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Reculturing a school as a learning organisation: investigative narratives in two Queensland schools

Martoo, Gladys Vivian (2006) Reculturing a school as a learning organisation: investigative narratives in two Queensland schools. Professional Doctorate thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

The focus of this study has been to connect the idea of developing schools as learning organisations with the notion of developing learning leaders and building school capacity for our knowledge economy. Therefore, this action-inquiry self-study has examined the issues of curriculum reform in the context of more general organisational reform. It has explored the notion of schools being recultured or reconstructed to work as learning organisations in a climate that focuses on the improved social and academic learning outcomes of their students.

This self-study represents two significant chapters in my professional life and captures approximately four years of professional snapshots. It has allowed me to examine my practice of partnering, conversing, arranging and developing shared vision across two schools. This study recognized these as powerful reculturing mechanisms and affirmed that conversations about learning, shared beliefs mission and vision, enabling leadership that reflects parallel learning relationships and enabling organisational arrangements are critical for sustainable reform. Consequently the exploration of the relationship between teacher learning, teacher leadership and a professional learning culture has been the main focus for this research.

Analytical processes for this study first explored the relationship between teacher learning, teacher leadership and a professional learning culture through an examination of current curriculum reforms. This is followed by a layered analysis of the two narratives based on my leadership in two different school settings. A rigorous mapping and scanning process then assisted the analysis of these narratives. This process was supported by a number of specific conceptual frameworks that underpin the school reculturing process and reflect key qualities of schools that work as learning organisations.

Six significant snapshots emerged from the analysis of the two narratives. The deeper analysis of these snapshots, which have been referred to as close-ups, formed a number of my first tentative propositions. These layers of investigation were also supported by the responses of several key snapshot participants and reader respondents, before the final propositions were made. These responses recognised that an organisation that works together, learns together; and that there is strength and powerful learning when leadership can assist practitioners to work as a learning community. These qualities were found to be directly related to this study's proposed reconstructed model for developing schools as learning organisations.

The reconstructed model recognised a number of other less visible elements that can be seen in a school working as a learning organisation. These elements relate directly to enabling/capacity building leadership and the associated relationship skills of leaders. They were found to be necessary elements for effective collaboration and for creating spaces for conversation, reflection, spontaneity and risk-taking.

This study also recognised that any deconstruction and reconstruction of a school as a learning organisation is first a reconstruction of core beliefs and values. These beliefs and values are reflected in a school's culture and are inclusive of the visible and less visible elements. The constant examination of one's assumptions, ideas, values and beliefs has been considered to be essential to the analysis process, as well as to the process of reform and achieving organisational change. The study revealed, therefore, that enabling/capacity-building leadership is a key to the process of reculturing a school as a learning organisation. The data from respondents also indicates that this notion of leadership as being enabling/capacity building has also been a primary focus for answering the second of the key research questions: 'How does a process of deconstruction and reconstruction take place?'

The additional points of difference/interest that emerged from the various respondents suggest that the process of deconstruction and reconstruction of a school as a learning organisation would be assisted by realising that energy and passion are needed for enabling/capacity building leadership. This form of leadership requires moving from being top-down and become more parallel with renewed learning relationships. This study affirmed that this focus on establishing parallel learning relationships assists in the development of parallel learning leadership and parallel learning partnerships.

Enabling/capacity building leaders working in parallel with their teachers can also play an important role in developing/supporting flexible and imaginative school organisation. In this way enabling/capacity building leaders can work as learning leaders and brokers to assist the development of other learning partnerships/alliances. This community building strategy can consequently develop opportunities for teachers to work and learn collaboratively as learning leaders.

Enabling/capacity building leadership is correctly placed as the key to considering how the deconstruction and reconstruction process takes place. Further, the reconstruction process taking place reflect a culture of dynamic inquiry. This is made possible when enabling/capacity building leaders share and commit to similar notions of schools working as learning organisations and teachers are assisted/brokered to work collaboratively for professional alliances and professional growth.

Consequently this study proposes that teachers cope better with the ever-increasing demands of curriculum reforms if:

  • schools can work as learning organisations

  • schools allow teachers to work as learning leaders

  • administrative leaders support/enable and model risk-taking, spontaneous and collaborative practices

  • there are shared beliefs, mission and vision; organisational arrangements/support; conversations for learning; shared approaches to pedagogy, and parallel relationships

  • enabling/capacity-building leadership for learning alliances allows for a professional culture of dynamic inquiry that can evolve with a renewed focus on conversations for learning.

The findings of this study have theoretical, methodological and practical significance. In the first instance it presents as theoretical significance, the reconstruction of a theoretical framework for schools working as learning organisations. The methodological significance is reflected in this study's emphasis on theorising through layers. The methodological contribution acknowledges a legitimate and rigorous form of practitioner research, revealing self-study methodology at a level that is more then mere self-indulgence. In presenting its final contribution, the thesis acknowledges the practical contribution of the study by emphasising the process involved in creating a culture of dynamic inquiry. The transformative nature of this action- inquiry self-study is therefore confirmed in this study. The layered analysis reflects a process of making sense of the messiness of practitioner research, and consequently provides a true sense of this established form of practical theorising in the teaching profession. These characteristics should be seen not as limitations, but rather as authentic strengths.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16294
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Supervisor: Macpherson, Ian& Danby, Susan
Keywords: Curriculum leadership, Curriculum reform, Organisational reform, School reform, School reculturing, Teacher learning, Learning organisations, Professional learning communities, Learning communities, Learning alliances, Communities of practice, Professional learning culture, Learning leadership, Parallel leadership, Relational leadership, Teacher leadership, Educational leadership, Action-inquiry self-study, Practitioner research, Reflective practice, Reflection-in-action
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Cultural & Professional Learning
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Gladys Vivian Martoo
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 14:00
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2013 18:17

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