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Supporting teaching and learning in challenging contexts: a phenomenological study of the leadership role of circuit managers.

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This phenomenological study was conducted among six circuit managers in schools that are located in challenging contexts. While circuit managers are not directly involved in the day to- day management and leadership of schools, there is however compelling literature evidence that suggests that their leadership role has a great impact on the improvement of learner attainment. With so many of our schools being in areas that are very challenging, which makes teaching and learning difficult, circuit managers’ support becomes more critical. Circuit managers, like all other Department of Education personnel, are expected to ensure that our education system functions properly. The study draws from instructional leadership theory and context-responsive theory as critical lenses that constitute the theoretical framework used in the study. The study is underpinned by the interpretivist paradigm, with phenomenology used as the research design. Semi-structured interviews and document reviews were used to generate the data, which was analysed using phenomenological data analysis. The findings indicate that circuit managers perform many tasks that are beyond the scope of their job descriptions. They do this because of an overwhelming need for support as a result of the plethora of challenges that the schools that they support have to deal with. These challenges tend to distract their attention from issues that directly link to learner attainment. Human resources management seems to be the most important task that circuit managers undertake, from assisting the schools to get their requisite staff establishment to the development of staff, particularly of principals’ leadership capacities. Circuit managers have developed key strategies to deal with the context as they work with schools.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.