Problematising student leadership
Permanent link to Research Bank record:http://hdl.handle.net/10652/1455
Duignan (2006) argued that school leaders had to “work with others and through othersto achieve their organisation’s vision and goals” (p.22), while Hallinger & Heck (2002) discussed the importance of coherence between the two. However, neither included students in their arguments, but rather concerned themselves with coherence between school leadership and teachers. Duignan (2006) pointed out that communication of the vision is the key to successful coherence. He discussed the importance of values within a vision and argued that, “Clarity of purpose based on a shared set of values and expectations would seem to be fundamental to effective educational leadership” (p.22). Students and student leaders within a school are stakeholders also and as well as observing coherence of vision between the school leadership and the teaching staff, one would expect to see coherence between the school leadership and the students, particularly within the student leaders of a school. This research looked at that area of student leadership and considered to what extent school leadership vision was effectively communicated to the student leaders. It involved a multiple case study of three schools, each of which operate a prefectship model of student leadership. It considered the nature of student leadership in the schools, its relationship with each school’s values and principles, how it was managed and its relationship to student voice. The main consideration was the nature, structure and management of the predominant model of student leadership and voice in each school and how that model was perceived by student stakeholders. The intention of the research was to investigate the current paradigm and examine if tensions and/or differences existed between the perceptions of the student leaders and what is expected of them by the school in terms of leadership. The project aimed to find out if tensions existed because student leaders do not fully understand the conceptual basis of the vision and if the processes within the school for managing student leadership create areas of incongruence. Using interviews and focus groups, the research looked at student leaders’ perceptions of what they are doing, why they are doing it, and examined if there were areas of divergence between the school leadership and the student leadership. The data collected was encoded and labelled under the headings: Values and Principles, Citizenship, Attributes, Selection, Roles, Training and mentoring, and Voice. Each school was considered separate from each other and the perceptions of each school as espoused by the teacher in charge of student leaders, were preceded the perceptions of the student leaders themselves. Considerable convergence between the perceptions of the teachers representing the schools and those of the students was noted in most areas. The research found no aspects of elitism within the sample group and there was a high degree of democracy and equity exhibited in all three schools. However, tensions existed within the subsections of Values and Principles, Roles and Training. The implications of the research are that school leaders need to be more effective in communicating their vision and the values and principles that underpin it, to their student leaders. Student roles need to be examined and more closely defined in terms of actions and responsibilities, while the whole area of student leadership training requires further research.