Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Education

Supervisor

Dr. Katina E. Pollock

Abstract

This dissertation explores school principals’ work in Grenada, a former British colony in the Caribbean. The dearth of perspectives of school leadership in/on the Global South, broader tensions in the field around standards, frameworks, and expectations around the principalship, and, particularly in Grenada, the lack of documentation around principals’ work, geo-economic challenges including fiscal constraints, and sociohistoric ideologies and tensions around labour, civic duty, and Christianity contextualized the study. The study was qualitative and interpretive, utilizing direct observations and semi-structured interviews to garner eight (four each in primary and secondary schools) public school principals’ understandings, actions, and challenges relative to their work. The research framework constituted a relational understanding of principals’ labour as embedded and embodied in context intertwined with a conceptualization of work as a social construct. This necessitated a focus on principals’ thinking about their work and the actions they undertook daily but also probing the conditions and relations around which such thinking and actions unfolded. Principals understood work as, a calling/vocation, service, and commitment to student learning. Consequently, they undertook many denominational-based actions and other duties around organizational management, instructional supervision, and community relations, overall reporting high volumes of administrative tasks, little time for instructional supervision, and high volumes of unfree labour. Limited governmental and denominational supports, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, pedagogy, and resources, negative public regard for some schools, and intimidation dictated day-to-day undertaking of work, driving high rates of manual labour, fundraising, and charity among principals. The findings underscore the highly administrative nature of the work of school principals and corroborates incumbents’ admissions in the literature of time constraints in undertaking instructional work. The findings also illuminate wider evidence in the field of the highly compliant nature of principals’ contemporary work, with Grenadian principals working long, arduous hours notwithstanding grave socio-economic hardships – not of their making – constraining their abilities to perform their work. Principals ascribed this commitment to their Christian (moral) principles and broader civic beliefs, but it was apparent that broader societal expectations around principals’ labour and some principals’ fear of victimization also ensured compliance and control of principals’ labour in Grenada.

Summary for Lay Audience

Grenada is a small nation state in the Caribbean also discussed as part of the Global South. In the field of educational administration and leadership, our collective understandings of the work of school principals are largely informed by perspectives in/from the Global North, especially the United States and some parts of Europe. Herein, the most influential literature around principals’ contemporary work promotes instructional leadership and other types of leadership that prescribe behaviours that “successful” principals purportedly undertake in turning schools around. This is despite evidence that principals are bombarded with administrative tasks, emergencies, and other issues demanding attention during the workday, finding little time to undertake instructional supervision or consciously demonstrate prescribed “leadership” behaviours. This thrust toward leadership, including instructional leadership, is couched in dominant, neoliberal-centered discourse wherein principals’ labour is commodified, and the principal is cast as the instrument of school reform, discourse that drives the proliferation of long working hours, work intensification, and wellbeing issues for school principals. This study problematizes this universal acceptance of not just what school principals do but what drives their work. The study defines work as a socially constructed phenomenon unfolding in context. Such a situated gaze exposes for analysis not just the kinds of understandings, actions, and challenges that characterize principals’ work in Grenada, but the conditions and relations in and around which such work unfolds and is sustained in this small nation state in the Global South. Through qualitative inquiry, eight public school principals shared their perspectives on the understandings, actions, and challenges of their daily work and the conditions around which they undertake work in Grenada. The results corroborate broader evidence of high volumes of administrative tasks and little time for instructional supervision. Particularly noteworthy were the long working hours and copious amounts of manual labour, fundraising, and charity performed by Grenadian school principals. Overall, principals’ work in Grenada was contextualized by longstanding sociohistoric, political, and economic arrangements including poverty, principals’ Christian (moral) principles and civic beliefs, broader societal expectations around principals’ labour, and fear of victimization.

Available for download on Thursday, March 21, 2024

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