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The borderland of middle leading: forming identities and leading school subject English (SSE) in the public high school

Paper Presentation | Arlene Roberts | Friday 23rd of June, 4:15pm | 


The middle leadership literature identifies the middle leader as a role that has the potential to bring change in schools. This reading is emphasised in policy narratives (DET, 2017) and has been confirmed, though contested, in research that mostly adopts a practice lens. But there is more to know empirically about subject-specialist leaders in public high schools.  This paper considers how subject specialisation affects the middle leader and what effects on their middle leading work.

We use the concept of ‘narrative identity’ (Somers, 1994) to focus our historical sociological analysis of middle leaders as knowledge building professionals. Drawing on interviews from three middle leaders who lead school subject English (hereafter SSE), we show how they navigate middle leading relative to their SSE traditions, forms of reasoning and value commitments. We argue that these professionals approach their leading work with embedded subject-specialist identities then fit their middle leading work around the concepts, methods and practices anchored by their subject English core and their experiences in the Victorian public high school.

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Presenter Bio

Arlene Roberts

Arlene Roberts is currently a PhD student in her final year at Latrobe University, Melbourne  where she is working with Professor Terri Seddon and Dr. Steve Murphy. Her PhD, which draws on a historical sociology methodology, is on the space-times of identity formation of Subject English leaders in public high schools in Melbourne, Victoria. She has been an English teacher in a second chance Year 12 program at the Canberra Institute of Technology (formerly TAFE) and she has been  a middle leader of Subject English and other curriculum roles in a public high school in Melbourne for fifteen years.

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