“Out of the Woods and into the Desert – Leadership of Forest Schools: A UAE Case Study”. Hendawy, Z., Webb, C., July 2019. Conference: BELMAS Annual Conference 2019 – ‘Educational Leadership for Social Change’. At: Jury’s Inn, Hinckley Island, Leicestershire, United Kingdom. 12-14th July 2019
This paper presents research on an exploration of leadership in Forest Schools as a model of nature-based learning. A needs analysis indicated demand for creating nature-based learning environments in the UAE. Therefore, this study investigated leadership in UAE schools and changes required to initiate nature-based learning relevant to the UAE context of nature, culture, and heritage, over the period from April to June 2018. The first research question focused on establishing a thorough understanding of leadership styles and characteristics in Forest Schools by interviewing a range of international Forest School leaders and experts (n=10). The second research question explored leadership style and characteristics of UAE school leaders across Abu Dhabi schools using a survey questionnaire(n=74). These questions were put forward to offer a clear understanding of the relationship between leadership and creating outdoor learning experiences. Literature and interview results indicated that with leadership distributed at different organisational levels Forest School Principals allow great flexibility to adapt to environments pertaining to nature pedagogy. School leaders interviewed suggested they adopted a transformational leadership style which can positively encourage and promote change required to create nature-based learning opportunities. However, roles and responsibilities in UAE schools need to be distributed to involve more teachers indecision making, and to motivate and empower them to take part in the required change towards nature-based learning. On the basis of the above, it was possible to derive a nature-based leadership model with specific style and characteristics that offers several ways to initiate nature-based settings in UAE schools.
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