Heads of school leadership: Effective relationships as the cornerstone for teaching and learning improvement

Deborah West, Tricia Vilkinas

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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The primary focus of this study was to build on the work of two earlier ALTC projects (Southwell, Scoufis & West 2008). In addition, the current study was designed to: • enhance the academic leadership capability of heads of school • provide resources and materials to the heads of school to support their development • use a process that increased the likelihood that heads of school will successfully implement their action learning projects. Methodology This project commenced early in 2009 with data collection via interviews to inform the contextualisation of the program to the head of school level. In 2010, the program was delivered via workshops entitled Building academic leadership capability at Charles Darwin University and the University of South Australia. These workshops were built on a leadership model, the Integrated Competing Values Framework. As part of the workshop preparation, the heads of school successfully completed the 360° feedback process using a tool entitled The Academic Leadership ICVF Survey. Twenty-three heads of school participated in the project and 120 of their colleagues also completed the survey. The data collected has been analysed and reported in this report. Findings From this initial study, it can be concluded that heads of school • are reasonably effective academic leaders and are capable of further developing their academic leadership capability • are self-aware • need the support of their line managers to perform well • need enough of the ‘right’ staff with a balance of research, teaching and learning and professional/industry experience • feel that it was vital that they were accessible and available for their staff as they play a key role in keeping staff motivated, supporting them with issues that arise and conveying strategic direction to them • have the potential to make a significant contribution to the leadership of their university. It has also emerged that the complexity and breadth of the head of school role is seen as a key contributor to their high workloads, making them time-poor. Moreover, excessive workload was identified as a major issue in terms of improving teaching and learning, both for themselves and for their staff. Products The study has produced the following products: • Building academic leadership capability: a resource book for heads of school and a CD of activities • an article, Academic leadership provided by heads of school, currently under review • an article, Exploring the role of the head of school in academic leadership, currently under review 2 Heads of school leadership – effective relationships as the cornerstone for teaching and learning improvement • a data set on the academic leadership capability of heads of school and its implications for the institution and the development of academic leadership. Conclusions The heads of school who participated in the program were found to be effective academic leaders who needed the supporting materials (identified above) and a theoretical framework to use for their own ongoing development. It demonstrated the relevance of the Building academic leadership capability program and resources to the head of school level through the application of the ICVF, the interview process and the evaluation of the project. The action learning projects are likely to yield ongoing improvements in teaching and learning.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherAustralian Government's Office for Learning and Teaching
Number of pages159
ISBN (Print)978-1-921856-98-3
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

'This work is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia Licence. Under this Licence you are free to copy, distribute, display and perform the work and to make derivative works.

Support for the original work was provided by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Ltd, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.'


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