Mapping trends in educational-leadership research: A longitudinal examination of knowledge production, approaches and locations

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The field of educational-leadership research has broadened over the last 50 years, with diverse knowledge-production traditions (e.g. functionalist and critical); audiences (e.g. practitioners, researchers and policymakers) and preferred sites of publication. In this article, we trace how the objectives, methods, claims and relative significance of educational-leadership research, and the identities and epistemological assumptions of educational-leadership researchers, are changing over time.

We systematically and manually analysed trends in educational-leadership research through keyword searches across all journal publication sites over 50 years, exploring researchers’ contributions, epistemological positioning and journal choices. We also explored the balance between empirical and conceptual scholarship, geographical location and use of theory. We found that critical educational-leadership research is common across the international field but is more likely to be published in high-ranking generalist education journals or lower-ranking educational-leadership-focused journals. Our research contributes a novel, robust and, significantly, relatively wide-ranging empirical basis to identify key trends, gaps and silences within the field of educational-leadership research over time. Our research enables better understanding of the areas that are potentially under-researched and the ways the field might be creating and reproducing power dynamics in research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-232
Number of pages16
JournalEducational Management Administration and Leadership
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • Knowledge production
  • critical and functionalist epistemology
  • educational leadership
  • educational management administration and leadership
  • field mapping
  • knowledge producers
  • longitudinal trends


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