Social Justice Leadership Strand of the International School Leadership Development Network – update.

Katarina, Pam and Helene present at BELMAS 2013, Edinburgh

Katarina, Pam and Helene comparing social justice leadership in Sweden and the USA, BELMAS 2013.

Please take some time to read this and take in the contents.  There is a huge amount happening and this is my attempt to bring it all together in a single place.  This relates to the SJL group ONLY – a different set of notes will be written up from the whole Network meeting at BELMAS.

These notes contain matters FOR INFORMATION, and matters FOR ACTION. Some of the action points apply to ALL GROUP MEMBERS, and our expectation is that we show our commitment to continuing our membership by engaging with these basic activities [see in particular the TWO ACTIVITIES at the end of this message].

From the volume of work this project is now generating you will see that it is important we all engage in sharing the project leadership – as we discussed and agreed at the BELMAS meeting.

Future conferences:

ECER, Istanbul, September – Symposium featuring Kadir, Khalid, Izhar and Alison. Howard to chair and Katarina to act as discussant. Please can one of the presenters take responsibility for co-ordinating this symposium. The ECER proposal is here – ECER proposal 2013

UCEA – an SJL network meeting (see below) plus:

  • Symposium 1 – featuring Anna, Chris, Charlie/Vicky/Nancy, Annie/Elson, Jill/Joyce, Meng.  The proposal is here ucea-2013-micro-and-macro-contexts-of-schooling1please can someone in the group co-ordinate this symposium.
  • Symposium 2 – featuring Pam/Heather, Ian and Helene/Katarina. The proposal is here – ucea13-hnssjl-proposal.  This seeks to connect and compare the two different projects. Howard and Bruce to liaise to provide a framework for presenters.
  • Symposium 3 – likely to be in the International Summit at the end of formal UCEA proceedings – Howard and Bruce participating (plus Charlie on behalf of ISPP).

CCEAM – Izhar Oplatka has expressed an interest in the group presenting at this conference. He will ask for expressions of interest soon.  Pending interest Izhar will co-ordinate a submission.

AERA – the group will meet for a business meeting at AERA, but we are NOT submitting a session proposal on this occasion.

In addition there are (exciting !!) plans for an ISLDN Network Conference – sitting outside the normal conference schedules.  This is being planned by Jami Berry, Pam Angelle and Ian Potter.

Meng and Mika at BELMAS 2013

Meng and Mika comparing China and Finland


Management in Education – special issue.  We are aiming for the July 2014 issue of MiE to show case our work.  At least one person from the group will act as a co-editor (with one person from the High Needs group) – a call for anyone interested in editing to indicate their willingness will come out soon.  The co-editors will pull together the special issue.  There are likely to be around 3 articles from within our group of 2-4,000 words in length.

Chapter in a book to be edited by Jim Ryan (OISE) and Denise Armstrong (Brock). Their proposal here – Working_Social Justice_ 2013_ Book Proposal.  Contributors – Howard Stevenson, Pam Angelle, Michelle Morrison (NZ), Philip Woods, Meng Tian, Mika Risku. Howard to co-ordinate.

The project’s next steps . . . [please note – this is the very important part – it involves ALL network members in committing to TWO ACTIVITIES].

Upto now we have all undertaken to commit to Phase 1 of the research. Phase 1 involves an interview with 1 or 2 school principals using the interview protocols agreed by the group. As a group we agreed to undertake this work by July 2013.


We are now engaged in Phase 2 of the research.  This involves taking the research data gathered so far (from the principal interviews) and linking this to the ‘ISLDN framework’ – the framework is here ISLDN Framework v1.  At our SJL strand symposium at UCEA (in November) the presenters will be presenting their data and linking it to the framework.   However, we are asking that all network members spend some time linking the data we have collected to the framework, and writing a commentary/reflection on this.  This should address TWO issues:

  1. Link the headings in the framework  to the data from the interview(s) and provide a short commentary in relation to each one – how far did the items identified in the framework impact on the capacity of the school leader to commit to a social justice agenda?
  2. Comment on the framework – how useful is it in identifying the key macro and micro contextual factors that influence school leaders and social justice? What did work/didn’t work/is missing?

This only needs to be short (as much as is necessary to address the two questions).

Please submit your thoughts to the folder ‘Phase 2 Research – ISLDN Framework’ in Dropbox (I will make sure you all have access) by 7th October. Use a filename that clearly identifies it as your contribution (shared contributions welcome if you tend to work as a team).

This is an important part of the project.  It is very important we do not rely on the presenters at UCEA to do all the thinking (and work) in relation to this. If we all do this activity then the work is shared, and will also be richer.


At our meeting at UCEA in 2012 we agreed we need to engage much more deeply with conceptualising social justice. So far we have put this off . . . and focused on what our school leaders think social justice is. But what do we think social justice is? What does it mean to us? How do we make sense of social justice?  The group has recognised that we can no longer proceed without making more explicit our own personal positions on these issues.  At UCEA it was agreed that we would ask all SJL strand members to produce a short personal statement (maximum 1000 words, can be less) and then we would pool these and use them as the basis for a discussion.  We are asking therefore that all network members produce a statement of maximum 1000 words that addresses the question ‘What does social justice mean to me?’  It is entirely up to individual members of the group how you choose to respond to the question – it may be very personal, or very theoretical, or some combination  of the two. What we would ask is that you include the titles of 5-6 key texts that have been critical in shaping your thinking – as we will use this as a means of starting a literature search in this area. Please place your response in the Dropbox folder ‘Social Justice Statements’ by 7th October.  Please use a filename that identifies the contribution as yours.  I think this will work best if we each do it individually – regardless of whether you normally work in a group.

A personal comment – in my view this is quite a ‘risky’ activity.  We are putting ourselves ‘out there’ to our fellow group members, on an issue that might be quite personal to us.  I feel strongly that this is a ‘risk’ we all need to engage with. If we are to really function as a group, and to work with each other and understand each other, then I think we are now at the point where we need to make our own personal positions more explicit.  Please don’t agonise over it (I’m not going to!).  We are not judging each other on our use of English or the power of our argument. We are not peer-reviewing an article. We are trying to find a way, electronically, to have a discussion. An important discussion – but a friendly and informal one, at the end of the day.  My feeling is that it will be fascinating and will move us as a group into a new level of collaboration.

Ian and Charlie, BELMAS 2013

Ian and Charlie, comparing England and Costa Rica

After all that . . .

We are committed to organising a ‘google chat’ immediately after 7th October – so that we have a chance to discuss issues face to face, before UCEA.

At UCEA we are going to spend our group time (we have a 4 hour session) focused on mapping out Phase 3 of the research. We will review Phases 1 and 2, and begin to formulate Phase 3 . . . how do we extend data collection? What else needs to be done?

And something to think about . . .

We have always been a ‘tight-but-loose’ network in the sense that we are all doing the same thing, but we are rather making it up as we go along!  This may need some further thought.  Some members of the group have linked work they are involved in to the project, but it does not follow exactly the process we have agreed. In other cases we have (very welcome) interest from other bodies and networks that can see common cause with our work (Philip  and Mika’s European Network is one, a link with the General Teaching Council of Scotland post-BELMAS is another).  My feeling is that we will need to think through some of the issues here.  How does work relate to the project if it does not follow the agreed protocol? Does it matter? How can we develop fruitful relationships with other networks and organisations? We have our two sponsor organisations, but how do we benefit from links with other bodies? Perhaps that is a discussion to be had over a coffee in Istanbul or Indianapolis . . .

[if you are not part of this Network, but you’ve got to the bottom of this long post, then it is possible you are quite interested in being involved.  We are interested to hear from people who want to join us (academics or teachers). Each member commits to following our agreed methodology, and we are particularly interested to hear from people able to do work in countries where the project is not already represented – the list of countries here.  Email me for details at]


July 2013

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One Response to Social Justice Leadership Strand of the International School Leadership Development Network – update.

  1. I think you are all added to the Dropbox . . . let me know if you can’t access it. Howard

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