Teachers’ sense-making during organisational change: shifting roles and pedagogy in a democratic approach to teacher leadership

  • Tanya Nizam

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


This research focuses on the variety of ways in which teachers make sense of organisational change within the context of a democratic approach to decision-making. Taking a case-study approach and adapting a phenomenographic methodology, the research is set in an independent international school in China, with mainly globally mobile students and teachers. The pedagogical changes envisioned by the school’s senior leaders and the process by which teachers were engaged to lead this change follows a liberal and democratic philosophy towards learning and human relationships. Drawing from literature about the cognitive-social behaviour of sense-making (Spillane et al, 2002; Coburn, 2005), Basil Bernstein’s pedagogical theories (1971, 2000) and analytical models of teacher-leadership developed by Muijs and Harris (2007) and Supovitz (2018), I have developed an analytical framework to develop insights into the ways in which teacher-leaders, with their variations of interpretations of roles and pedagogy, can both progress and be hindered in a change process. Drawing from this framework, suggestions are proposed for developing teacher-leaders’ awareness of hybrid approaches to leadership (Gronn, 2009) and for senior leaders to discern moments where their direct support is needed, even in a democratic decision-making environment.
Date of Award16 Jun 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAndrea Abbas (Supervisor) & Tristan Bunnell (Supervisor)


  • Sense-making, teacher leadership, phenomenography, democratic leadership, international school

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