How to lead schools innovatively rather than in a spirit of compliance… using the STIR model #BELMAS2019

STIRring Times: Accelerating Innovative Change through Leadership in UAE Schools“,
Khalid, F., Webb, C. (July 2019). Conference: BELMAS Annual Conference 2019 – ‘Educational Leadership for Social Change’. Jury’s Inn, Hinckley Island, Leicestershire, United Kingdom. 12-14th July 2019
“The UAE has undergone significant changes in the educational sector in an attempt to overhaul didactical methods to teaching and learning. The changes were announced in 2014 with an ambition of accomplishment by the year 2021 focusing mainly on improving student attainment and progress as measured by the international standardized test TIMSS and PISA, in which the UAE plans to be in the top 25 performing countries. The UAE ‘National Agenda’ sets clear criteria to improve educational systems with special emphasis on leadership and the role leaders undertake in ensuring effective change implementation. Leadership in the region has often been dominated by authoritative individuals’ apparently compliant to highly bureaucratic systems that can sometimes fail to place students and staff teams at the core of planning.
In light of this, the study reported on in this paper investigated effective leadership in two schools in Dubai, exploring distinctive leadership behaviours, expertise and actions, specifically looking at how leaders guide teams in adopting effective practices to improve student and school performance. The purpose of the study was to investigate leadership holistically, linking to literature in an effort to define effective leadership in the context of implementing change.
Research adopted a post-positivist paradigm approach, founded on a critical realist perspective, attempting to validate data using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The qualitative data rested on semi-structured interviews (n=10) with SLT members across 2 schools, and quantitative data was derived using online surveys (n=105) completed by teachers in both schools.
Findings revealed that SLT members had extensive knowledge of effective leadership behaviours, and similar perceptions were also shared in teachers’ responses. This however when analyzed revealed that both teachers and SLT aligned their discernment and knowledge to the given structured KHDA criteria for successful leadership and management which coincidently can be suggested to be contradictive to the proposed collegial and innovative approach to change management and implementation as recommended in the literature.
A model was therefore suggested founded on a paradigm suitable for UAE schools which considers an incremental approach factoring on culture and school capacity to accept and implement change using processes that are reflectively iterative and based on team empowerment. The resultant STIR model can be useful to leaders aspiring to be agents of effective change, who are creative and innovative exploring multiple views in an effort to improve and sustain organizational progress.”
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