What is the nature of educational leaders in transformative learning experiences? A hermeneutical phenomenological study

Author: Murray Fletcher

Fletcher, Murray, 2020 What is the nature of educational leaders in transformative learning experiences? A hermeneutical phenomenological study, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Capturing the lived experiences of two leaders on their individual journeys to school principalship, in conversations over an eighteen month period, creates a depth and richness in these leaders’ stories from which to investigate the phenomenon of inner transformation. It is the nature of these leaders’ being and the changes that occur within these leaders, that is the focus of this inner transformation. This study gives an insight into ontology in terms of leaders’ formation as it explores being – in leadership. This study highlights settings that have a focus on cultural responsiveness as a national expectation of honouring dual cultures within an educational environment.

The research question, focusing on the nature of educational leaders in transformative learning experiences has given an insight into what can be termed transformative as different from transformation. In terms of leader formation, as the key outcome of professional learning for leaders, the term transformative indicates a shift in awareness, in consciousness and in a realisation, of, and within the self. Further, the term transformative can be applied to leadership which is focused on both equity and social justice.

What has emerged as key is for a leader to have an inner - knowing, a knowing of themselves more fully and a realising of their own genuineness, uniqueness, inner strengths. This is termed a personal philosophy, a view of the world that has them heed the call to something greater than themselves and their own ego.

What else has emerged is the ability to be alongside others whilst holding one’s inner knowing. The relational nature of leadership, central in this study is shown in the in - between – ness’ that is the relationship that leaders have in a space created, and held open with others. The relationship in this space has almost a sense of reverence and sacredness, and is where compassion, consideration and humanness abound.

This study highlights that in coming to this space with others, the leader has a realisation of a letting go - ness, a freeing of and a release, for those in the relationship, including the self.

The findings from this research challenge the current leadership orthodoxies in the world of education and consider a focus on a re - humanising of educational leaders and a re - awakening of what it means to be human in leadership.

The implications from this study reveal a need to focus on the personal formation of current and emerging leaders in order to sustain them in their role and also to ensure the profession is attractive to future leaders. This means creating opportunities for experiences to discover both one’s self and how to be with others.

The application of these findings is a contribution to leadership formation as a personal aspect of professional learning for leaders. This transformation in regard to the realisation and sustaining of the self, places a leader’s self- efficacy, personal agency,and personal and collective well-being at the heart of transformative learning and leading, with equity and social justice as central to the leader’s influence as a transformative leader.

Keywords: Inner transformation, educational leaders, ontological, transformative, Being

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2020
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr.Andrew Bills