At the heart of leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand schools is a focus on how everyone can work together to improve educational and social outcomes for all young people (Ministry of Education, 2008). To actualise this intention, educators face a number of challenges including an increasingly diverse mix of students, enacting the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi/the Treaty of Waitangi, and continued academic, social, economic and political disparities that exist between different ethnic groups within the education system. Culturally responsive leadership is seen as a possible approach that can support inclusive environments and improved learning for students and families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This approach values students? different ways of knowing and doing, and incorporates their cultural experiences, histories and perspectives into teaching and learning.
In recent years, researchers have focussed on using a culturally responsive framework in relation to school leadership and have begun to identify the values, philosophies and practices of leaders who successfully support learning for culturally and linguistically diverse students. To further understanding in this area, particularly in the Aotearoa New Zealand context, this research project used comparative case study research and semi-structured interview methods to explore four secondary school leader?s experience of developing and practising cultural responsiveness within themselves and with colleagues.
Comparative analysis between the individual stories found that participants perceived a close link between their own early cultural upbringing and the development of cultural responsiveness. Participation in Ministry of Education initiatives, academic study, and the experiences of the day-to-day job were perceived to have resulted in further development of culturally responsive characteristics. In both their own development and their leadership with staff, the participants noted how relating to other people and having experiences of their struggles and triumphs resulted in the increased enactment of values such as caring and empathy. The findings suggested it was important for leaders to consider the complexity and stages of each staff member?s journey of developing cultural responsiveness and acknowledge the different cultural experiences and beliefs that they held.