of inner conversation (Archer 2003) and conversation with others. Hence there is an interactive connection shown between structure and person in Figure A. Through their engagement, people shape those same organisational structures which enable and constrain them. In a democratic organisation, these structural properties are created through the conscious participation and initiatives of a multiplicity of democratic leaders – sometimes acting as individuals, but often with others, in a process of dialogue and interaction through interpersonal connections and linkages, which may become a collective movement by a group. Democratic leadership is, assuredly, not the preserve of the one or few individuals at the apex of an organisational hierarchy.
There are two strands of dispersed leadership. There is democracy-creating, which involves building the conditions for and encouraging democratic processes and participation. Those in leadership positions possessing institutional authority are probably likely to be more crucial to this, though not exclusively so. Then there is democracy-doing, which consists of dispersed acts of democratic leadership and initiative by members of the democratic community or organisation. This includes everyone involved in debate, proposing change, collective decision making, voting and so on.
Dispersed leadership to which ‘everyone’ may contribute begs a difficult question about the boundary of the democratic terrain. If the aim is to build a community in which democratic leadership is the norm, what constitutes that community? Before addressing this question in relation to schools, it is worth reminding ourselves that there is a wider democratic context. Schools are situated in many countries today in national and/or regional democratic frameworks. What, from the viewpoint of the school, may look like an imposition and a restriction – such as a prescribed national curriculum – from another perspective may be seen as a nation's or region's legitimate democratic [Page xix]decision. It is legitimated by the process of democratic deliberation and representation. It may be challenged as undemocratic in its content if it is seen as hindering the development of creative, autonomous individuals who are the very subjects and catalysts of democracy. Or, on the other hand, such a legislative requirement on schools concerning the curriculum may be viewed by some as having benign effects on democratic citizenship and related issues of social justice. Such differences are the very stuff of democratic debate. But the point here is to emphasise that there are multiple arenas of democracy, based on different political communities. Parliaments and councils, and the national and regional communities they represent, constitute democratic contextual arenas for schools.
In relation to the question of what constitutes the school community, there are two key areas distinguishable in the literature (Furman 2002): the school-as-community where the main focus is on what goes on within the school's organisational boundary, and school-community connections where the concern is with the relationship between the school and its surrounding community. Within the school-as-community there are bounded groups also: teaching staff, non-teaching staff, students. And within these constituencies there are further distinctions – between students, for example, according to gender, social class, ethnic and cultural groupings, and so on. Democratic leadership is shaped by the product of the relationships between these constituencies and social distinctions, and the strength or openness of the boundaries between them. The pull of the pure democratic ideal is away from social distinctions towards people relating to each other as human beings. At the same time, democratic practice deals with the real conditions, distinctions and power relations that characterise everyday life.
That which Bottery urges upon the education profession as one of the constituencies in a larger democratic order, is true of each constituency, social and cultural group, and person. They have their
understandings and expertise to share, and they should not be shy in declaring these; but they need to recognise other understandings, others' expertise, in a societal-wide debate on what is needed to improve what exists. (2004: 14)Educational Impulse to Democratic Schooling
The education profession has multiple accountabilities (P.A. Woods 2005). It has to take account of:
- policy hierarchies in which it is embedded – which, for instance, may involve government-mandated requirements with regard to the curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and other matters; [Page xx]
- market pressures – where educational institutions compete against each other for survival;
- networks – where educational institutions collaborate amongst themselves and with other agencies;
- inner (or interior) authority2 – as a professional educator drawing on accumulated expertise and exercising informed judgement;
- communal ties – to the profession as a community, or to the traditions and values of a community (such as a religious foundation) sponsoring an educational institution;
- democratic values and democratically expressed views and preferences, where educators see themselves as democratic professionals, responsive to clients as part of their professionalism (Whitty 2002) and to an educational impulse to infuse the democratic spirit in schooling.
The exploration of democratic leadership reveals how extensive and profound are the educational implications of the last of these accountabilities (that is, an educational impulse to infuse the democratic spirit in schooling) for the aims of education and for learning and pedagogy. Democratic leadership is not only about a responsive impulse, which concerns leaders respecting the educational values and wishes of those they serve. Being responsive in this way, where society lays an explicit expectation on educational leaders to foster values and learning consistent with living as a citizen in a democracy, may involve provision of democratic education. But the impetus to democratic education comes equally from professional and philosophical understandings of what good education essentially comprises. In other words, there is an educational impulse to creating a democratic form of schooling, which derives from the accountability of the educational leaders and teachers to a sense of inner authority and to their professional community as educators, drawing on accumulated expertise and exercising informed judgement.
[W]ith the distinguished exception of Plato, almost all notable past educational philosophers have argued for a conception of education as initiation into the kind of qualities of open-mindedness usually associated with democratic association. According to this broad consensus, ideas of education and open society are connected to the extent that there must be something suspect about any educational climate which actually runs counter to the democratic spirit. (Carr 2000: 234)
Democratic leadership implies a commitment to certain key values and ideas that are the foundation of democracy. The educational impulse to promote and nurture these is not reducible to instrumental arguments. [Page xxi]Education which is infused with the democratic spirit is not dependent on a rationale that views participation as being in ‘the gift of management’ (Bottery 1992: 167). Rather, it is integral to the educational enterprise.An Overview of Chapters
Chapter 1 draws attention to the different possibilities entailed in diverse understandings of democracy and democratic leadership. Four models of democracy, based on Stokes (2002), are set out: liberal minimalism, civic republicanism, deliberative democracy, and developmental democracy. It is argued that only a profound conception of democracy and democratic leadership is tenable. The particular framework of understanding that is built up in the discussion is a developmental conception of democratic practice which is outlined in Chapter 2. This developmental conception encapsulates principles of democracy – freedom, equality, organic belonging, and substantive liberty – and the complementary, interacting dimensions of the practice of democratic leadership, comprising the ethical, decisional, discursive, and therapeutic.
Chapter 3 briefly examines the conceptual terrain concerning educational leadership, which the notion of democratic leadership needs to negotiate. In particular, attention is drawn to two key critiques that have been directed towards the influential concept of transformational leadership, in the form that has become popularised in the educational leadership field. The first is the concern that transformational leadership places too much reliance on the top leader as a ‘heroic’ figure, encourages manipulation of ‘followers’ and reinforces dependence on a dominant echelon of leaders. This has led to a much greater emphasis on the concept of distributed leadership (Bennett et al. 2003a; Gronn 2002; Woods et al. 2004). The second critique is that transformational leadership, in the way it has been translated into business and education, has developed an ethical deficit. It has lost an explicit ethical dimension of leadership. Amongst the responses to this is the formulation by Glenys Woods (2003) of a model of ethically transforming leadership. Neither distributed nor ethically transforming leadership are sufficient responses in themselves, however. To the more individually orientated model of ethically transforming leadership, democratic leadership brings a social perspective derived from intellectual roots which deal with questions of the social evolution of modernity.
With regard to distributed leadership, its narrowness and abstractness are contrasted in Chapter 4 to the breadth and richness of the concept of democratic leadership. Through the discussion and elaboration of this contrast the question is addressed as to why attention should be given to democratic leadership. The case for the importance of democratic leadership has the following components:
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- intrinsic arguments, which see democratic practice as integral to a good society and intimately bound up with education, and are concerned with educational aims of creativity, inclusion and reintegration of human capacities;
- instrumental arguments, which are about its impact on student performance, engagement and self-esteem, and the organisation's capacity and ability to cope more effectively with complexity and work intensification;
- the rationale for internal alignment: namely that the style of leadership in a school should not contradict and counter the style of its teaching and learning.
The first component – intrinsic arguments – is the most essential reason to advance democratic leadership. It challenges the pressures that encourage distance between those in formal leadership positions and the human energy and capacity to be creative learners and to become goodly human. It challenges school leaders not only to recognise (which many do already) that definitions of organisational success are often the outcome of particular configurations of social and economic interests, but also to translate this recognition and questioning stance into practical implications for education. It calls on educational leadership to use and develop an empowering discourse that shapes education to genuine human need and greater ethical aims, rather than accept frames of thinking that mould people to fit the mundane passions demanded by contemporary institutions. In short, the case for democratic leadership is that it focuses school leaders on learning which is of enduring worth, by engaging them in educational issues intrinsically important to our humanity.
Schooling which is infused with a democratic spirit has, of necessity, implications for learning and relationships in the educational process. Chapter 5 considers the epistemological implications of the philosophical underpinnings of democracy: people are creators of knowledge rather than passive recipients of revealed or already-discovered knowledge. Having set out a typology of perspectives on knowledge, the chapter concludes that underpinning the educational role of democratic leadership is an open approach to knowledge. This means that understanding and knowledge develop through:
- a continual dialectical movement between a rationalist epistemology (which views certain truths as known and taken as fixed parameters of knowledge) and a critical epistemology (which considers that nothing can be taken as true and that all conceptions – all facts, theories and values – are perpetually open to critique); [Page xxiii]
- dialogue and the sharing of views, expertise and information amongst networks of learners;
- creative application of tentative knowledges in practical action.
Chapter 6 considers the link between democratic leadership and learning, from the perspectives of senior leadership, teacher leadership and democratic pedagogy. It is emphasised at the conclusion of this discussion that creating a school environment that encourages and values student feedback, and is sensitive and responsive to it, is likely to enhance learning. However, it is easy to make inflated claims about the benefits of democratic leadership and styles of schooling in terms of measurable academic results. It is important to be mindful, firstly, that examination of the research evidence reinforces the care and caution required in asserting the benefits of democratic leadership and pedagogy on academic progress. At the level of teaching, there are complex interacting principles and practices to take into account, and there is no simple connection with learning. Secondly, if students, and staff, are to be cared for as people, what school education feels like for students, for staff, and for families and communities is important. Dispersed, democratic leadership creates a particular texture of relationships which is supportive of all of these as creative agents with inherent potential. The human development that is integral to this texture of relationships – a sense of mutual identity and support, feelings of empowerment, social and interpersonal capabilities – is itself learning, even if not as amenable to measurement as other areas of learning. Thirdly, it is also emphasised that democratic pedagogy and practice envelop both students and staff in a school, if it is to be a community seriously committed to a breadth of meaningful learning.
Chapter 7 turns to the obstacles and challenges in the development and practice of democratic leadership. These are found in the structural context within and beyond schools, in people's attitudes and capacities, and in the practice (engagement) of democratic leadership. The succeeding chapters then address what is involved in making the journey towards the ideals of democracy and democratic leadership in schools. The discussion focuses on what this means for the component dimensions of the trialectic framework: structural properties (Chapter 8), which are the cumulative consequence of people's agency; people (Chapter 9), which concerns the capabilities and properties of individuals and the quality of relationships; and practical engagement (Chapter 10), which focuses on leaders' individual and collective agency that is enabled by and interprets and modifies the structural properties of the organisation.
Chapter 11 draws this essay into the nature of democratic leadership in education to a close. The aims of democratic leadership are summarised, though it is emphasised that no single model of democratic leadership and [Page xxiv]schooling can be advocated. The issues and characteristics identified require interpretation in local circumstances. Still, general challenges arise wherever democratic leadership is seriously pursued. In particular, there is a fundamental paradox in democratic arrangements between encouraging openness and freedom on the one hand and giving structural fixity to certain arrangements and ideas on the other. A number of dualities associated with this bivalent character of democracy require a perpetual search for balance. Nevertheless, the overriding ambition of developmental democracy is the same in all contexts, namely to enable people:
- to share power, by dispersing leadership and diminishing hierarchy;
- to share hope, by striving towards and maximising opportunities for everyone to realise the fullest humanistic potential;
- to share the benefits of living as social beings (the fruits of society), by tackling social injustices and seeking fair distribution.
1 Shakespeare's Macbeth, 3:4:23.
2 I have discussed ‘interior authority’ as an aspect of governance in Woods, P.A. (2003: 145–6).
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