Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Education




Dr. Pamela Bishop


This exploratory case study explores unique leadership challenges facing Ontario college Continuing Education leaders as they navigate institutional responses to contemporary changes in the higher education landscape. Nine Ontario college deans/administrative leaders participated in semi-structured interviews that were analyzed using a modified version of constant comparative analysis. Adopting the theoretical perspectives of sensemaking and identity from an Interpretive stance, the analysis leads to the presentation of a conceptual model that represents the interpretation of these leaders’ experiences.

The conceptual model that emerged from this study adopts the position that sensemaking resolves identity ambiguities and is triggered by leadership challenges. These leaders’ identities demonstrate passionate advocacy for lifelong learning; a commitment to serving their students, their communities and their teams; and a connection to provincial colleagues that counteracts a perception of local isolation. Furthermore, participants’ leadership challenges include experiences of complexity, constant change, and varying degrees of institutional marginalization. Finally, despite commonalities of identity construction and leadership challenges, there is diversity in these leaders’ approaches to their roles, as narrated in their interviews and subsequently interpreted as distinct metaphorical cameos. The study findings suggest a similarity that Continuing Education leaders may have with a “reframing” model for approaching leadership challenges in higher education.

This study contributes to the field of Educational Leadership, and presents an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities that Continuing Education leaders in Ontario colleges encounter. Recommendations suggest future research that may further develop an even deeper understanding of sensemaking phenomena as applied to leadership in the higher education setting.