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“Is the beast finally consumed?” – Critically un-packaging the elusive construct of Distributed Leadership
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Paper presented at the 11th Hawaii International Conference on Education, Honolulu, Hawaii, 6-9 January 2013
A review of the literature reveals broadness in the conceptual and operational definition of the
construct, Distributed Leadership (DL) (refer to discussions by Spillane, Gronn, Harris, Bennett,
and Leithwood), making it elusive. The elusive nature of DL is due in part to the term
'leadership' which is contested among educational theorists; while the other, is due to the lack of
attempts at trying to unpack and measure this construct. The purpose of this study is to unpack
and discuss key dimensions of the construct of DL based on a nation-wide survey of school
leadership in Singapore. Special care was taken in critically determining these dimensions and
not areas or aspects where DL may be applied. In other words, we are more interested in the
essence of DL rather than categories of distributed leadership practices, which most leadership
researchers employ. This study is especially timely in view of the rising trend in school-based
curriculum development and innovation towards growing expansion of student learning
outcomes beyond the academic subjects such as the 21st century skills. The growing importance
of school-based development and innovation calls for leadership practices that not only improve
classroom teaching and learning, but also greater devolvement of decision-making power at the
school and classroom levels. In the process of better understanding the DL construct, it is an
imperative aim of much multivariate analysis is to reduce the dimensionality of the data
collected. This is essentially desirable in the investigative stages of a research to provide a lucid
interpretation of the data and theoretical measurement model building. This requires the use of
a proper metric. As such, Exploratory Factor Analysis was performed on the Rasch (linearized)
standardized residuals (see Linacre, 1998, 2006; Wright, 1994, 1996). The DL instrument
consists of 25 items, and the sample involved schools leaders from Singapore (i.e., 224
Principals, 322 Vice-Principals and 686 middle-level school managers). The findings provided
evidence that the Rasch residual-based factor analysis yielded 4 possible factors of DL. The
discussion on these factors will be presented.
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