Rethinking Knowledge Hierarchies in Teaching Educational Leadership to International Students

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When I began to teach within a Masters of Education (Leadership and Management) program, I questioned my assumed unproblematic nature of the presentation of Western leadership and management theories to students from a diverse range of countries without understanding the diversity. The expectations of International students are also that overseas study is designed to facilitate the transport of Western theory, as ‘the solution’ which makes the indigenous knowledges they bring struggle to appear. Few students seem to question the transferability of Western knowledge to other cultures, yet it may actually be of limited value to the real concerns and issues associated with the leadership of organisations in their home countries. Building on the ideas of Raewyn Connell and Boaventura de Sousa Santos, this chapter examines possibilities for research-led pedagogies which support an awareness of the dominance and persistence of northern-centric patterns of global knowledge production, challenging students to question their own expectations of the dominance of Western theory. Through so doing, it makes possible the re-imagining of possibilities for transformation through the emergence of alternatives, where engaging in democratic deliberation about what is gained and lost from adopting various knowledge positions informs a better understanding of human social and organisational experiences. Rather than subscribing to a single, universal and abstract hierarchy among knowledges, which privileges Western theories, cognitive justice favours context dependent knowledges. We can prepare the ground for students thinking about the knowledges they bring, and the importance of unique contextual and cultural factors through Butler’s notions of intelligibility and performativity to help students understand that actions are conditioned by what is available within the culture and by what practices are legitimating. Dialogue and interpretation can occur across cultures, at the same time as raising the awareness of reciprocal incompleteness of knowledges.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternationalisation of Educational Administration and Leadership Curriculum
Subtitle of host publicationVoices and Experiences from the ‘Peripheries’
EditorsEugenie A. Samier, Eman S. Elkaleh, Waheed Hammad
Place of PublicationBingley, Wales, UK
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781839098642
ISBN (Print)9781839098659
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameStudies in Educational Administration
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited


  • Cognitive justice
  • Culture
  • Intelligibility
  • Knowledge hierarchies
  • Leadership
  • Western thinking


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