School principals perceived and desired leadership development pathways: evidence from one district of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Ezeonwuachusi, Nnenna Fidelia.
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The quality of school reforms and learner performance are integrally linked to school principals‟ leadership development, which elicits both anxiety and concern, as evidenced by studies on educational improvements which emphasise the impact of school leadership on learner performance. Thus, how best to prepare school principals as school leaders and determine their leadership development pathways are concerns that continue to be on the education agenda of many countries. Using the context of one school district in South Africa, this qualitative study explores school principals‟ leadership development, looking at their understanding, experiences and conceptions of desired leadership development, and drawing on the perspective of practice context. The study applied a complementarity of framework made up of three theories, Vygotsky‟s (1978) sociocultural theory focusing on the concepts of Zone of Proximal Development and more knowledgeable other, Knowles‟ (1980) Theory of Adult Learning and Assets-Based Theory by Kretzmann and McKnight (1993). The study was positioned within the interpretivist paradigm, adopting a qualitative approach and a case study design. The data generation methods were semi-structured individual interviews and focus group interviews. Major findings revealed that firstly, school principals‟ understanding of leadership development involves training and supporting them in relevant, not just generic, leadership skills and knowledge. Secondly, targeting the school principals‟ development training should include programmes that aim to meet individual and unique needs. Thirdly, their desired leadership development included individualised leadership training, and leadership training using inputs from the experiences of the school principals. The study concludes by highlighting on the lessons learnt, including: 1. Leadership development of school principals needs to be contextually problematised and understood. 2. School leaders desire to take responsibilities for their own learning; setting the objectives and determining what to take away from the learning. 3. Varying approaches to school leadership development provisions including on-site training are desirable to school principals. 4. While school leaders‟ desired areas of leadership development conform to what is commonly outlined in the literature, what is at variance is not the “what”, which is the subject of their leadership development, but the “how” – the processes of providing the leadership development.