Approach and Training
This project’s approach and methodology is driven by the urgent need to discover ways of understanding and supporting school leaders’ use of micropolitical strategies and activities to enhance the retention of high quality early career teachers. The project is informed by research and theory from a number of domains.
Leadership as a focus of study is understood as a ‘contextually rich phenomenon’ (Conger 1998, p.107) that is dynamic and socially constructed and distributed across roles in school sites (Gronn, 2005). A micropolitical approach to understanding leaders’ work rests on the assumption that schools are ‘intrinsically political’ (Morgan 1986, p. 142) and that leaders need to develop strategies and tactics to negotiate, influence and forge a direction amid competing and conflicting sets of interests (Johnson, 2004).
Retention is understood as a process with transactional and socio-cultural dimensions that flow through and impact on the nature of the psychological contract that is formed between an employee and employer. As such, it is intimately linked to the micropolitics that operate in a school. The retention process comprises:
- Attraction, directed at a wide group of people with diverse characteristics, motivations and aptitudes;
- Recruitment, which aims to identify the best qualified candidate(s) for a vacancy through building relationships and engaging prospective candidates in selected strategies with high predictive validity; and
- Developing people, which encompasses a wide range of professional learning opportunities (formal, non-formal, work-based), commencing with induction and continuing across the life-cycle of employment.
Practitioner Inquiry has grown in influence internationally and in Australian educational research, and it has contributed to a range of capacity building and renewal strategies in local settings (Cormack & Nichols, 2010). There are a number of practices within the umbrella term 'practitioner inquiry', including action research, teacher-research, action learning, reflective practice, and praxis. In the case of this project, the term co-researcher is used to denote the central role of the school leader as inquirer. Like all inquiry-based approaches, this project constructs the leader (in this case) as ‘knower and as agent… in larger educational contexts’ (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999, pp.16 -17). We will adapt Comber’s (2005) model which will involve: establishing the conditions for critical reflection by school leaders; inviting leaders to read related research collaboratively with university researchers; focusing on improving the theoretical and practical understandings of the retention process for quality early career teachers; involving school leaders in the collection and analysis of data; and producing leader knowledge about what works in given contexts.
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