Uplifting leadership for real school improvement—The North Coast Initiative for School Improvement: An Australian telling of a Canadian story


  • Marilyn Chaseling Southern Cross University
  • William Edgar Boyd Southern Cross University http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8466-4669
  • Robert Smith Southern Cross University
  • Wendy Boyd Southern Cross University
  • Bradley Shipway Southern Cross University
  • Christos Markopoulos Southern Cross University
  • Alan Foster Southern Cross University
  • Cathy Lembke Southern Cross University




educational leadership, school improvement, generative dialogue, university-school collaboration, collaborative inquiry


This paper reports on a preliminary Australian adoption and adaptation, in the North Coast region of New South Wales, Australia, of the Townsend and Adams’ model of leadership growth for school improvement in Alberta. The Australian adaptation of this Alberta model has been named the North Coast Initiative for School Improvement (NCISI). The participants comprise nine university academics and almost one hundred regional school leaders. Leadership is developed through continuing and regular collaborative-inquiry and generative-dialogue meetings between the academics and school leaders. The aim is to improve school leadership with the primary purpose of improving student outcomes. Provisional evaluation records significant positive changes in school leadership across the region. Convergence and divergence of the Australian and Canadian models are explored. The Australian adaptation requires some modification to suit local education processes and context. In particular, there has been the development of some divergence in approaches, especially in working in individual schools or clusters of schools. While the program has only been running for a comparatively short time, and therefore formal program evaluation is only commencing, preliminary evidence suggests significant traction and success in the Australian context. The paper concludes with some tentative implications for the future development of this model in the Australian context: how can the model be conceptualised and delivered to a wider audience in the years ahead.

Cet article porte sur l’adoption et l’adaptation préliminaire du modèle de Townsend et Adam sur le développement du leadership pour l’amélioration des écoles en Alberta. Ce modèle albertain a été mis en œuvre dans la région de la côte nord de la Nouvelle-Galles du Sud en Australie et nommé North Coast Initiative for School Improvement (NCISI). Les participants comptent neuf universitaires et presque cent dirigeants d’écoles régionales. Des réunions continues et régulières, reposant sur la recherche collaborative et le dialogue génératif, ont lieu entre les universitaires et les dirigeants d’école pour avancer le développement du leadership. L’objectif d’améliorer le leadership scolaire vise principalement le rehaussement du rendement des élèves. Les résultats provisoires de l’évaluation révèlent des changements positifs significatifs dans la direction des écoles de toute la région. Nous explorons les points de convergence et de divergence des modèles australien et canadien. L’adaptation australienne nécessite certaines modifications de sorte à convenir aux procédés et au contexte éducatif locaux. Plus particulièrement, une certaine divergence s’est développée dans les approches, notamment quant au travail dans les écoles particulières ou dans les groupements d’écoles. Le programme étant en œuvre depuis une période relativement courte, l’évaluation formelle en est à ses débuts, mais les résultats préliminaires portent à croire qu’il gagne du terrain et connait un succès dans le contexte australien. L’article conclut en présentant des retombées préliminaires pour le développement à l’avenir de ce modèle en Australie, notamment par rapport à sa conceptualisation et sa prestation à un plus grand public.

Author Biographies

Marilyn Chaseling, Southern Cross University

Associate Professor Marilyn Chaseling is a faculty member in the School of Education at Southern Cross University, Australia. In 2016, Marilyn was awarded a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning as part of the Australian Government’s Australian Awards for University Teaching. Marilyn is the Academic Leader at Southern Cross University for the North Coast Initiative for School Improvement, which was the winner in 2016 of the Southern Cross University Excellence in Community Engagement, Community Impact Award.

William Edgar Boyd, Southern Cross University

Bill Boyd is the Professor of Geography at SCU and the Chair of his University’s Human Research Ethics Committee. He is a multi- and trans-disciplinary scholar, being a geographer, archaeologist, and educationalist, with scholarly interests in human-landscape interaction, heritage management, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. 

Robert Smith, Southern Cross University

Robert James Smith, PhD, was a practicing teacher for over twenty years, mostly in Secondary schools, but also with experience in Primary as well as Technical education and in administration. This experience has been in regional areas of Australia, where he helped to establish a regional professional association for English teachers. As a professor at Southern Cross University, Australia, he has taken leadership in English, and in university-wide academic accreditation. A 2014 study tour to Alberta made him a strong advocate for this collaborative initiative, and he continues to be astounded at the initiative’s positive impact on school leaders.

Wendy Boyd, Southern Cross University

Dr. Wendy Boyd is a Senior Lecturer in education, including pre-service teacher training at Southern Cross University. Her field of expertise is early childhood education. Prior to entering academic life in 2005 she was the Director of a large early childhood centre for 25 years. She has worked closely with school principals and teachers in the North Coast Initiative for School Improvement over the past two years, and in her previous career in transitions to school. Her research has largely focused on the provision of quality early childhood programs to support the optimal learning and development of all children. 

Bradley Shipway, Southern Cross University

Brad Shipway is a Lecturer at Southern Cross University, and researches in the area of critical realism and emancipatory educational approaches. 

Christos Markopoulos, Southern Cross University

Dr. Christos Markopoulos has an extensive experience in teaching mathematics discipline units as well as mathematics education units to undergraduate and postgraduate education students. At his current position as a Senior Lecturer at School of Education, Southern Cross University, he has developed and taught undergraduate Mathematics and Numeracy units where the focus is on improving the content knowledge of pre-service teachers in numeracy. 

Alan Foster, Southern Cross University

Alan Foster lectures in mathematics in education at Southern Cross University. Previously he was a teacher and principal in K-6 schools in regional New South Wales. Current research interests are centred on engagement with local schools through the North Coast Initiative for School Improvemen, which has involved him in regular meetings with leadership teams in schools.

Cathy Lembke, Southern Cross University

Cathy Lembke is an Associate Lecturer in the School of Education at Southern Cross University. Cathy’s role in the School of Education is to prepare pre service teachers for their professional experience placements in schools. Cathy has been part of the NCISI project for over two years and sees it as a very rewarding and important part of the work she is doing with schools in the local region. 




How to Cite

Chaseling, M., Boyd, W. E., Smith, R., Boyd, W., Shipway, B., Markopoulos, C., Foster, A., & Lembke, C. (2017). Uplifting leadership for real school improvement—The North Coast Initiative for School Improvement: An Australian telling of a Canadian story. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 63(2), 160–174. https://doi.org/10.11575/ajer.v63i2.56324