Date of this Version
Published in Journal of Educational Administration, 2023
Purpose – This study aims to explore how educational leaders in South Korea adopted equity mindsets and how they organized changes to support students’ deeper learning during COVID-19.
Design/methodology/approach – The developed a comprehensive framework of Equity Leadership for Deeper Learning, by revising the existing model of Darling-Hammond and Darling-Hammond (2022) and synthesizing equity leadership literature. Drawing upon this framework, this study analyzed data collected from individual interviews and a focus group with school and district administrators in the K-12 Korean education system.
Findings – The participants prioritized an equity stance of their leadership by critically understanding sociopolitical conditions, challenging unjust policies, and envisioning the big picture of equity-centered education. This led them to operationalize equity leadership in practice and create a more inclusive and supportive environment for student-centered deeper learning. District leaders established well-resourced systems by creating/developing instructional resources and making policies more useful. School leaders promoted quality teaching by strengthening access, developing student-centered curricula, and establishing individualized programs for more equitable deeper learning.
Research limitations/implications – This study builds on scholarship of deeper learning and equity leadership by adding evidence from Korean educational leaders during COVID-19. First, the findings highlight the significance of leaders’ equity mindsets in creating a safe and inclusive environment for deeper learning. This study further suggests that sharing an equity stance as a collective norm at the system level, spanning across districts and schools is important, which is instrumental to scale up innovation and reform initiatives. Second, this research also extends comparative, culturally informed perspectives to understand educational leadership. Most contemporary leadership theories originated from and are informed by Western and English-speaking contexts despite being widely applied to other contexts across the culture. This study’s analysis underscores the importance of contextualizing leadership practices within the socio-historical contexts that influence how education systems are established and operate.
Practical implications – Leaders’ adopting equity mindsets, utilizing bureaucratic resources in creative ways and implementing a school-wide quality curriculum are crucial to supporting students’ deeper learning. District leaders can leverage existing vertical and horizontal networks to effectively communicate with teachers and local communities to establish well-resourced systems. As deeper learning is timeless and requires high levels of student engagement, school leaders’ efforts to establish school-wide curricula is critical to facilitate deeper learning for students.
Originality/value – The study provides a nuanced understanding of how equity focused leaders responded to difficulties caused by the pandemic and strategized to support students’ deeper learning. Existing studies tend to prioritize teacher effects on student learning, positing leadership effects as secondary or indirect. Alternatively, the authors argue that, without leadership supporting an inclusive environment, resourceful systems and student-centered school culture, deeper learning cannot be fully achieved in equitable ways.