Current Projects

The Advancing Relational Theorising Lab team is involved in a number of research projects currently. The research program at the Lab is clustered around three key areas: i) Small towns; ii) school leadership and context; and iii) the re-casting of expertise in educational leadership. These are the basis of recruitment for higher degree researchers. Below are a brief overview of the signature projects under each key area.

 

SMALL TOWNS

Project title: Small town schools – Australia

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Scott Eacott (UNSW), Dr Amanda Heffernan (Monash), Prof Tanya Fitzgerald (UWA) & Dr Melyssa Fuqua (UNSW)

Research Assistants: TBC

Higher Degree Researchers: TBC

Funding source(s): Pending

Overview: Small towns in Australia are in crisis. Socio-demographic and economic decline combined with environmental fragility are bringing about significant social and cultural transformation. However, images of the small bush town are deeply rooted in Australia’s national character and mythology (Corbett, 2015). This makes small towns a cultural rather than just a geographic category (Eversole, 2016). Central to this cultural category is the local school. Often described as the heart of the community (Halsey, 2018), small schools assume a social and not just education function (Kroismayr, 2019). They are a catalyst for a sense of community, social cohesion, and building resilience (Schafft, 2016; Slee & Miller, 2015; Oncescu, 2014). The small school therefore provides powerful insights for a broader reflection on the constitution and emergence of Australia’s cultural imagery. Theoretically informed by the relational approach this project advances knowledge by reorienting our understanding of the local school and its role in community building and identity formation. In doing so, this project adds vital missing depth to our understanding of Australian society, history, and culture.

Status: ongoing – including plans to expand the project internationally.

Outputs: pending – with multiple publications under review or in-preparation

 

SCHOOL LEADERSHIP AND CONTEXT

Project title: The implications of context on school leadership

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Scott Eacott (UNSW)

Research Assistants: TBC

Funding source(s): Pending

Overview: The National School Reform Agenda aspires to deliver a high-quality and equitable school system. With the Australian Government investing $310.3 billion in education over the next decade, the stakes are high. Delivering on this investment is unlikely without attention to developing context-sensitive school leadership. Such leadership has a positive impact on health, employment, wages, social inclusion, while reducing crime, incarceration and teenage pregnancy. In addition, reducing the school performance gap based on location could add millions to the national economy. What remains is an evidence void on the impact of school leadership in context. Building on a series of preliminary studies, this project sharpens the point that context matters for understanding school leadership and the impact of schooling. It will provide a comprehensive evidence base and essential theoretical insights for optimising school leadership for both academic and non-academic outcomes. Such evidence is timely for governments, systems, and schools to deliver a high-quality and equitable education for all.

Status: ongoing

Outputs: forthcoming

 

RE-CASTING EXPERTISE IN EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP

Project title: Educational leadership research and the cult of the guru

Chief Investigators: A/Prof Scott Eacott (UNSW)

Research assistant(s): TBC

Higher degree researchers: TBC

Funding source(s): pending

Overview: This project builds on an earlier claim that there is a ‘cult of the guru’ in educational leadership. To do so, it combines an appropriation of Hall’s Kardashian index, an analysis of Twitter tagging relations, and relational theory for the purpose of establishing an empirical foundation for ongoing dialogue and debate as to whether there is a ‘cult of the guru’ in educational leadership research. As part of a broader digital turn in knowledge generation, distribution, and consumption, the argument of this project is that notion research expertise is shifting. Traditional modes of acquiring and sustaining research capital (e.g., publications, citations, research income) have been replaced by social presence, profile building, and the curation of followership. For an applied field, the role of research expertise is of considerable importance. With an increasing number of school leaders turning to social media for their professional learning, the recasting of research expertise to those curating followership, and potentially divorced from research performance, is of timely significance for the ongoing credibility of the field both internally and within the broader academy.

Status: ongoing

Outputs: A number of journal articles and conference papers have been generated from this project, including:

Book chapters

Eacott, S. (2020). How not to be seduced by common-sense. In J.S. Brooks, & A. Heffernan, (Eds.), The school leadership survival guide: what to do when things go wrong, how to learn from mistakes, and why you should prepare for the worst. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Journal articles

Eacott, S. (2018). Educational leadership researchers, (social) scientific credibility, and the Kardashian index (April 25). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3248811

Eacott, S. (2018). Ranting, raving, and complaining: reflections on working against the orthodoxy. International Journal of Leadership in Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603124.2018.1492025

Eacott, S. (2017). School leadership and the cult of the guru: The neo-Taylorism of Hattie. School Leadership & Management, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13632434.2017.1327428

Conference papers:

Eacott, S. (2018). Educational leadership researchers, (social) scientific credibility, and the Kardashian index. Paper presented the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference, Sydney, Australia.

Eacott, S. (2018). Twitter tagging cartels, social science Kardashians, and the cult of the guru. Paper presented the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference, Sydney, Australia.

Eacott, S. (2017). Ranting, raving, and complaining: reflections on speaking outside the orthodoxy. Paper presented the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference, Canberra, Australia.