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Teacher Leader - Research by Masters Students

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My Title

An Evaluation of School Leadership in International Schools through the Lens of School Culture, Teacher Motivation and Retention

Áine B Feeney
The University of Nottingham

This dissertation aimed to evaluate the impact of school leadership on school culture, teacher motivation, and teacher retention in international schools. The research used a mixed-method study in the form of a questionnaire and survey to generate data from experienced teachers who have taught in two or more international schools. They shared information about their motivations and experiences and reflected on school culture connected to school leadership. An adapted survey based on The School Culture Triage Survey (Wagner, 2006) was completed for the school where the participants had spent the shortest period. It was found that there exists a strong connection between teachers’ perceptions of school culture as influenced by leadership behaviour and their decisions to remain or leave that school. This dissertation adds to the existing research on educational leadership and school culture, specifically in international schools.

My Title

An investigation into the potential for online teaching and learning in an Irish post-primary school – how to ensure high quality student learning and engagement online

Avril Egan
National University of Ireland, Galway

The purpose of the study was to investigate the experiences of and attitudes to online teaching and learning amongst teachers  and  students  at  post-primary  level during the  Covid  19 pandemic. The study  aims to investigate the potential for online teaching and learning in  an Irish  post-primary  school in  the  context  of ensuring high  quality learning  and  engagement online. The  study  involved 49 cross  curricular  teachers and 130 third  year and sixth  year students. The rationale for this study was that with all teachers having no choice but to deliver instruction  through  ICT it  provided  a  real  and  honest  understanding  of  the  implications  on pedagogy and the richness of student learning outcomes, coinciding with an increased effort on the part of schools to embed ICT in classroom practice as per national guiding policy. Research was conducted using a quantitative approach although some questions allowed for qualitative answers to  be provided.  An online  survey  was  completed  by  49  teachers from  a variety of subject backgrounds and 130 students of which 74 were JC students and 56 were LC students. The  results  of  the  survey  indicated  that both  students  and  teachers  had  a  clear preference for the traditional classroom setting mainly due to the lack of social interaction the online environment provides and on the teacher part as a result of a heavily increased workload. The  results  also  indicated  that the  academic  maturity  of  post-primary  students  may  not  be sufficient for the level of self-regulated learning required for successful learning outcomes to be achieved online. The attitudes of both teachers and students to online teaching and learning indicated a number of  positive  aspects  that  could  be  brought  back  to  the  traditional  classroom.  However, the experiences  of  both  teachers  and  students  suggest that online  learning does  not  provide  a holistic education to students and  can  at times be detrimental to their  academic progression. The research indicates that increased levels of training in the areas of ICT skills would benefit both students and teachers. It also suggests that further investigation needs to be conducted to examine whether all  students  possess  the  skills  required  to  learn  successfully  online and whether all students have equal access to learning when provided in this way, and if not, the extent to which student learning regresses. A further suggestion for investigation would include how assessment can be done in a way that it honestly reflects the learning of students while engaging in online learning.

My Title

An Exploration of Fathers’ Perceptions and Performances of School-Related Care Work: A Case Study in a Senior All Boys Inner City DEIS Primary School

Brendan Goggin
Dublin City University

This study concerns the exploration of fathers’ perceptions and performances of school-related care work in a senior all boys inner city DEIS primary school. The aims of the study are to examine participant fathers’ perceptions of and activity in traditional and non-traditional school related care roles for their sons. A qualitative case study was undertaken involving semi-structured interviews with eight participant fathers who all had sons attending the study school. Data concerning how daily school-related care-work was organised by participants’ families, was collected, analysed, and findings presented with reference to relevant literature. Research findings concurred with those from the literature that mothers, in general, are primarily responsible for educational care-work. Findings also showed that no two families organised in entirely the same manner. This demonstrated two separate factors affecting families, the seismic social changes which Irish society has witnessed during the last half century, and the deeply intersectional nature of Irish families. This research found that the roles of men in society, and men’s roles as fathers, have changed, reflecting wider changes in Irish society. Traditional patriarchal structures, while changed have not disappeared. Hegemonic masculinities continued to affect how men and women function in society, but, this research finds, the grip has loosened. Participant fathers reported practices and perceptions of school-related carework which were unlike those of their own fathers. Change has created opportunities for men, women, fathers, mothers and schools. This research presents policy recommendations for both school and state to best harness these social changes for the benefit of education. 

My Title

An Exploration of Teachers’ Experiences of Non-Positional Leadership in Irish Primary Schools

Patrick Gallagher
Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick.

This study presents an investigation into the experiences of teachers in non-positional leadership roles in Irish primary schools. Non-positional leadership stems from the concept of teacher leadership, which provides teachers a means of acting strategically on one’s own vision leading to school improvement (Frost 2014). However, the Centre for School Leadership (CSL) in Ireland identifies teacher leadership as an area of the education system which is overlooked in comparison to other European countries (CSL 2018). This study utilised a qualitative, phenomenological design, employing the use of semistructured interviews as a means of data collection. The research participants consisted of eight primary school teachers who had experience of leadership in a non-positional capacity. The research provides an insightful account of non-positional leadership in Irish primary schools. The findings illustrate that teachers have predominantly positive dispositions towards non-positional leadership. It was revealed in the findings that nonpositional leadership benefited participants through further professional development and increased self-efficacy. School improvement and increased collaboration were also identified as positive results of non-positional leadership. However, it emerged from the findings that there is pressure on teachers who are recently qualified or on temporary contracts to partake in non-positional leadership roles as a means of securing future employment. The findings also suggest challenges and tensions for non-positional leaders in terms of increased workload and resistance from other members of staff. The findings from the investigation infer recommendations for schools, policymakers and further research. The study indicates the possibility for non-positional leadership to play some part of the Cosán framework being developed by the Teaching Council. Nonpositional leadership should also fall under the scope of the CSL. Through this, nonpositional leaders could be provided with appropriate professional development and support.

My Title

How do middle leaders identify with their role in a post-primary school?

Róisín O’Leary
Mary Immaculate College.

This dissertation set out to research how middle leaders identify with their role in post-primary schools. Middle leadership is a relatively new term in the Irish education system. There is a little research conducted on middle leadership in Ireland. The aim of the research is to understand the main operational and personal challenges experienced by school middle leaders, the personal characteristics that are necessary in completing the work of a middle leader and the reasons identified by school middle leaders that enable them to sustain and motivate their performance as school leaders. The research took place in DEIS post-primary schools in the Limerick Education and Training Board (ETB). Middle leaders in this area participated in semi-formal interviews. The study explored middle leaders’ views on middle leadership, the role of the middle leader, motivators of middle leaders and challenges of middle leaders. The research found that middle leaders required more time and adequate CPD for the role. Aspiring middle leaders need to immerse themselves in the school community and middle leaders require representation within the education community.

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