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Investigating school leaders’ leadership responses and understandings in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

Team Members

Dr Bernard Brown


  • ACT Education Directorate
  • Independent schools

This research project is using a qualitative research approach designed to analyse and

empower school leadership capacity in two ACT Directorate schools through an examination of crisis leadership experiences of school leaders and senior administrators throughout the extended periods of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has placed considerable pressure on school leaders to make appropriate policy decisions which have had to align with both ACT and national policies. Principals, assistant principals and others in leadership positions have been required to manage their school communities and to communicate information clearly and effectively in a time of considerable uncertainty due to sudden shifts to online learning during periods of extended lockdown.

The research question informing this project is: What learning and insights can be gained from examining the perspectives of educational leaders in the ACT in relation to their experiences of—and responses to—the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?  

The aims and objectives of the research are:

  • To gain a better understanding of how leadership is enacted during crisis situations in the context of two ACT schools during the COVID-19 crisis
  • To inform and enhance the leadership capacity and strategic management in two ACT schools, using evidence-based research, whilst harnessing the findings of this research to benefit other schools
  • To contribute to the developing academic field of literature focussed on school leadership and the COVID-19 crisis
  • To develop a solid research collaboration between school leaders at Narrabundah College and Mount Stromlo High School, ACT Education Directorate staff and the University of Canberra

This project is based on a qualitative methodological approach and will use semi-structured interviews and policy analysis to produce research findings. The form of analysis applied to the data will be a critical interpretative approach.

This research will be of direct benefit to the two selected schools, school leaders in the

ACT, education offices, the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), the Australian Principals Federation and Australian Primary Principals Association, and the ACT Education Directorate.

The impact and influence of the research will be facilitated by publishing the findings in an article in the Journal of Research on Leadership Education, focussing on educational leadership related to leadership in schools. Results of this project will also be published in an influential practitioner journal, and via the production of a professional report to the two schools involved, and to the ACT Education Directorate. This report will summarise the findings and will include recommendations for future leadership processes and directions; these recommendations will inform school leaders and administrators about how schools can be led more effectively in periods of crisis and how school leadership culture and capacity can be further developed in the future.

The findings from this research will also be leveraged for a broader scale research project which will encompass a wider number of schools in the ACT region and have a national and international comparative focus.

For further information on this project, please contact Dr Bernard Brown.