Boundaries, spaces and dialogue: learning to lead in an English primary school

Pegg, Ann Elizabeth (2009). Boundaries, spaces and dialogue: learning to lead in an English primary school. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis investigates workplace learning for new and established leaders in an English primary school. The study uses an ethnographic linguistic approach to explore the workplace learning environment and develops a conceptual framework that examines boundary construction, performance spaces and genres of organizational talk. This framework draws on Hernes (2003) to assess organizational boundaries, sociological and psychological concepts which take account of space and a Bakhtinian theory of language to understand genres. Using this framework the study investigates the way that the five formal leaders of a 350 pupil semi-rural primary school are able to learn to lead as part of their working lives. The methods used included interviews, participant observation, concept mapping,group discussions and attendance at the INSET training days and management team meetings taking place within the school. The study took place over one school year (September to July). The study illuminates the ways in which learning to lead was dominated by the local environment. Planned learning within the school was related to the organizational concerns of the headteacher and her perceptions of vulnerability and risk associated with opening the boundaries around and within the school. The school was assessed as having a restrictive learning environment, using Fuller and Unwin’s (2003) expansive – restrictive continuum, but this planned strategy by the headteacher aimed to ensure that fast, immersive learning could take place. Use of a limited range of genres of organizational talk also shaped the way in which learning took place, privileging process knowledge (Eraut 2004). The thesis proposes that boundaries, spaces and genres need to be considered together when considering the workplace as a learning environment.

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