Understanding leadership in schools facing challenging circumstances: a Chilean case study

Luis Ahumada, Sergio Galdames, Simon Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


During the last 10 years, research into schools facing challenging circumstances has attracted the attention of researchers around the world. The aim of this study was to understand the challenges that school leaders face as they per form their work, the nature of the context in which these challenges arise, the strategies school leaders adopt to deal with the complexities of their work and the reasons behind these strategies. For this purpose, we investigated a single case study of a Chilean K8 school achieving extraordinary success despite its adverse circumstances. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with the principal, the vice-principal, the teachers, the students and the management team of the school. The interviews were focused on the challenges experienced by the school community, and on the strategies implemented in order to face them. The findings are organized around three key themes: first, the importance of nurturing high expectations among students and staff; secondly, the importance of enhancing teachers’ morale; thirdly, the importance of setting and sharing a common vision for a preferred future. These key themes have been instrumental to the success of the school may be enlightening to other schools, that are facing comparable challenging circumstances, especially in Chile.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-279
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Leadership in Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 26 May 2016


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