How to get involved . . .

Project description:

The project is an international collaboration and a developing project.  It is sponsored by UCEA and BELMAS.  The group meet at the UCEA and BELMAS conferences to share work and plan future steps.

This project is always a work in progress.  The methodology is being developed by participants as the project progresses.  The defining feature of the group is a network of researchers, guided by the same research questions, adopting a common methodological approach, and undertaking work in a diverse range of international contexts.

Expressions of interest from researchers (individuals or groups) who wish to participate in the project are invited. In most cases this will be by contributing a case study, but other opportunities for participation exist. To discuss the opportunities, and the potential for participation, contact Howard Stevenson (group convenor) in the first instance.


The project aims to deepen our understanding of how school principals lead their schools in ways that reduce inequalities.  At this stage, the definition of social justice adopted is deliberately broad, there is currently no specific commitment to see social justice in any specific philosophical terms. It remains to be seen whether this approach is sustainable in the longer term. Our approach, in the first instance, is defined by a commitment to ‘listen to the principals’.

The work of the project has been guided two over-arching questions.  At this stage, these remain tentative, but can be expressed as:

  • What is ‘social justice leadership’, and what does it look like when we see it?
  • How can an international and comparative methodology enhance our understanding of what social justice leadership means in different national contexts?

Within the parameters of these questions a set of four provisional research questions have been formulated:

1)    How do social justice leaders make sense of ‘social justice’?

2)    What do social justice leaders do?

3)    What factors help and hinder the work of social justice leaders?

4)    How did social justice leaders learn to become social justice leaders?


A case is a single school principal, drawn from either the primary or secondary phases of education.  The principal should self-identify as a ‘social justice leader’ (phrased appropriately for different contexts). By this we mean, the principal has a strong educational philosophy that commits to reducing inequality(ies). Inequalities are intentionally broadly defined – they may reflect differences based on class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability and may include inequalities in different forms of capital.  Case principals may have a reputation generally for ‘social justice leadership’, or they may have focused their efforts on a single, specific issue.

So far, participants have identified their case principals in slightly different ways. Commonly people have sought advice from people with local expertise (teachers, District officials, University staff) and asked for the names of principals well known for their effectiveness in relation to the above issues.

[It is important to point out – we anticipate doing in-depth and on-going work with the case principals over an extended time period.  Bear this in mind when choosing potential cases – involvement is unlikely to be a one-off interview]


The project takes ethical issues very seriously.  For practical purposes our expectation is that all those undertaking research as part of this project secure ethical approval from their own institution.  It is important that all researchers secure the appropriate consents from anyone participating in the project.

Participants are strongly recommended to follow the guidelines provided by organisations such as AERA and BERA.

Most project participants contribute a case-study.  New members of the group are expected to follow the same approach and follow the agreed model.  This is currently constructed in 3 activities.

Activity 1 – initial data collection:

Phase 1 data collection is a semi-structured interview with the case principal (see above re Principal selection – ‘sampling’).

The interview should be framed by addressing the four key questions identified previously. Namely:

1)    How do social justice leaders make sense of ‘social justice’?

2)    What do social justice leaders do?

3)    What factors help and hinder the work of social justice leaders?

4)    How did social justice leaders learn to become social justice leaders?

The questions are addressed through the use of an interview protocol.  That protocol can be downloaded here – Interview protocol.SJ.ISLDN Nov 12

Once the interview is completed participants should prepare a short summary of the outcomes. This should be presented using each of the 4 research questions as a sub-heading.  This summary should be placed in the group’s shared Dropbox folder (identified as Phase 1) – (contact Howard for access).

Activity 2 – the macro and micro contexts of social justice leadership:

The group have developed a framework that identifies key factors that shape the macro and micro contexts of school leadership.  The framework highlights a number of factors that shape leadership practice – but which can look very different in different countries. The framework is here – ISLDN Framework v1

In phase 2 participants need to link their case study interview to the framework, and to indicate how the factors in the framework are reflected in the interview analysis.  This is principally a discussion of how framework factors influence leadership practice, but the process may generate a critique of the framework.

Participants should provide a short write-up linking their interview data to the framework, and showing how the framework factors influenced leadership practice.

This document should be placed in the group’s shared Dropbox folder – labelled Phase 2.

Activity 3 – social justice statements:

As researchers involved in a common project we bring a range of personal experiences and perspectives.  Phase 3 of the project requires project participants to prepare a short personal statement (1000 words max) in which we set out our own personal and philosophical positions about social justice – perhaps most clearly titled as ‘What social justice means to me . . . ‘

Statements need to be placed in the Dropbox

Want to be involved?

Being involved requires a commitment to follow the research design agreed by the group. At the moment, this involves the 3 activities identified above. More activities will be added as the group extends and deepens the research.  We are particularly keen to hear from researchers who can offer case studies from countries that are not currently represented in the network. Please contact Howard Stevenson ( to discuss. Please note – the group is becoming quite large, and we are not automatically accepting new members.


3 Responses to How to get involved . . .

  1. Khalid Arar and Izhar Oplatka says:

    Dear Howard,
    I have approached all the meterials here including the interview protocol; both Izhar and I have made a meeting to discuss how we can proceed; and when and where to present, we do think that we can actively participate in a symposium both in BELMAS and ECER.
    I have also, read the requirements for ECER as it opend and will send to you inb due time our abstract ASAP.
    All the best,,
    Khalid and Izhar

  2. Pingback: Social Justice Leadership Strand of the International School Leadership Development Network – update. | ISLDN – a BELMAS/UCEA Collaboration

  3. Pingback: Social Justice Leadership strand – ACTIVITY 1 guidance | ISLDN – a BELMAS/UCEA Collaboration

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