Leadership for learning in Zimbabwean secondary schools: narratives of school heads.
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School heads (principals) play a major role in ensuring that teaching and learning are the core activities of the school. Some school heads fail to lead teaching and learning effectively resulting in poor academic achievement in their schools. This study presents the storied lives of four successful school heads in Zimbabwe who strengthen the quality of teaching and learning through facilitating leadership for learning practices. The study aims to understand who the school heads leading learning in Zimbabwean secondary schools are, what meanings and understandings they draw on as leaders for learning, and how these meanings and understandings shape their leadership-for-learning practices. Hallinger’s Leadership for Learning model and social identity theory frame this interpretive study drawing on narrative inquiry as methodology. Narrative interviews, visual-arts-based methods (artefact and collage inquiry) and a transect walk were used to generate field texts. Data analysis occurred at two levels: narrative analysis, and analysis of narratives. The researcher co-constructed with the four participants their stories in a bid to understand their experiences. A deconstruction of the narratives (analysis of the narratives) found that school heads are identified in multiple ways according to their personal and professional context, emotions, roles and responsibilities, based on their past and present experiences. This includes who they want to become in the future (their “future self”). Their identities are transformative in nature, and are constantly renegotiated through experiences. The school heads’ personal and professional meanings and understandings were interrelated, and directly influenced their leadership for learning practices. The study concluded that care as an emotion influences instruction, as reflected in the school heads’ personal and professional meanings and understandings. Their socio-cultural contexts, in particular being African foregrounded native values such as hunhu and dare. Importantly, adopted western values such as Christianity, had great influence on the school heads’ identity, personal and professional meanings and understandings of self and their leadership-for-learning practices. Lastly, leadership for learning is seen as a process in which school heads utilise phronesis or “practical wisdom” to lead learning, using the 3 R’s: Review, Reflect and Re-evaluate.