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Re-figuring the world of educational leadership: struggles with performance, disenfranchisement and critical consciousness

Hammersley-Fletcher, Linda (2017) Re-figuring the world of educational leadership: struggles with performance, disenfranchisement and critical consciousness. In: Educational Leadership: Theorising Professional Practice in Neoliberal Times. Routledge, pp. 27-41. ISBN 978-1-138-65879-0

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Abstract

In this chapter I explore the responsibilities and performances of educational leaders against a backdrop where English education has been undergoing a reconceptualisation that renders political ideas, creativity and a ‘living’ curriculum a dangerous and indefensible ‘other’ that must be stopped at all costs. Such an approach to education produces a paucity of thought that is reductive and anti-inspirational, leaving individuals feeling isolated and vulnerable. Utilising the lens of ‘figured worlds’ (Holland et al., 1998; Urrieta, 2007), I examine the voices of educational leaders from schools and higher education to consider how educational-leadership identity is framed by diverse competing pressures. I assert that severe accountability agendas place educational leaders in an unenviable position whereby they face huge tensions in conceptualising ways of working which attempt to negate risks of compromise to their core educational beliefs, whilst simultaneously addressing their educational masters’ needs, particularly where their perspectives of educational practice are tightly bound to professional identity (Cribb, 2009). This leads educational leaders to experience uncomfortable compromises, a loss of stability, shifts in identity and rising levels of stress (Lewis, 2004), with implications for both educational experience and staff wellbeing. I thus raise questions about educational practices that are being ‘taken for granted’ and challenge educators to resist the loss of what Freire (1985) describes as critical consciousness.

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