Rethinking knowledge hierarchies in educational leadership

Bev Rogers

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The Masters of Education (Leadership and Management) at Flinders University attracts a significant number of International students who travel to Australia for two years, usually with a desire to learn about how they might improve the lives of people in their communities, when they return home. When I began to teach within that program, I questioned the assumed unproblematic nature of the presentation of Western leadership and management theories/models to students from a diverse range of countries without understanding the diversity. As it turns out, the expectations, of International students, that overseas study is designed to facilitate the transport of Western theory, as the solution, makes the indigenous knowledges they bring, struggle to appear. Few students seem to question transferability of Western knowledge to other cultures, yet the transference of Western-based theories may actually be of limited value to the real concerns and issues associated with the leadership and management of organizations in their home countries.

Building on the ideas of Raewyn Connell (Southern Theory 2007) and the Portuguese intellectual and sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2016), this paper examines possibilities for research-led pedagogies (Zembylas, 2017) which support an awareness of the dominance and “persistence of the overall northern-centric pattern of global knowledge production” (Connell, 2014, p. 218). This could challenge students to question their own ‘extraversion’ (Hountondji, 1997[1994])—expectations that overseas study is designed to facilitate the transport of Western or Northern theory as the solution—and through so doing, make possible the re-imagining of possibilities through the emergence of alternatives. Santos (2016) suggests that one path, is to subject global North assumptions to critique—to not privilege any knowledge through assumption of superiority. Engaging in democratic deliberation about what is gained and lost from adopting various knowledge positions, which are not based on abstract hierarchies between knowledges (p. 205), informs a better understanding of human social and organisational experiences. The diversity of knowledges comes about by enabling contradictions and possibilities. Rather than subscribing to a single, universal and abstract hierarchy among knowledges, which privileges Western theories, cognitive justice favours context dependent hierarchies of knowledges. Intercultural translation allows for dialogue and interpretations across cultures, at the same time as raising the awareness of reciprocal incompleteness of knowledges.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019
EventAustralian Association for Research in Education Conference 2019: Education for a Socially Just World - Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 1 Dec 20195 Dec 2019


ConferenceAustralian Association for Research in Education Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleAARE 2019
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Rethinking knowledge hierarchies in educational leadership'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this