Action research cycle three: Benchmark framework

The third action research cycle involved the development of five benchmark domains for distributed leadership based on the six tenets identified in the 6E conceptual model. The type of benchmarking adopted was categorised as ‘good practice benchmarking’, this offered the opportunity to create a framework through which institutions could self-evaluate current practices designed to enable distributed leadership against previously determined ‘good practice’ reference points, as identified in the responses to the national survey of distributed leadership. An action learning/action enhancement benchmarking process is also advocated in order to support sustainable action, rather than focus on action occurring at a single point in time. The benchmarks were prepared using templates adapted from those used by the Council of Australian Directors of Academic Development (CADAD) to design Benchmarks for Academic Development Units (CADAD, 2011).

The final action in this cycle was the establishment of an online community of practice through a webinar session attended by experts in learning and teaching. Issues raised in the webinar were thematically grouped to parallel the benchmarks. These comments confirmed, first, the content of the draft benchmarks. Typical of feedback comments were statements such as:

  • for my organisation we would need all senior leaders to be aboard and linked to other strategies
  • by its distributed nature it has to work without institutional support but its effectiveness will be reduced if there is no institutional support
  • people need to be open, to feel safe, that requires an environment in which trust exists
  • it’s about facilitating people’s skills

 The discussion identified the need for implementation in a variety of contexts and support for cross-institutional collaboration, as well as potential applicability outside the learning and teaching focus as important and relevant aspects requiring further elucidation. The discussion also included questions that require further discourse and exploration such as

  •  How organic is distributed leadership and how organised is it?
  • To what extent does distributed leadership imply distributed decision making?        
  • Can elements of distributed leadership be adopted in complete ignorance of the total model?