Scott Eacott’s relational research program offers a distinctive variant of the relational sociology project. By not fitting neatly into any one field, the relational approach arguably charts new territory and promotes important dialogue and debate for understanding the organization of education.
Beginning in studies of educational administration and leadership, the relational approach has since been mobilized to explore supplementary education, Indigenous epistemologies, and future focused learning, among others. It has been central to multiple successful grants, 45 publications, over 21 conference papers, 10 theses, and is taught in masters and doctoral programs in Australia and Canada.
The relational approach offers a methodological framework for the study of the social world. It provides a means to frame scholarly inquiry and structure an argument in a thesis, paper, book, or conference paper. Built upon a very Bourdieusian craft of scholarship, but without any great loyalty of reverence, A/Prof Eacott’s relational approach comprises five relational extensions:
- The centrality of “organizing” in the social world creates an ontological complicity in researchers (and others) that makes it difficult to epistemologically break from ordinary language;
- Rigorous social scientific inquiry calls into question the very foundations of popular labels such as “the organization”, “leadership”, “management”, and “administration”;
- Contemporary spatio-temporal conditions cannot be separated from the ongoing, and inexhaustible, recasting of organizing activity;
- Foregrounding social relations enables the overcoming of the contemporary, and arguably enduring, analytical dualism of individualism/collectivism, universal/particular, and structure/agency; and
- In doing so, there is a productive – rather than merely critical – space to theorize organizing activity.
New to the relational research program? An introductory overview can be found in chapter two of the new edited collection by Gabriele Lakomski, Scott Eacott and Colin Evers (2017). Questioning Leadership: New Directions For Educational Organizations. London: Routledge. Additionally, this paper provides a useful overview: Eacott, S. (2016). Methodological notes on the study of educational leadership relationally. Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations, 25(2), 3-14.
The first book length treatment of the relational approach is Eacott’s (2015) Educational Leadership Relationally. The most comprehensive overview appears in Eacott’s (2018) Beyond leadership: a relational approach to organizational theory in education. See also the Publications tab for many other papers and chapters using the relational approach. Ongoing work is currently being articulated at the moment in conference papers and empirical projects and will be published shortly.
Using the relational approach in your dissertation, thesis, or a paper? A/Prof Eacott has developed an indicative guideline for structuring your writing. See here.
A 2016 Special Issue of Journal of Educational Administration and Foundations was dedicated to discussing Educational Leadership Relationally.
You can read responses to Educational Leadership Relationally from:
Dr Eacott’s response can be found here and forthcoming responses include:
- Fenwick English
- Helen Gunter
- Tony Bush
A forthcoming 2019 special issue of The REAL is dedicated to discussing the ideas presented in A/Prof Eacott’s 2018 book – Beyond leadership: A relational approach to organizational theory in education – the comprehensive overview of the relational approach to scholarship (published as part of the Educational Leadership Theory book series).