Date of Submission

2-2017

Abstract

Christian Education National (CEN) is an association of Christian schools started in Australia, in the 1960s by Christian parents, predominantly with a Dutch Reformed heritage. Its vision for education includes the lordship of Christ over all of life, the fact that the gospel is to inform practice, and that parents are responsible for the education of their children. CEN dedicate significant resources to supporting member schools to understand the beliefs that underpin their vision for education and to develop practice based on these beliefs.

School leaders in Christian schools have responsibilities that include an understanding of the faith perspective of their school communities and the development of school practice consistent with that faith perspective. Yet, little research has been conducted with respect to the perceptions and practices of school leaders within CEN schools.

This study was an investigation into what school leaders perceived to be the essential features of CEN schools, how they embed these into school culture and the leadership by which they do this.

The study was situated within a constructivist paradigm and informed by an interpretivist theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism. The methodology adopted was case study. The case study was set within the state of Victoria and comprising ten CEN schools, with sixteen campuses, educating approximately 6500 students. Data was collected through individual semi-structured interviews of an expert reference group, comprising of national office staff with responsibilities for professional development, and a principals’ group. An online survey with open-ended questions and closed statements with a Likert scale was utilised to gather data from a larger group of senior leadership personnel from participating schools.

This research found that school leaders had an awareness of the essential features of CEN as articulated in the vision statement. Despite this, it was evident that school-based leaders lacked a depth of understanding of the beliefs that inform the CEN approach to schooling. This research also found that school leaders perceived that the essential features were to be included holistically into culture. However, services and resources available to support schools in the development of culture consistent with the vision were under-utilised. While servant leadership, shared leadership, and vision-based leadership were all described in relation to CEN schools, the leadership within these schools is better understood as informed by the Christian faith rather than widely supported leadership theories mentioned in this study.

To encourage education consistent with the CEN vision for schooling, it is recommended that CEN develop a clear and comprehensive description of their distinct approach to education and work to ensure that school boards and educational leaders are educated about this. Further, it is recommended that more be done to ensure that school leaders within this school movement undertake professional development that adequately equips them to develop practice consistent with the beliefs and values of their school communities.

School/Institute

School of Educational Leadership

Document Type

Thesis

Access Rights

Open Access

Extent

329 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

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