Inaugural lecture by Steven Courtney, Professor of Sociology of Education Leadership

Towards a new methodology for critical leadership and policy scholarship

On Wednesday 28 February, the School of Environment, Education and Development and guests celebrated the appointment to professorship of Steven Courtney , Professor of Sociology of Education Leadership.

The popular event took place in the Cordingley Lecture Theatre at The University of Manchester and was chaired by Professor Martin Evans, Head of School. The University welcomed Emeritus Professor Helen Gunter to introduce Professor Steven Courtney and distinguished scholar Ruth McGinity , Associate Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy at UCL Ioe, to deliver the vote of thanks.

Lecture abstract

In this lecture, I will draw on my intellectual journey as a researcher to elaborate the need for, and features of a new methodology for critical researchers: "critical education leadership and policy scholarship".

Methodologies in education leadership, management and administration (ELMA) have long been inadequate, partly because most ELMA research is functionalist, and so uses positivist methodologies. For functionalist ELMA researchers, leadership is fetishised and largely seen as the product of individuals’ traits, behaviours and activities, with ’context’ reduced to a variable. Critical researchers, including me, reject these ideas, seeing that we are part of the research process and our dispositions and histories inevitably influence our data. Critical ELMA researchers must therefore look beyond functionalist methodologies. However, one of the most common alternatives, policy scholarship, over-compensates for functionalism’s limitations by enabling arguments that merely using the word ’leadership’ is dangerous, or that researching it is frivolous. I argue in this lecture for a new methodology that neither fetishises nor demonises leadership, one that enables critical researchers to recognise and work with a form of leadership that is always co-constituted with policy and which merits conceptual and empirical recognition. I call this new methodology ’critical education leadership and policy scholarship’.

Watch the recording

Watch Professor Courtney’s inaugural lecture ’Towards a new methodology for critical leadership and policy scholarship’

The evening also celebrated the appointment to professorship of Deljana Iossifova, Professor of Architecture and Urban Studies, who delivered her inaugural lecture ’Entanglement and contradiction’.

Following the lectures, guests were given the opportunity to ask questions, before celebrating at a drinks reception.