School principals' understanding and experiences of leadership.
Kraft, Ursula Maria Caroline.
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The purpose of this study was to explore principals’ understanding and experiences of school leadership. The task of principals is to create learning spaces for everyone in the school and to develop them into productive leaders. It is, therefore, important to find out how principals perceive leadership and how they, through their experiences of leadership, create learning environments conducive for teaching and learning. Hence, this study adopted the transformational leadership concepts to explore the leadership experiences of the principals. A qualitative case study within the interpretive paradigm was adopted to explore the understanding and experiences of leadership of three principals. Qualitative research seeks to explain and understand social phenomena within its natural setting. It focuses on the meaning people have constructed about their world and the researcher is the primary instrument for data generation and analysis. The study attempted to make sense of the respondents life-worlds by interacting with them, appreciating and clarifying the meanings they ascribed to their experiences. Data was generated by means of semi-structured interviews and reflective journal writing and was analysed throughout the research process. The findings show that there was a general consensus amongst the principals in their understanding of leadership. What emerged from this research is that the principals realised that through their leadership, they have to play a leading role in transforming their schools into institutions of professional places of teaching and learning. For them leadership was characterised by concepts such as collective endeavours, collaborative decision making and a high degree of personal and professional standards. Their understanding and experiences of leadership also show the need for principals to build positive and trusting relationships with their staff and other stakeholders; have a caring attitude and showing understanding for the needs of others. The participants concurred that the route to lead schools better, to ensure that they become professional places of teaching and learning is rooted in fostering trusting relationships amongst themselves, the staff, parents and the community. However, their experiences of these concepts varied in accordance with their respective circumstances. In conclusion, principals must constantly communicate a clear set of values and develop a shared vision for their school. Principals must promote and care about learners and teachers’ learning. They must create opportunities for collaborative learning among staff and continual professional development. By doing so, these approaches by progressive principals create spaces for their schools to become professional places of teaching and learning, ready to cope with a changing and complex environment.