PIVOTAL – designing innovative leadership courses: a roadmap for anticipating the twists and turns in school leaders’ journeys

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 38: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World

July, 2015, 528 pages
Published by
T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser & R. Hadgraft

School leadership preparation must be current, relevant and able to “deal with the complex challenges schools are facing in the 21st century” (OECD, 2008). Dempster, Lovett and Fluckiger (2011) identify gaps in the preparation of school leaders in Australia, arguing that they can be addressed by responding to school leaders’ learning needs, helping them see “the big picture” and building their confidence and capacity as leaders. The PIVOTAL (Partnerships, Innovation and Vitality – Opportunities for Thriving Academic Leadership) research team agrees with this assessment. The PIVOTAL research project analyses how to best develop sustainable leadership practice by investigating practitioner leadership requirements in partnership with local school leaders and students within postgraduate Education and Business courses. Qualitative and quantitative findings successfully informed innovative revisions to these courses, to be implemented in 2015, and included input from a reference group of local school principals, student responses to online surveys and data from past and current student focus group discussions. Informants suggested course design improvements and broadly endorsed the model of Excellence in School Leadership (AITSL, 2011), but said this model did not acknowledge the “personal vitality” that first inspired school leaders to work with young people and lead school communities successfully. Alongside the AITSL model, the dimension of “personal vitality” adds insights relevant to designers of postgraduate leadership courses and supports school leaders” understanding of their complex roles within the “big picture”. Innovation in nurturing “personal vitality” in leadership course design will influence the future sustainability of professional practice in increasingly complex times.

Keywords: Leadership, innovation, sustainability