Exploring principals' understandings and experiences of leadership and professionalism : case studies of three primary school principals in the Pietermaritzburg region.
James, Valencia Dawn.
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This study focuses on principals’ understanding and their experiences of leadership and professionalism. The aim is to find out how principals’ understand and experience leadership and professionalism in their schools. Current South African education policy documents encourage visionary leadership, shared decision-making and devolution of authority.These policies focus on democracy and provide the enabling framework for the principals, School Management Team and School Governing Body. Despite these new policies and new structures, the schools are still controlled in a hierarchical top-down manner. The problem is whether these principals understand leadership, and what their view of professionalism entails. The study is qualitatively designed. In-depth interviews and reflective journals were used to collect data. The analyses of the three case studies were interpretive. In this research, the goal was to explore how principals understood and experienced leadership and what their view of professionalism in schools entails. Purposive sampling was used to select participants in the Pietermaritzburg Region of KwaZulu-Natal. The study revealed that leadership was understood as a participatory activity which involved others in decision-making. Principals act as facilitators, mentors, motivators and support structures rather than simply issuing orders and making demands. Principals linked professionalism to high personal and professional standards. The role of relationships, responsibility and professional knowledge were seen as important elements of professionalism.