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Established Senior Leaders - Research by Masters Students

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My Title

Primary School Principals’ Experience of Coaching in Facilitating Leadership Development and School Improvement.

Sinéad Patten
National University of Ireland, Cork

The purpose of this research was to investigate the impact of coaching as perceived by established principals in terms of leadership development and implementation of school improvement. This study is intended to add to our understanding of the ways in which coaching supports the continuous professional development of experienced principals in a context of ongoing change and reform. A qualitative research approach was used which included interviews with six experienced principals. The study was based on the following research question: What is the perceived impact of coaching in terms of leadership development and implementation of school improvement? The participants reported positive feelings about their coaching experiences. Specifically, they described that they appreciated the confidential nature of the coaching relationship which provided a trusted holding space conducive to learning, reflection and further development. In terms of their learning, participants reported that through the context relevant and personalised learning experience coaching offered, they developed an enhanced sense of emotional intelligence. This allowed them a greater understanding of themselves and others, enabling them to build more effective collaborative relationships, which lie at the heart of implementing school improvements, as identified by the quality framework: Looking At Our Schools 2016. The research concludes that coaching for established principals is a valuable experience because the unique needs of each individual principal are addressed by the personalised, professional learning which the coaching experience affords.

My Title

Leading the New Special Education Teaching Allocation Model: Examining the Perspectives and Experiences of School Leaders in Leading Special and Inclusive Education in Irish Primary Schools

Aidan Raftery
Dublin City University

The overall purpose of this study was to explore the perspectives and experiences of school leaders on the implementation of the special education teaching allocation model and the impact of this model on special and inclusive education in Ireland. The study also sought to identify the inclusive practices evident in schools and explore how the needs of children with special educational needs were met through the allocation model. Seven primary school principals in Ireland from a variety of school contexts took part in this study. A qualitative research design was employed to elicit the views of school leaders. The participants took part in semi-structured interviews which covered topics relating to the allocation model, inclusive practices and the continuum of support. The data was analysed using a thematic coding process. The findings revealed moderately positive perspectives from school leaders on the special education teaching allocation model. All participants expressed positive views towards inclusion and were committed to supporting all children to reach their potential. Inclusive practices were evident in all participant schools. The data also highlighted the challenges for leadership in implementing the model to meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs in their schools. Recommendations are made for policy, practice and future research as a means of directing policy makers and supporting schools in the implementation of special and inclusive education.

My Title

Cad iad na sainriachtanais a bhíonn ag príomhoidí iarbhunscoileanna na Gaeltachta?

Toirdealbhach Ó Lionáird

M.Oid. san Oideachas Lán-Ghaeilge agus Gaeltachta

Tá aird á tabhairt le tamall de bhlianta anuas ar an gceannaireacht scoile agus tá na dúshláin a ghabhann leis an bpost ag fás bliain i ndiaidh bliana. Tá go leor dúshláin ann phríomhoide ach i gcomhthéacs an phríomhoide Ghaeltachta, tagann athróga eile san áireamh, go háirithe le teacht an Pholasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta. De bharr an bhearna shuntasach sa litríocht atá dírithe ar phríomhoidí Gaeltachta, tugadh faoi iniúchadh ar eispéireas an sainghrúpa seo. Rinneadh plé ar an taighde agus ar an litríocht ábhartha náisiúnta a bhí bainteach le príomhoidí agus ceannaireacht scoile agus pléadh na téamaí a eascair as an litríocht sin i gcomhthéacs earnáil na Gaeltachta.Tugadh cuireadh do gach príomhoide Gaeltachta sa tír páirt a ghlacadh sa taighde idir cheistneoir a líonadh agus dul faoi agallamh leath-struchtúrtha. Earcaíodh seachtar don cheistneoir agus triúr chun dul faoi agallamh. Léiríodh téamaí áirithe mar snáithe leanúnach sa taighde: 1. Próifíl Teanga na Scoileanna, 2. Pobal na Scoile, 3. An Polasaí don Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Próiseas na Pleanála Teanga, 4. Féiniúlacht an phríomhoide, 5. Oiliúint agus, 6. Cleachtais Cheannaireachta. Aithníodh moltaí don chóras, do na soláthraithe oiliúna, don phleanáil teanga agus féidearthachtaí do thaighde breise.

My Title

The sustainability of the role of Principal as School Leader and their influence on the Teaching and Learning in their School.

Mitch Lindsay
University of Limerick

The impact in the growth of policy, accountability and administrative duties placed upon Principals has led many to question their ability to genuinely lead student teaching and learning in their schools. A further consequence of the growth of policy, accountability and administration for Principals, is the sustainability of the role and the impact undertaking such a role has on a Principal both professionally and personally. The demands on school leaders are ever increasing and the aim of the thesis is to investigate the sustainability of the role, the impact they are having on teaching and learning and also to gain an understanding of the effectiveness of Assistant Principal I (API) and Assistant Principal (APII) as a middle management structure in sustaining School Leadership long term. A broad collection of literature is available on the neo-liberalisation of education internationally, as well as nationally here in Ireland. I want to research the results of such frameworks on a school leaders’ ability to create and foster centres of teaching and learning and to garner an understanding of the implications such changes has had on policy, accountability and administrative demands placed on Principals. In this rapid period of change we are experiencing in education as well as society as a whole, effective leadership is crucial. The seminal educational document published by the Department of Education in 2016 “Looking at our Schools: a quality framework for post-primary schools” states the necessity for schools to be centres of learning for students. My research aims to establish how feasible and realistic such a vision, as set out in the “Looking at our Schools” document, is in practice in post-primary education in Ireland given the well-publicised demands being placed on school leadership in recent years. The findings suggest that Principals are under tremendous pressure on a daily basis, which is impacting their lives beyond the school. Through a qualitative research approach, there is a tangible sense amongst the Principals I interviewed that they are becoming more and more removed from the teaching and learning that is occurring in their schools; and been pushed further into an administrative, policy and building management role. A definitive sense that the vision of the Department of Education and the reality for is growing moredisparate.

My Title

The perception of Deputy Principals regarding behaviour management strategies.

Carol Kennedy Gardiner
St. Angela's College, Sligo

National University of Ireland, Galway

This study explores the perception of Deputy Principals regarding behaviour management strategies with a view to identifying successful strategies at an organizational level for best practice for leading and managing behaviour in secondary schools. It is based on a study of the perceptions of Deputy Principals in the North West of Ireland. It is hoped that the study may have national appeal for any Second Level Senior Management trying to implement strategies to deal with the increasing challenges in the area of behaviour management. Of particular interest to Deputy Principals, this dissertation offers a number of strategies which are tried and tested in a local context. They have worked for other practitioners in the role of Deputy Principal. A review of current literature into the area of strategies for behaviour management is carried out in which the primary concerns relating to the focus of the research are discussed. These include an exploration of the role of management in second level schools, defining the role of the Deputy rincipal to manage behaviour in the school, leadership types required to fulfil this role. There is an exploration of the strategies that are suggested to generally manage behaviour in the second evel context, the importance of school culture, fair procedure, planning, the ladder of referral, restorative practice, change, inclusion, student voice and a whole school approach. With regard to methodology, a qualitative approach is adopted, using core research through interviews with eleven Deputy Principals. It emerged from the research data that simple strategies worked best to manage behaviour in second level schools. The research clearly showed a strong connection between the respect and relationship fostered by the Deputy Principal and the effectiveness of the strategies they used. On the basis of my findings, suggestions and recommendations are made for future practice such as compulsory training for Deputy Principals, the importance of reviewing policies and procedures on a regular basis, the establishment of behaviour management classrooms in schools where they are needed irrespective of cost and a serious examination of the effect of continued austerity on the most vulnerable students in second level schools.

My Title

How school leaders in Irish post-primary schools are promoting and providing for ‘student voice’ in addressing the requirements of Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Mary Lafferty

University of Limerick

In 2015, Domnall Fleming wrote a seminal paper ‘Student Voice: An Emerging Discourse in Irish Education Policy’. Today, in 2020, ‘student voice’ continues to grow in education discourse, both national and internationally. This study emerged from the growing interest in ‘student voice’ across post-primary schools witnessed by the researcher in her work as a Whole-school advisor with Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT). The education system in Ireland has become explicitly student centred, which is clear from curriculum changes such as the Framework for Junior Cycle, 2015 (Department of Education and Skills). Within classrooms increased use of formative assessment requires the voice of the students to be considered. These top-down and bottom-up drivers leaves school leaders in the middle. The purpose of this research was to establish how school leaders in Irish post-primary schools promote and provide for student participation. The duel aspects of the research were facilitated through a mixed method approach, utilising a quantitative survey, followed by qualitative structured interviews. Using Lundy’s checklist (2009), schools conducted an audit on their ‘student voice’ provision through the survey, providing examples through the interviews. This research found a lack of cohesion on what ‘student voice’ means, and how best school leaders can provide for it. The findings also indicate that participating schools are more than willing to develop their provision. Currently the Department of Education and Skills offers no clear guidance. The four quadrants of Lundy’s model were used to frame the results, findings, and discussion of this research study. It is clear that student participation has many benefits, which are evident in the classroom, across the school, and for society. However, there is a lack of clarity on what ‘student voice’ means and how schools can ensure they are fulfilling their legal requirements under Article 12 of the United National Convention on the Rights of the Child and are aligning their practice tonational strategy. This research project attempts to provide some insights in this regard.

My Title

Crisis management in Irish primary schools: The roleadaptive leadership and culture play in managing crises and unexpected challenges.

Keith Cotter

University of Limerick

This study explores crisis management in Irish primary schools and examines the role adaptive leadership and culture play in managing these crises. Adaptive leadership is a style dependent on both the actions undertaken by the leader and the consequent work carried out by staff in response to crises (Northouse, 2019). It discusses key behaviours and skills exhibited by leaders during a crisis and assess the impact school culture has during a crisis. This study investigates if and how adaptive leadership was used by school leaders to respond to the extraordinary challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. It also examines whether adaptive leadership is required regularly in schools for unexpected challenges. The researcher utilised an interpretivist paradigm which favours a qualitative approach to the research. The paradigm was applied through semi-structured interviews with Principals, Deputy Principals and Teachers. The research question guiding this thesis is: What role does adaptive leadership and culture play in crisis management in Irish primary schools? The findings indicate that key behaviours and skills of adaptive leadership are used by Irish primary school leaders to manage crises. Many of the key behaviours described in the literature are executed by leaders such as taking time to diagnose challenges, managing stress, engaging staff in adaptive work, running experiments to find superior solutions and embracing mistakes as part of a growth mindset. The research also indicates that positive culture is a pivotal factor in helping schools manage crises. Participants highlighted teamwork, shared vision, collaboration, trust and respect alongside wellbeing as characteristics of not only crisis management but also of positive school culture. However the research also suggests that school leaders feel overworked due to an ever-increasing workload of administrative duties alongside leading teaching and learning. The research also finds that principals adopt traits of adaptive leadership on a regular basis to deal with crises and unexpected challenges.

CSL is funded by the Teacher Education Section (TES) of the Department of Education (DE)
This service is managed by Clare Education Centre.