Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Associate Professor Shane Lavery

Second Supervisor

Professor Michael O'Neill


The purpose of this research was to explore the perceptions of principals, senior leadership team members, and middle leaders regarding the characteristics of senior leadership teams (SLTs) in high-performing Catholic Education Western Australian composite and secondary schools (CCSS). The study investigated the characteristics that enhanced and inhibited SLTs. It explored the resources and professional learning that could improve SLTs and the role of the principal in the SLT. This research is the first study of SLTs in CCSS.

The study's literature review identified six areas of literature that formed the conceptual framework of this thesis. These six areas were: the concept of a team, the role of teams in schools, the emergence of SLTs, the characteristics that enhance SLTs, the characteristics that inhibit SLTs, and leadership models that inform the principal's role in the SLT.

The results of the study found that the characteristics principals, SLT members and middle leaders perceived supported the effective functioning of the SLT in high-performing composite and secondary schools were: positive relationships, shared leadership, emotional intelligence, prioritising vision and strategy, effective communication, availability to middle leaders, an improvement mindset and challenging events that provide a focal point for the SLT. The study also discovered that principals, SLT members and middle leaders perceived several characteristics that inhibited the effective functioning of the SLTs. These characteristics were an excessive workload, interpersonal strain, poor communication and the unavailability of the SLT to middle leaders. This study found that principals, SLT members, and middle leaders perceived several resources and professional learning that would support the development of the SLT. These were: retreats, team professional learning, role-focused professional development, individual leadership development and networking. The study suggested that principals, SLT members and middle leaders felt the principal's role in the SLT involved leading as a coach, team builder, visionary, peacekeeper and faith leader.

The research design was qualitative. The epistemology was constructivist, and the theoretical perspective was interpretivism (symbolic interactionism). The methodology used in this study was an instrumental case study. The instrumental case included three SLTs in three high-performing CEWA schools. The research vi methods included one-to-one semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews, field notes and document search.

As a result of this study, the researcher developed a High Performing Senior Leadership Team Framework that synthesised insights from the literature review with findings from this study. The framework could be shared with key stakeholders who support and develop SLTs. The research also included several recommendations regarding the development and study of SLTs.

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