Leading as a socially just practice: Examining educational leading through a practice lens

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Educational leadership scholarship has typically focused on the practices of individuals or the interconnections between individuals in a practice. Critics of these approaches argue that they overlook questions of power, politics, and the cultural specificity of sites of practice. This chapter responds to these criticisms by proffering an alternative approach to educational leadership scholarship. Drawing on a case study of a previously monocultural school which had become increasingly multicultural, it employs a practice theory lens through which to examine attempts by the school executive to enact leadership as a socially just practice. In particular, it examines how the school executive challenged specific arrangements in order to bring into being changes in the intersubjective spaces in which leaders, teachers, and (Anglophone and ethnically diverse) students encountered one another. This endeavour is revealed as contested, contradictory, and only partially successful.In this chapter I argue that bringing into being more sustainable and socially just leading and teaching practices requires theorising classrooms, staffrooms, playgrounds and schools more broadly as sites of practice. Examining and interrogating the nexus of arrangements – language and specialised discourses, activities and material arrangements, and relationships of solidarity and power – which hold socially unjust practices in place is a first step in this process. Bringing into being more socially just practices also necessitates a focus on the ecological interconnections between leading as a practice, and the related practices of enacting policy, professional learning, researching and reflecting, and students’ learning practices. On the basis of an ecological understanding of the interrelationships between practices, the practice knowledge of individual teachers and formal leaders may be challenged and transformed. It is in this challenging and transforming that the broader educative purpose of leading as socially just practice and praxis may be realised.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring education and professional practice
Subtitle of host publicationThrough the lens of practice architectures
EditorsKathleen Mahon, Susanne Francisco, Stephen Kemmis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9789811022197
ISBN (Print)9789811022173
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Learning & Instruction
  • Professional & Vocational Education
  • Teaching and Teacher Education

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