SA: Critical Questions
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Critical Thinking Questions

South Africa has a strong lineage of internationally renowned leaders who rose to the contemporary challenges of their generations. These leaders from across the country’s geographic and demographic spread demonstrated leadership values that are much needed today. This rich history of leadership, along with an interest in improving our leadership practices, and the desire to make a meaningful contribution to leadership discourses, motivated the ELADIN team to understand the important dimensions of leadership in our current time.

This learning module includes a number of critical questions that shaped our discussions about leadership. Informed by these initial questions and emerging conversations,  we created materials that helped us reflect on our practices, using the CELL teaching case study template as a guide to shape the ELADIN project.

Below are open-ended critical thinking questions that were framed by and guided our work:

Critical Question 1: How does context shape educational leadership?

  • How does our community and social context (e.g experiences, histories, language, perceptions) shape our understanding about and solutions for the “problems” we face as leaders?
  • What does leadership in service to society mean? Who and what constitutes the community? What are ways leaders can collaborate and learn with and across members in the community?

Critical Question 2: What are the tenets of a contemporary value-based leadership approach/framework to be responsive to the present-day challenges faced by the South African society? 

  • What are the core values that inform decisions, practices and behaviours of good leaders? How do we move beyond checklists and definitions of “values” towards deep understanding and concrete practices that promote the values we hold?
  • How do we ensure our values place the community at the centre of our leadership?
  • How can leaders use reflection on critical incidents (both positive and negative experiences) to discuss how values shape our work?

Critical Thinking Question 3:  Exploring the Educational Pipeline

  • How does leadership and mentoring need to work across levels and hierarchies (gender, race, language, class or cultural) and address issues of power in educational spheres?
  • What are the ways that leadership practices can be inclusive, empowering and promote reciprocal learning that spans and incorporates a range of life experiences (including age, experience, gender, social roles)?
  • What does the process of creating a community of practice, building trust, learning together, and reflecting on and sharing experiences, look like?

Reflection Activities

  1. Read through the following key dimensions of the ELADIN approach: 1)Defining Values-based Leadership, 2) Creating a Community of Practice, and 3) Understanding Context. Describe some of the similarities and differences between your own experiences and definitions of leadership and the ones portrayed across these dimensions in South Africa.
  2. Reflect on the 5 values identified in the values-based leadership framework: excellence, social justice, hope, humanity, and trust. Define and list your own set of values that guide your leadership practice. Use the nominal group technique with peer leaders to develop a shared set of values.  Reflect on your own values-based leadership concepts and capture them in a drawing.
  3. Read the section on Creating a Community of Practice. Consider the behaviours, skills and concrete activities a leader can use in their interactions to build new and different relationships with colleagues to create trust, openness, transparency, self-reflection and honesty across roles and status within your work community? Reflect on past behaviours that have undermined these important ways of working together, and actions that inhibit creating a community of practice.
  4. Watch some of the video interviews (with principals, parents and teachers) and read through the descriptions of the school-university-community context in South Africa. Look at the examples of “Critical Incidents” that each leader recorded to share how they applied values in their daily lives. Apply them to your own school context and evaluate how and whether you use any value sets in your practice.
  5. Reflect on and discuss your own convictions, values and beliefs about gender, power, language, and status, that impact on your relationships as a leader. What are the kinds of constraints and limitations based on these biases that you have experienced (or imposed on others) as a leader?
  6. Brainstorm your own learning trajectory as a leader. Based on what you observed from each of the ELADIN participants – who in your community would become part of your education pipeline? how would you set up a community of practice amongst this group? what would you need to take into consideration about your community context (culture, history, power) in order to ensure true participation and engagement?
  7. Following this collaborative, non-hierarchical and reflective leadership approach, what would you envision happening in your education context? Which processes and principles would work, and which would be most challenging to use?
  8. Complete and explain this sentence: “Leadership in Service of and with Society means……”