Critical Consciousness and Educational Leadership
Disrupting systemic racism and moving towards true diversity, equity, and inclusion mandates committed leadership. As a school district’s foremost educational leader, the superintendent has an influential role in ensuring equity. A superintendent may effectively address the systemic inequities present in public education through critically conscious behaviors. To engage in this work effectively, a superintendent needs support. Research has demonstrated that formal or informal networks can positively influence a superintendent. However, there is a gap in the literature explaining how critical consciousness reveals itself in a superintendent’s work and less research about how network participation can advance a superintendent’s critically conscious practices. (Daly Finnigan, 2012; deLima, 2010; Froehlich et al., 2020; Liou & Daly, 2014; Meier & O’Toole, 2003; Moolenaar et al., 2010). In response, this study explored how superintendents understood the tenets of critical consciousness in practice. Additionally, this study examined how social networks influenced a superintendent’s practice and contributed to critically conscious practices. Therefore, the research questions that guided this study are how, if at all, does a superintendent understand the tenets of critical consciousness? And secondly, what role, if any, does a superintendent’s participation in formal or informal networks have on developing critical consciousness and leadership? For the purpose of this study, the tenets of critical consciousness formed the conceptual framework and included critical reflection, critical self-efficacy, and critical action. In addition to this, the literature review of informal and formal networks provided the lens to examine what influence, if any, participation had on superintendents' critical consciousness development. This investigation employed a qualitative case study of six superintendents identified as equity-based leaders and utilized a semi-structured interview process and document review. Findings revealed that superintendents did not use the formal language of critical consciousness. Despite this, evidence showed that the superintendents exhibited the tenets associated with critical consciousness. Additionally, results suggested that both formal and informal networks played a significant role in supporting superintendents, especially during times of challenge.