Bringing Others into Us: School Leadership Meeting the Politics of Identity

By Jennie Billot.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

How does a school maintain a sustainable identity within the rapidly changing society in which it is positioned? As a result of global migrations of people, the demographics of societies are changing and creating increasingly diverse communities, resulting in a challenging context for school leadership. The ‘research territory’ (Morrison, Lumby & Sood, 2006, p. 281) of diversity has mainly been occupied by those outside the domains of educational management and leadership, so this paper aims to redress that imbalance. By examining the connections between diversity of population and school identity, I identify how inclusive practices aimed at social equity can be used to draw diverse groups into a larger unified school community. There has been much debate about what constitutes ‘diversity’ in general terms and, given the multiplicity of meanings for this concept, in this paper I focus on ethnocultural diversity which Au refers to as encompassing ‘groups with shared histories and cultural knowledge’ (1995, p. 85). I refer to research findings of an international study to identify strategies and practices developed and implemented by principals in New Zealand to address increasing ethnocultural diversity. Identity can be viewed as the ‘combination of the internal experience of place and external participation in world and society’ (Cockburn, 1983, p. 1). The principal holds a pivotal role in facilitating school identity and as leadership emerges from social constructions of the self, so the principal works recursively with the concept of identity in the agency of leadership. I identify the tension between efforts to value diversity and the achievement of social cohesion through consensus building and contend that espoused concentration on issues arising from the multi-dimensional nature of diversity can divert focus from the pursuit of equity.

Keywords: Ethnocultural Diversity, Identity, School Leadership

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.85-92. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 520.453KB).

Dr. Jennie Billot

Postgraduate Student Research Director, Postgraduate Division, Unitec New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand

PhD (Auck); BSc(Hons) (Lond); PGCertEd (Lough) Postgraduate Student Research Director: Unitec New Zealand. My research interests have emerged from working in different sectors of education. This includes teaching across primary, secondary and tertiary contexts, government initiated school review and research and directing a centre for educational research and Institutes for Educational Leadership (residential professional development programmes for school principals). I have also led internal, external (Ministry of Education) and international collaborative research projects, including projects focusing on teaching and learning. Following my commissioned research in the Pacific Islands, I was the invited facilitator of the Pacific Forum, initiated by the International Confederation of Principals in Sydney (2003) focusing on research into principalship in the Pacific. I currently co-ordinate and lecture in a course of Research Methods across disciplines and work through the Unitec Postgraduate Division to support postgraduate student research. My current research interests lie primarily in educational leadership, diversity and ethical leadership, the tertiary research culture and research preparation for tertiary students.

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