An exploratory study of four primary school headteachers' perceptions of the content of their daily workload

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Harrison, William

The investigation was an exploratory study, using case study method, of four instances of primary school headship as it occurs in everyday practice from the headteacher's perspective. The study was based on four headteachers'\ud perceptions of the activities which made up their workload on five working days over a period of six months.\ud \ud The investigation's principal research instrument was a specially designed diary, with additional data collected by questionnaire and semi-structured interview. Under\ud examination were the implications of the use of data\ud collected by diary, questionnaire and interview in that they\ud are in the medium of language which mediates data in specific ways and raises the question of subjectivity. The\ud examination of the four headteachers' written and spoken\ud discourse used first person pronouns as a linguistic indicator of personal involvement (after Chafe and Danielwicz 1987) and consequently a measure of subjectivity.\ud \ud The four headteachers recorded themselves as having carried out 524 discernible activities during the five working days studied. The activities, and other diary data, demonstrated the breadth and complexity of the headteacher's workload and identified in depth the unique features of the four instances of headship as perceived and recorded by the\ud headteachers themselves.\ud \ud Findings show the headteacher to be located at the centre of a complex social network of expectations, responsibilities, choices, etc., which results in the everyday workload being contextually generated and interpreted by the individual headteacher in a particular way. Analysis of data shows the headteacher's job to be multi-dimensional, demanding, complex and at times ambiguous; all of which makes it difficult to describe the job in conventional managerial and leadership terms, though they are at times applicable at a general level.\ud \ud The model of primary school headship to emerge from\ud the investigation's accumulative findings depicts the essential subjective character of the job as a continuous process of personal interpretation and influence.\ud \ud The emergent model explains the need for interpretation, the process of interpretation, and the expression of the interpretation as a process of personal influence which aims to bring clarity, coherence and commitment to the school's multifarious purposes.
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