Collaborative inquiry driving leadership growth and school improvement

Document Type


Publication details

Chaseling, M, Smith, R, Boyd, W, Foster, A, Boyd, WE, Markopoulos, C, Shipway, B & Lembke, C 2016, 'Collaborative inquiry driving leadership growth and school improvement', Creative Education, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 244-253.

Article available on Open Access

Peer Reviewed



Australia’s largest schooling system, the NSW Department of Education, is in a period of unprecedented change as the Department of Education initiates a range of reforms. One critical reform occurred in 2014 when the Department of Education and the New South Wales Teachers’ Federation agreed to link teachers’ salaries with accreditation. For the first time, all Department of Education principals, executives and teachers must complete an annual Performance and Development Plan. This article describes the work of a team of academics from the School of Education, Southern Cross University, and the Department of Education school leaders in northern NSW, exploring opportunities to accomplish school improvement through the “North Coast Initiative for School Improvement” (NCISI). The impetus for this initiative is based on the work of Alberta academics and researchers, Dr. David Townsend and Dr. Pamela Adams. The approach is based upon small teams, comprising a member of a school district’s central office, a district principal and university academics, who once a month visit the leadership team of a school in order to build instructional leadership. This process involves the use of a guiding question, generative dialogue and a collaborative inquiry methodology. Early findings indicate the NCISI’s approach is having positive impact leadership growth, through collaboration. Key elements of trust and professional identity have developed within teams. The very positive reaction of school communities to the project in its early stages is heartening and shows that there is a strong desire by school leaders to draw upon collaborative support in order to grow professionally. The project also demonstrates a strong level of commitment from a regional university to build productive relationships with schools.