Sunday 19 March 2017

Foucault: Discipline & Punishment Reflection

Do you see any parallels between Foucault’s description of ‘examination’ and current workplaces in which you are located? In particular, look at the key phrases he uses in the opening paragraph including ‘observing hierarchy … normalizing gaze … qualify … classify … punish .. a visibility through which one differentiates and judges’

In education, there are definitely norms and expectations. There are year level expectations and it is the norm that students should be able to achieve these benchmarks by the end of the year. In terms of ‘normalizing gaze’, we do have a set of internal and external assessments we use to help us understand our students' needs. In my international private school in Singapore, these results for the most part, are only used by the teachers to inform learning and look at the data across the grade and the school. This helps for planning and purchasing of resources as well as the professional development needed to support students. At no point is this knowledge shared with parents or our wider community. Students who are falling below expectations are identified and strategies to better support them are implemented.
There are norms for teachers as well. It is expected that teachers attend meetings, do their planning, grade assessments, meet with parents etc. Should teachers demonstrate they are not able to do these things, teachers may meet with the principal of the school to discuss next steps for support, provide warnings or even termination as a ‘punishment’.
In my setting, there are no capabilities for leadership. However, many countries such as Australia do have these and may be seen as a way to evaluate and classify ‘good’ leaders, similar to the trait theory.


Foucault, M. (1991). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. London: Penguin.

Foucault's Quote

Response to the following quote:
‘Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?’ (Foucault, 1991, page 228)
While the comparison is a bit extreme, it does hold some value. These are all institutions set up to hold particular roles and responsibilities within a community. The comparison between factories and schools have long been connected as schools creating pupils to do specific jobs post graduation with Fordism. In all institutions mentioned there is a hierarchy of leadership to ensure the roles, rules and responsibilities are done as expected.

That being said, schools have changed a lot over time. With inquiry learning, student voice is becoming more and more important in the classroom, leading teachers to facilitate learning and learn alongside their students.


Foucault, M. (1991). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. London: Penguin.

Hierarchical Forms of Leadership

In response to MacBeth, how relevant is this account of the authority of the King in Elizabethan times to contemporary understandings of authority?
During Elizabethan times, there were distinct hierarchical forms of leadership with the King having absolute power, and various tiers below with the peasants/farmers on the lowest rung. The power and leadership are driven in a top-down model. There were very clear structures in place whereby people had very specific roles and did not change in the hierarchy.

Comparing to contemporary understandings of authority in my current school, there is a senior leadership team. However, there is much more of a top-down AND bottom-up approach depending on the situation. Middle management leaders take charge of different various portfolios and individuals have the opportunity to grow and be promoted. At times, the Head of School or Senior leadership team do need to make strong decisions but the gathering of opinions and feedback often inform decision making.

Shakespeare, W. (1974). The Tragedy of Macbeth. In The Riverside Shakespeare (pp. 1306-1342). USA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Saturday 18 March 2017

Trait Theory of Leadership

How relevant is the trait theory to your workplace?
When I was reading this article, it made me think of the IB Learner Profile and transdisciplinary skills to some degree. The learner profile attributes are ten qualities as teachers we try to instil in our students to help them be successful beyond our school. It is difficult to measure these attributes (How do you measuring caring vs very caring vs exceptionally caring objectively?).  
In the workplace, qualities are used as identifiers in appraisals and are outlined in job descriptions. Again though, it can be difficult to objectively measure and provide evidence for any of these qualities except for observations, anecdotes and perhaps comparisons between people. Often a person with certain characteristics is encouraged to apply for certain jobs. However, while the person may have certain qualities, they still have to use them effectively in the given context to hold any value for the organisation. It is also important to remember that with subjectivity can come different perspectives. A strong driven leader may also be seen as too pushy with their agendas
Strengths of Trait Theory of Leadership
  • Exists due to characteristics people want in their ‘heros’ p 13
  • Quick way to identify potential ‘good leaders’
  • Highlights ‘idealistic’ characteristics people want in leaders
Weaknesses of Trait Theory of Leadership
  • Good leadership not based on physical traits (age, height, weight, appearance) p. 11
  • Doesn’t take into account social context (good in one context, not the other) p 11
  • Separates people into ‘leaders’ and ‘non-leaders’ through subjective judgements  p.12
  • Over simplistic and doesn’t take into account all factors of what makes a good leader p 13
  • Low correlation between good leadership and characteristics (and some contradicting)
Does your nation or province have a framework which lists the capabilities or competencies of educational leadership?

Working in an international private school in Singapore, I am not aware of a framework of capabilities or competencies of educational leadership. It has been interesting to read about the  Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) in others’ blogs.


Watkins, P. (1986). The trait approach. In A critical review of leadership concepts and research: The implications for educational administration (pp. 11-13, 21-25, 28),

Heroic Masculinist Notion of Leadership

While I believe that non-white male leaders are becoming more prevalent, there is still a lack of equality. As a female in the international teaching setting in Asia, it is very rare to find female heads of school or even female Heads of Secondary/Primary. In my current organisation, our senior leadership team consists of 5 administrators (head of schools, head of secondary, head of primary, head of student services and director of education technology). Of those five, only the head of student services is female.

It is also challenging in Asian countries with the stereotypes of our parent community expecting a male to be the dominant leaders in the schools. I have been in many meetings where a parent from an Asian country continuously looks to my male counterpart to answer, even when I have already provided him with the answer. There is definitely a need to break down gender stereotypes and support equality.
As a female aspiring to be in leadership, it is difficult to find female leaders and mentors to look up. It can be frustrating with education being a profession with a higher percentage of female educators, and yet, so few females reach the top of the leadership chain. I’ve recently received a copy of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and am looking forward to hearing her perspective on this topic.

Southwell & Social Construction

  • What does Southworth mean by 'social construction'?

Social constructivism is the idea that our understanding of the world is based on the shared ideas, concepts and expectations created through the interactions with others.  Vygotsky has been a key theorist of social constructivism.

Socially constructed views of educational leadership change based on culture, history and context(Southworth, 2000). It is based on the current beliefs of educational leadership and what ‘good’ educational leadership is. This has continuously changed over time from where the role was more of a managerial role to now focused on more inspirational leadership while still requiring aspects of educational leaders as managers. Southworth suggests that social construction is the assumed norms, though we may not always be conscious of them.

  • What might be some of the 'deeper structural beliefs' to which Southworth is alluding?
Some of the ‘deeper structural beliefs to which Southworth is alluding to might be the traditional forms of leadership. This may include the idea what white males have traditional occupied leadership roles in most settings. Race, gender and religion (as well as many other cultural and social contexts) have impacted the what is considered ‘good leadership’ through the passing of accepted norms throughout generations. It is often difficult (or at least an uphill battle) to redefine the socially constructed norms into more equitable expectations and understandings.

Southworth, G. (2000). School leadership in English schools at the close of the 20th Century: Puzzles, problems and cultural insights, Paper presented at the meeting of the American Education Research Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA.