new ideas, PhD, research proposal

The narrative of belonging and the discourse of Professional Identity, Learning and Leadership of Rural Women in Education.

The narrative of belonging and the discourse of Professional Identity, Learning and Leadership of Rural Women in Education.

What factors affect Rural Women in Education from developing their leadership capacity?

How do Rural Women in Education develop their leadership capacity?

Aims: To understand the complexities of rural leadership for women practitioners.

To understand the aspiration and challenges for Rural Women in Education who seek to develop their leadership capacity. To offer new pathways for Rural women in education to develop leadership skills, professional learning opportunities and define their professional identity.

There is a gap in the research around rural women educators and how they develop their   leadership capacity and skills. There is also a gap in work that applies a  Feminist lens to rural education issues.Applying a ‘Dramatisation of Data’  approach will contribute new knowledge to this subject and allow Rural women in education to retell their stories and adapt and change their narrative of leadership and learning.

Audience: Educators, Leaders, Professional Learning

Keywords: leadership, educational leadership and management, gender roles, professional learning, professional identity, rural, belonging, collaborative learning, community of practice

Design: Qualitative

Narrative Inquiry – nuanced, personal narratives

Dramatisation of Data – a focus group that retells stories, offers alternative endings and opens discussion for change

Data: Narratives, interviews, focus via dramatisation of data process

Methodological Paradigm: Research Lens – Feminist Post Structuralist Theory ( power, gender, agency, identity, bodies)

Ethical Issues: consent, confidentiality

Method: interviews, narrative transcripts, playback theatre, document journals

Recruitment: Local school networks, 10-15 women, all stages of career, Primary and Secondary/including principals

Rationale: I want to understand, identify and explain the experiences of Rural Women in Education and the opportunities and obstacles that exist for leadership. Rural is used here to describe Hamilton, a town of under 10,000 people in the South West of Victoria. While some of the issues that persist for traditional rural small towns are not relevant to Hamilton, there is an interesting paradigm at work – Hamilton is regarded as an education precinct for the South West, offering greater choice for students and  yet location, access and resources still make it difficult for educators to develop professionally.

For women in particular, what makes developing professionally so difficult? Professional learning, further study and additional educational experience must all happen at a distance; the issue of whether a woman ‘belongs’ in the rural context, belongs to Hamilton, is regarded as a local or an outsider all impact on her decisions to commit her future (family life and work) to the town; do women belong to the leadership structures and systems inherent in the education institutions in Hamilton? Is there opportunity for Rural woman in education to develop leadership skills and accept positions of leadership while remaining in Hamilton?

Does she belong to:

Leadership and Management structures/systems – are they patriarchal, inclusive/exclusive, do they welcome women

Local networks that sponsor and mentor her learning and development of her leadership capacity

Department or Learning Area that allow her to develop her professional learning

School culture

Culture of the town – does she conform or challenge perceived notions of gender/role

Does she embody the gendered experience of other local women – mother, married, single, family?

How does she manage the multiple roles and expectations for women in her local community?

Is she visible/invisible?

Is she audible/silenced?

Does she draw on the role of the maternal/the symbolic power of the position to develop her own leadership? How is the role of maternal regarded in the local context? Does the maternal enhance or impede leadership and learning?

Are there different gendered understandings of power in the local context?

Analysis: Discourse analysis of transcripts, video of the dramatisation

I am interested in how alternative PL experiences have the opportunity to build leadership skills and really develop and transform an individual educator in a personal and professional manner. The question is what happens to women educators who are located in a rural environment and who fail to access quality, relevant, timely PL? Are there opportunities to develop leadership skills compromised?

Professional learning is identity work. Mockler.

Professional learning is leadership work. Bradbeer

Professional learning, identity and leadership are integrally linked. How are these three factors influenced by  a rural culture and context? How are rural women in education affected by them?

Leadership as a fluid, emergent property rather than a fixed phenomenon Harris (2008)

Leadership is the result of relational work in an organisation.

Can I argue that even if clear opportunities for leadership are not being offered – promotions, roles etc – that via professional learning there is the potential for radical transformation? Women teaching in a rural context can be challenged and equipped to be leaders and build their leadership capacity. Leaderships raised out of the interaction between individuals. It is not an isolated experience.

Therefore, team teaching, collaborative learning, peer coaching and mentoring all serve to develop leadership potential.

How does the multiple roles that rural women inhabit serve to influence their leadership opportunities? How does the role of the maternal offer women a powerful position from which to develop and refine their leadership capacity?

Do women in a rural context challenge leadership structures and roles in education?  Women are often seen as juggling disparate conflicting subject positions in order to survive in what is primarily a male culture.

How do women relate to other women? Do women in leadership and positions of ‘authority’ relate well to other women? What impact does this have on women educators developing their leadership capacity and transforming their identity?

The notion of rurally and engagin in feminist research in education raises a series of questions about why there is relatively little academic engagement with the rural. Often rural is regarded as  a setting and a context. There are stereotypes of rural women a traditional, insular and reactionary.  Rurality is sidelined as denoting conservation and conformity rather than feminist notion of change and freedom. Often it is too hard, costly and access to rural communities is too difficult to undertake research.

Identity is not a fixed, stable notion. It is fluid and constantly changing phenomenon. Professional teacher identity is enmeshed in the professional learning that teachers undertake. For women, the opportunities  provided, created and taken up in relation to professional learning all influence the development of a teacher identity and influences the extent to which a woman’s leadership capacity is nurtured/expanded. For women working in rural schools the issue of building leadership capacity is compounded by difficulties of access to PL, conservative attitudes to leadership and promotion, patriarchal structures, the traditional model of women’s roles as nurturer, carer and the ongoing isolation both within the classroom, department, school and system.


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