Professional learning through networking: perceptions and practices amongst basic school headteachers in Ghana

Addae-Kyeremeh, Eric (2015). Professional learning through networking: perceptions and practices amongst basic school headteachers in Ghana. In: British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society (BELMAS) Annual Conference, 10-12 Jul 2015, Reading, UK.


All too often knowledge transfer is assumed to move in a rational and predictable fashion through formal professional development experiences and trainings (Borko, 2004; Desimone, 2009). The last two decades has seen a shift in terminology associated with headteacher development with many focusing on professional ‘learning’ rather than professional ‘training’. This paradigm shift is partly due to the refined focus on headteacher professional development, where passive modes of development and trainings have been replaced with constructivist approaches. In the latter, the headteacher is actively responsible for their learning and does so by seeking and engaging in activities that are relevant and readily applicable to their everyday practice. Arguably, this shift in conceptualisation reflects a much earlier shift in classroom practice from transmission approaches to teaching to constructivist approaches to learning, and has led to a corresponding change in the structure of professional learning models for headteachers. Networks and more recently educational networks have been cited as potential outlets for professional development through formal and informal associations of headteachers and teachers.

Through an ethnographic approach this study sought to investigate networking practices of basic school headteachers in Ghana and the extent to which they perceive the social ties formed with other headteachers and education professionals contributed to their professional learning. Data was collected from headteachers, circuit supervisors, and district education officers through a number of interviews, personal accounts and descriptive analysis of social episodes. Analysis of social episodes described by headteachers suggest that homophily remains a key factor for their choice of whom to associate with. The paper argues that networking as a social practice has huge potential as an outlet for leadership learning for headteachers in the first five years of their appointment. These headteachers perceived their ties with other headteachers and education professionals as fundamental to their career development. However, this was less so for mid career headteachers who believed that their involvement in networks was mainly to contribute to knowledge creation rather than learn from the network.

This study is very important for the government of Ghana in its decentralisation of educational administration and management and the on-going search for most effective ways of developing the professional capacities of headteachers. This paper therefore highlights the need for further studies on the extent to which the social and professional capital generated through these networks can be used to good effect.

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