This thesis examines middle leadership in four international secondary schools in Malaysia. It focuses on five main areas; roles, responsibilities, role relationships, instructional engagement and leadership involvement. Data were collected through observations, documentary analysis and 52 semi-structured interviews with four principals, 12 heads of department and 36 teachers. The empirical data indicate that the middle leaders’ roles suffer from lack of clarity, with managerial tasks dominating their job scope. Different role interpretations have led to the development of misunderstanding and uneasy relationships between and among the participants. Despite this, and in contrast to the literature, there is more coordination between the middle leaders and the senior leaders, mainly due to the nature of accountability in private international settings. The empirical findings show teaching and learning to be the most powerful feature of the four case-study schools. Among all the themes identified, lesson observations are conducted and taken seriously in all the schools. Criticisms about monitoring persist but the general trend is positive. Time constraints, as suggested by international literature, continue to hamper the work of the participating middle leaders. This thesis holds that autonomy to take and implement decisions is an essential component of distributed leadership. Broadly speaking, the empirical evidence suggests that opportunities for middle leaders and teachers to participate and influence key decisions in their schools are limited. While they claim great autonomy in the domain of the classroom, they report limited satisfactory experience outside it. The observational findings indicate four departmental models; ‘island’ & ‘shopping mall’, in which isolation prevails; ‘solar system’, with its asymmetrical balance of attention; ‘magnet’, where a few are attracted and the rest repelled, and ‘bicycle wheel’, with a hub to which all ‘roads’ lead. The main significance of this thesis is inter-sectionality, which occurs at the interface between autonomy and expertise. This model suggests that the transition from middle management to middle leadership is contingent upon the proportional provision of these two constructs. A lack of equilibrium between autonomy and expertise can influence the extent to which middle-level practitioners can be described as leaders.
|University of Nottingham
|Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
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