AbstractsEducation Research & Administration

Horns of dilemma : Department head and subject teacher : a case study of Heads of Department in a public secondary school, northern Namibia

by Robert Natukondye Naundobe

Institution: Rhodes University
Department: Faculty of Education, Education
Degree: M. Ed.
Year: 2015
Keywords: High school department heads  – Namibia; High school teachers  – Workload  – Namibia; Teacher effectiveness  – Namibia; Educational leadership  – Namibia; Conflict of interests
Record ID: 1414905
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10962/d1017354


The accountability and responsibilities of school leaders have intensified greatly over the past decades and school leadership has become a strong focus of research. Meanwhile, Bush (2003) asserts that “school leaders [experience] tensions between competing elements of leadership, management and administration” (p. 7). This study uses observations, questionnaires, interviews and document analysis to unpack the perceptions of four Heads of Department (HoDs), the principal, and eight teachers on the tensions inherent in balancing the responsibilities of department head and subject teacher for HoDs in public secondary school. The study goes beyond the mere task of influence in its attempts to unpack how the leadership and teaching practices of HoDs may, or may not, be in conflict with each other. Using distributed leadership as a theoretical framing and drawing in particular on the work of Spillane and colleagues (2001; 2004), the study examines the roles HoDs enact; the challenges HoDs encounter in enacting their responsibilities as department head and subject teacher; and the strategies HoDs employ to combat the emerging challenges. The study found that the roles of HoDs are extensive and stretch across the classroom, the department, the whole school and beyond. However, the majority of these roles are biased in favour of management systems and processes and opportunities for leadership are rare. The many and extensive management responsibilities of the HoDs limit both their classroom teaching as well as their agency as leaders. The weight of their management work thus restricts their leadership, resulting in an authorised form of distributed leadership (Grant, 2010). The data also revealed that HoDs struggle to balance the responsibilities of department head and subject teacher due to both inter-role and intra-sender conflict. However, the study also found that the HoDs strategically adopt a range of strategies to assist them in doing their work, these include: compensatory teaching; delegation; and planning and prioritizing.