Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Education




Pam Bishop


With the number of international students increasing notably in the Ontario college system, educational leaders in those institutions need to provide culturally sensitive leadership to ultimately support student learning and achievement. In order to investigate how and why leaders need to lead in culturally sensitive ways, an exploratory case study of leadership development programs was undertaken in three Ontario colleges. In all, 17 semi-structured, one-to-one interviews were conducted with leaders from different areas of each college (organizational development, academics, and student services). In addition, the physical settings of the three institutions were observed by the researcher and professional learning documents and annual reports were analyzed from each school. Analysis of the data included open coding and axial coding (Merriam, 2009) to determine the key themes or categories. Findings indicated there is a gap or inconsistency between external and internal perceptions of college values, such as diversity, which needs to be aligned for organizational sustainability. In addition, more leaders who are demographically and culturally diverse need to be evident at all levels of leadership in Ontario colleges. Furthermore, cultural competence learning is important for Ontario college leaders because the term itself and its enactment have layered meanings and potentially significant and positive impacts on the individual leader, their organization, and the larger society. Leadership development is not a one-size-fits-all undertaking, but needs to offer individualized and flexible opportunities for leaders to enhance their cultural competence learning through connecting with each other, building additional professional relationships inside the college, and communicating in organized and strategic ways at the college level. Finally, developing more culturally competent leaders needs to be a priority for all Ontario colleges. As this study showed, Ontario colleges are at a critical decision-making point in terms of addressing straitened government funding as well as the opportunities and challenges that increased diversity brings to an institution. This study offers a proactive approach to addressing these issues via leadership learning and developing an inclusive organizational culture for long-term sustainability and growth of Ontario colleges.