Portrait methodology and educational leadership: Putting the person first

Mike BOTTERY, Ping Man WONG, Nigel WRIGHT, Siu Keung George NGAI

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This article describes a variant on a methodological approach which provides ways of developing educational leaders' understandings of themselves and their situation through the production of individually written 'portraits' which focus upon the individuals' personal concerns and issues. It describes the process undertaken in forming a particular application of this approach, which is characterised by being highly private, highly personal and conducted by peers, rather than by others in a hierarchical relationship, to produce a picture of a person's concerns at one moment in time. It examines a number of possible criticisms, before arguing that there are a number of distinct benefits to its adoption. A description is provided of how such a methodology can be translated into a useful tool that provides individuals with the non-judgemental space to reflect upon themselves and their performance, and to develop supportive networks of peers who can help to sustain them in their job. This approach then could not only help remediate current issues of recruitment and retention to leadership positions, it could also provide private development space in societies and educational systems increasingly characterised by surveillance and public criticism of performance. Finally, whilst this article focuses upon the use of portraits for educational leaders, it is suggested that it is a technique that could be used by virtually anyone in order to create space for private reflection. Copyright © 2009 Education Pub. Co.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-96
JournalInternational Studies of Educational Administration
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


Bottery, M., Wong, P. M., Wright N., & Ngai, G. (2009). Portrait Methodology and educational leadership: putting the person first. International Studies in Educational Administration, 37(3), 82-96.


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