International understandings: how theory informs the ISSPP

Complexity theory informs the stance taken by ISSPP members in their research as part of the Network. It derives from a belief that events in today’s world are highly interdependent (Kuhn, 2007). It rejects linear, atomized and predictive explanations of the social world in.

Successful principalship is dynamic and emergent, dependent on clear sets of humanistic values, and the interaction of several variables. Not all events can be observed or predicted, but all are connected (Cohen et al., 2011). Thus, researchers need to design research which enables them the fullest access to the thinking, emotional, and social worlds of principals, teachers and schools.

Complexity theory offers a way of thinking about institutions,principalship, cultures, groups, and individuals as systems. These systems interact with each other but are also partially constituted of other interactions with larger systems of governance (Haggis, 2008). Leaders are a group of people who are part of a profession, part of a school organisation that is also part of educational system, as well as a country’s culture heritage. The system affects the environment and the environment affects the system (Morrison, 2002). The underlying rationale is, therefore, that:

  • successful schools are dynamic, policy influenced but not directed, task driven and relational in their nature;
  • success goes beyond the ‘functional’, and the ‘personality´ or ‘style’ of particular principals;
  • success  is achieved through the ‘layering’ of values, beliefs, strategies, actions and relationships over time which, in combination, directly and indirectly lead to sustained achievement;
  • successful principals are agential, rather than compliant, influential through how they think and feel, who they are, what they do, and how and when they do it

Cohen, L. M., Manion, L. & Morrison (2011) Research Methods in Education. London:        RoutledgeFalmer.

Haggis, T. (2008). ‘Knowledge Must Be Contextual’: Some possible implications of complexity and dynamic systems theories for educational research. Educational philosophy and theory40(1), 158-176.

     Kuhn, L. (2007). Why utilize complexity principles in social inquiry?. World Futures63(3-       4), 156-175.

Morrison, M. (2007). What do we mean by educational research. Research methods in  educational leadership and management2, 13-36.



Published Oct. 27, 2010 6:49 PM - Last modified Aug. 31, 2020 11:25 PM