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Title: Enhancing Prefect Leadership Capacity in Two Elite Independent Girls' Schools in Australia: Thematic Discourse Analysis Within Participatory Action Research
Contributor(s): Kelliher, Debra (author); Hardy, Joy  (supervisor)orcid ; Sigauke, Tayiwanda  (supervisor)orcid 
Conferred Date: 2021-03-02
Copyright Date: 2020-10
Thesis Restriction Date until: 2023-03-03
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There has been significant research in leadership in the last forty years and much academic writing on leadership in management, social sciences and education. The area of student leadership, however, remains relatively under researched. Academic research into student leadership has often focused on adults’ views of student leadership and lacked an explicit conceptual framework. It has also perpetuated the dominant paradigm of the exceptional leader with a focus on the individual, rather than an alternative paradigm of leadership as a relational process amongst leader and collaborators. Mullen and Tuten (2004) make a case for educational research which focuses on leadership development and performance in female adolescents in schools; Dempster and Lizzio (2007) argue for research into student leadership which considers student views; and Haber-Curran and Sulprizio (2017) encourage educators to move exploration of female student leadership forward.

Following Mullen and Tuten (2004) and Haber-Curran and Sulprizio (2017), this research investigates prefect leadership in two elite girls’ schools in Australia and aims to identify factors which enhance prefect leadership capacity and recommend ways to improve student leadership capacity in girls’ schools. The research focus arose from my role as principal, in which I observed a gap between existing prefect leadership roles and the prefects’ capability in other areas of their lives. I also observed that existing prefect leadership roles appeared to encourage compliant, obedient and dutiful leadership rather than problem solving, relational and creative leadership.

Composing the conceptual framework for the research was an iterative process. The research began with a Pilot Study which revealed tensions of power and identity amongst the Pilot Study prefects. The Pilot Study indicated the need for the research to address three concepts: the role of power in student leadership, the role of identity in student leadership and the relationship between researcher and participants. The final conceptual framework explicated these concepts. A Foucauldian (1982) definition of power was used, along with an understanding of the subject as becoming, rather than fixed, which drew on Butler’s (1990) theory of identity as performative, and Lévinas’s concept of the Self in relationship with the Other (1969). A reconceptualisation of student leadership was drawn from academic literature.

The research design was a multiple case study within a constructivist paradigm. Case studies were conducted in two independent elite girls’ schools: a small, regional school and a large, urban school. Data collection occurred within a participatory action research (PAR) methodology, using synergetic focus groups and online surveys as data collection methods. Prefects took part in the PAR spiral of planning, acting and observing, revising plans and reflecting using the annual calendar of school events as the basis for the spiral. This provided regular and manageable opportunities for student leadership experience in action. Thematic discourse analysis (TDA) and comparative thematic discourse analysis and synthesis (CTDAS) were used to analyse the data.

The research findings demonstrate that entrenched norms of student leadership, technologies of power and fixed subject positions for prefects, inhibit student leadership effectiveness. The implications/recommendations address theory, practice and further research: a theoretical reconceptualisation of student leadership is presented; new practices for schoolwide leadership are recommended; and further research into status, agency and leadership are identified.

Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 390306 Secondary education
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 130306 Workplace and organisational ethics (excl. business ethics)
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
Description: Please contact if you require access to this thesis for the purpose of research or study.
Appears in Collections:School of Education
Thesis Doctoral

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