Undertaken from a distributed leadership theory perspective, this qualitative study attempts to gain understanding regarding how heads of department develop educators within the organisational context of different schools and departments. A Based on existing literature, a detailed discussion is provided on what professional development is, the conditions needed for effective professional development, professional development strategies, distributed leadership theory and the functioning of heads of department and subject departments within the current policy framework for professional development in South African Schools.
Two fee-paying and two non-fee-paying schools were selected and interviews were conducted with heads of department from single subject (unitary) and multi-subject (federal or confederate) departments in each school. The data was transcribed, coded, inductively analysed and related to the research question(s). A full description and analysis of the data is provided.
The findings confirm that with change being demanded from above and from outside schools, it cannot be ignored that heads of department are a key link between principals and the teachers in their classrooms. This supports the view that heads of department have formal responsibilities and accountabilities and that they wield a horizontal and a vertical influence. Various recommendations are made to improve professional development practice by heads of department in particular and in the education system in general.