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Leading sustainable schools: exploring the role of primary school principals

The purpose of the paper is to identify the kinds of leadership that are likely to support implementing and sustaining education for sustainable development (ESD) effectively in a primary school. The paper identifies links between ESD and principal
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  This article was downloaded by: [Aravella Zachariou]On: 18 June 2012, At: 11:30Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Environmental Education Research Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information: Leading sustainable schools: exploringthe role of primary school principals Chrysanthi Kadji-Beltran a  , Aravella Zachariou b  & Robert B.Stevenson ca  Primary Education Department, Frederick University, Nicosia,Cyprus b  Ministry of Education and Culture Cyprus Pedagogical Institute,Nicosia, Cyprus c  Centre for Research and Innovation in Sustainability Educationin the Cairns Institute and School of Education at James CookUniversity in Cairns, AustraliaAvailable online: 14 Jun 2012 To cite this article:  Chrysanthi Kadji-Beltran, Aravella Zachariou & Robert B. Stevenson (2012):Leading sustainable schools: exploring the role of primary school principals, EnvironmentalEducation Research, DOI:10.1080/13504622.2012.692770 To link to this article: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use: article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representationthat the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of anyinstructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primarysources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings,  demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   A  r  a  v  e   l   l  a   Z  a  c   h  a  r   i  o  u   ]  a   t   1   1  :   3   0   1   8   J  u  n  e   2   0   1   2  Leading sustainable schools: exploring the role of primary schoolprincipals Chrysanthi Kadji-Beltran a  *, Aravella Zachariou  b and Robert B. Stevenson c a  Primary Education Department, Frederick University, Nicosia, Cyprus;  b  Ministry of   Education and Culture Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus;  c Centre for Researchand Innovation in Sustainability Education in the Cairns Institute and School of Educationat James Cook University in Cairns, Australia (  Received 2 March 2011;  󿬁 nal version received 1 May 2012 )The purpose of the paper is to identify the kinds of leadership that are likely tosupport implementing and sustaining education for sustainable development (ESD) effectively in a primary school. The paper identi 󿬁 es links between ESDand principal leadership literature and constructs a conceptual model of the lead-ership practices needed for reorienting a school to ESD/education for sustain-ability. Aspects of the model are explored through Cypriot principals ’  views onleadership and reported leadership practices. Data were obtained by a nationallyadministered questionnaire and semi-structured interviews. Outcomes indicatedsome enabling factors for ESD implementation such as encouraging teachers toengage in ESD programmes, collaborate with others and other ways of support which nevertheless re 󿬂 ect what is generally expected of school administratorswithout seeking deep change. Constraining factors included principals ’  reportedlack of con 󿬁 dence in administrative skills for sustainable schools, limited will-ingness to challenge the status quo, limited engagement in actions important for supporting ESD activities and features of the national educational policy. Con-straining factors pointed towards principals ’  limited commitment to ESD. The practical signi 󿬁 cance of the  󿬁 ndings is that they identify speci 󿬁 c areas of needed professional development for principals such as empowering staff, encouragingcritique of current approaches and exploring alternative possibilities for curricu-lum, pedagogy and policy. Keywords:  education for sustainable development; leadership; professionaldevelopment; school Introduction The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development seeks toreorient education throughout the world  ‘ to develop the knowledge, skills, perspec-tives, and values which will empower people of all ages to assume responsibilityfor creating and enjoying a sustainable future ’  (UNESCO 2004). Given such a mis-sion, education for sustainable development (ESD) or sustainability (EfS) representsan ambitious, complex and broad in scope educational reform that presents signi 󿬁 -cant intellectual, pedagogical and strategic challenges for schools to enact (Steven-son 2007). For example, the discourse of ESD/EfS, similar to that of environmental *Corresponding author. Email:  Environmental Education Research 2012, 1  –  21, iFirst article ISSN 1350-4622 print/ISSN 1469-5871 online   2012 Taylor & Francis    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   A  r  a  v  e   l   l  a   Z  a  c   h  a  r   i  o  u   ]  a   t   1   1  :   3   0   1   8   J  u  n  e   2   0   1   2  education (EE) which it has replaced in many policy circles, emphasises holistic,interdisciplinary and learner-centred teaching that engages students in critical enqui-ries into real issues of environment and development. In contrast, traditional school practices focus on discipline-based, transmissive or teacher-directed pedagogy for learning of predetermined content. In addition, the subject matter of ESD/EfS isconcerned not only with a transition to ecological sustainability but also to socialand economic sustainability. Thus, the vision and ideals of ESD for transformingcurrent policies and practices challenge the dominant purposes, structures, regulari-ties and curriculum and pedagogical practices of schooling which focus on repro-ducing rather than transforming the social and economic structures of society.Consequently, ESD/EfS have been described as  ‘ the most all encompassing educa-tional ideology ’  and  ‘ the most radical pedagogy shaping global society ’  (Spring2004, 100). It is not surprising then that a UNESCO report observed that much cur-rent education  ‘ falls far short of what is required ’  and called for a new vision and ‘ deeper, more ambitious way of thinking about education ’  (UNESCO 2002, cited inSterling 2004, 47).If this situation and these challenges are to be confronted in schools and the edu-cational ideals realised, then school leadership must play a central role. The role of school principals has consistently been identi 󿬁 ed by educational research as criticalto the successful and sustainable implementation of educational reforms. Althoughresearch indicates that leadership only indirectly affect student outcomes, principalsare key agents for building the school ’ s organisational capacity and creating the cul-tural and structural conditions for meaningful and effective teaching and learning totake place (Day et al. 2000; Leithwood et al. 2004). It can be argued that the complexchallenges of implementing ESD make the role of the principal and other schoolleaders even more important for developing the substantial individual and organisa-tional capacity necessary for success, such as: (a) assisting teachers to develop thedeep knowledge, skills and dispositions that ESD pedagogy demands; (b) promoting practices and measures that will facilitate the school ’ s orientation towards ESD and(c) establishing the school as a social agent to promote collaboration with the com-munity for achieving common visions and objectives for a sustainable future.The current study is based on a survey conducted of primary school principalsin Cyprus with the purpose of exploring their views on leadership and reportedleadership practices in relation to the characteristics identi 󿬁 ed in the literatureneeded for reorienting a school to ESD/EfS. Analyses of the literature on schoolleadership and sustainable schools (or ESD as a whole school reform) were carriedout to identify the kind of leadership that is likely to support implementing and sus-taining ESD effectively in a primary school. The responses of the Cypriot principalsserved as a national case study for comparison with the literature and were analysedfor characteristics that represent enabling and constraining forces for creating suchschools. This study therefore builds on extant literature on ESD and principal lead-ership by  󿬁 rst conceptualising links between them, and then examining Cypriot pri-mary principals ’  preparedness for leading ESD based on a conceptual modelderived from the literature. The concept of sustainable schools The concept and practice of sustainable schools is still evolving from roots in ESD.A sustainable school has been de 󿬁 ned as an organisation that:  ‘ is life giving to 2  C. Kadji-Beltran  et al.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   A  r  a  v  e   l   l  a   Z  a  c   h  a  r   i  o  u   ]  a   t   1   1  :   3   0   1   8   J  u  n  e   2   0   1   2   people, their purposes, policies and practices ’  (Birney and Reed 2009, 13); ‘ isguided by the principle of care for one self, care of each other and care for theenvironment  ’  (DCSF 2008) and  ‘ integrates changes to the practical operations of the school with sustainability issues in the curriculum and helps to build links tolocal communities ’  (Gough 2005, 340). These de 󿬁 nitions imply that developing sus-tainable schools requires fundamental restructuring of the school on a pedagogical,organisational, technical and social level. Thus, transitioning a school towards ESDrequires a holistic reform of a school ’ s operation, including its curriculum, teaching,culture, resource management and collaboration within and outside the school boundaries (Jensen 2005). This means, for example, the principles and values of sustainability, such as intergenerational equity, respect, solidarity and democracymust be translated into curriculum and pedagogical practices  –   and ones that willengage students in meaningful, deep and enduring learning. Sustainability principlesand practices also need to be embedded in school culture, internal and external rela-tionships, and the resource usage, including energy, water and paper consumption.These whole school approaches to sustainability that characterise a sustainableschool have broadened the educational agenda from school improvement and stu-dent achievement concerns to school development that encompasses not only curric-ulum and pedagogical issues but also school governance and the management of resources (i.e. energy, waste and water reduction) and school grounds (for biodiver-sity). Embedding sustainability principles and values across all curriculum areas,expanding pedagogical approaches to include experiential, outdoor and action learn-ing, and creating participatory and democratic decision-making structures that engage the whole school community are ideals that have been identi 󿬁 ed as part of whole school sustainability approaches (Henderson and Tilbury 2004).Although the concept of sustainable schools is still relatively new, current research and literature conveys a vision of:(i)  ‘ learning environments and learning experiences that will enable students towork towards having a good quality of life in a sustainable environment  ’ (Gough 2005, 340);(ii) a mission and educational plan oriented towards ecologically, sociallyand economically sustainable futures (Breiting, Mayer, and Mogensen 2005)and(iii) the school, functioning as a role model of sustainable lifestyles, facilities andoperations, democratic governance and inclusive school culture (Higgs andMcMillan 2006).A set of whole school characteristics for promoting ESD have been identi 󿬁 ed bythe English Quali 󿬁 cations and Curriculum Authority (2003) that include: ESD beingembedded in school policies; coherence between the formal and hidden curriculum;transparency and consistency with ESD policies in the way the school is operatedand run; student participation in decision-making about running the school in a sus-tainable way; continuing professional development in ESD for all staff and regular evaluation of progress toward ESD (Gough 2005). The Department of Environment and Heritage (2005, 10) of the federal government in Australia listed the facets of school life that should be articulated in a whole school approach: how the school isorganised and operates; school design; development and management of schoolgrounds; reduction and minimisation of resource use by the school; enhanced  Environmental Education Research  3    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   A  r  a  v  e   l   l  a   Z  a  c   h  a  r   i  o  u   ]  a   t   1   1  :   3   0   1   8   J  u  n  e   2   0   1   2
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