Expectations and reality : primary school principals’ experiences of change leadership in the transition to digital learning environments
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Citation:Kemp, A. (2015). Expectations and reality : primary school principals’ experiences of change leadership in the transition to digital learning environments. An unpublished thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Educational Leadership and Management , Unitec Institute of Technology New Zealand.
Permanent link to Research Bank record:https://hdl.handle.net/10652/3253
Principals in New Zealand primary schools are aware of the expectations placed on them in their role as educational leaders. These expectations include being leaders of change, leaders of learning and leaders who are able to manage the daily operational requirements of a school. Advances in digital technologies have led to changes in the way we communicate, learn, solve problems and consume content. As such, these changes have altered the way key stakeholders in education (students, parents, communities and governments) acquire information, judge teaching and learning, and communicate with schools. The digital landscape is a field that encompasses change and new learning through a rapidly increasing school of thought, and as such, generates experiences that are worthy of investigation. This research critically examined primary school principals’ experiences with identifying and meeting expectations from a variety of stakeholders in regard to the transition of their schools from ‘traditional’ learning environments to digital learning environments (DLEs). It also examined the successes and challenges faced and how principals were best supported to manage challenges when transitioning to digital learning environments. A qualitative methodology was employed for this research using the method of semi- structured interviews. The information gathered from these interviews in relation to the expectations, successes and challenges placed on primary school principals served as the major indicators for the study. Eight Auckland primary school principals from schools with rolls between 200-700 students were interviewed using a semi-structured interview format. The literature review identified a number of key factors that impact on the effective implementation of digital learning environments. The findings of the research revealed that the expectations prioritised by the principals in leading the change were the need for them to ensure effective professional development in both pedagogical and practical understanding for themselves and staff, and to ensure that effective planning was implemented to meet the infrastructural challenges. This aligned with recent research reviewed in the literature. Due to the rate of change, context of change and speed by which the change occurs because of digital technology, principals believed that the skills of a change leader, which included a clear vision, planning, communicating and managing the change, were essential when transitioning to digital learning environments (DLEs). Lack of personal professional development support for the participants emerged through the course of the interviews. The findings led to the recommendation that principals require greater support from the Ministry of Education and professional development providers to develop their personal understanding of change leadership when transitioning to digital learning environments (DLEs).