Realizing inclusive social justice leadership : two principals narrate their transformative journeys
Cole, Heather Ann
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This interpretive biographical case study relies on the personal narratives of two successful public school principals to explore and build upon current theory of inclusive social justice leadership in the pursuit of understanding not just the characteristics of such leadership but its actual implementation. Using transformative learning as its theoretical framework, it seeks to create a theory of action for inclusive social justice leadership. Delving into the life journeys of two educational leaders, the study looks at how their backgrounds as special education teachers and their experiences in childhood, as young adults and as professionals shaped their perspectives on full inclusion of students with disabilities as well as larger concepts of fairness and social justice. The study seeks to answer the overarching research question: How do two former special education teachers and experienced public school principals who have successfully implemented a full inclusion model describe and understand their commitment to and implementation of inclusive social justice leadership? Additional sub-questions are also asked: How has this developed over time? What, if any, events in their lives do they see as significant to their evolution as inclusive social justice leaders? What role does their current leadership position play in their social justice journey? A comprehensive literature review of inclusion, social justice leadership, and inclusive social justice leadership in theory and in connection to student success and school reform is provided. The methodology of interpretive biography is explained. Findings illuminate the individual journeys of each participant as they come to realize inequities in education and their personal struggles to address them first on small and then larger scales. Cross-comparative analysis brings to light corresponding themes with existing theory including advocacy, collaboration, intersectionality and inclusive practice but adds new action-oriented dimensions of the impact of fear and failure as an asset. Conclusions are drawn about the impact of these future leaders on the persistent inequities of public education today and recommendations are made for the training and professional development from within the education profession for more inclusive social justice leaders.