Student Leadership of ICT for Learning in a High School

  • Patricia Davies

Student thesis: Doctor of Education


The research in this thesis explores how and why student leadership of learning with ICT can impact the knowledge, practice and environment in one high school. Interest in student participation and student voice increased with the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child over a decade ago by countries including the UK, USA and Australia, but questions remain as to whether or not this has resulted in schools becoming more democratic. Although much valuable research has been done relying on the views of students themselves, few studies actually examine student participation in school leadership. This research therefore seeks to further understanding in this area by exploring student participation in school ICT policymaking, and the consequences of this involvement.I set up a student-led project at an independent private secondary school in the south-east of England. This project, which lasted 8 months, became a lens through which I examine student leadership of ICT for learning. Twenty-five students aged 14-19 led staff at the school in developing research-based ICT policy statements for recommendation to the school's senior management team. They formed a consortium in which the 13 staff members served as their 'critical friends', and worked with them in devising the policy recommendations. I studied this project over 33 months using case study methodology. Data generated through observations, participant interviews and document analysis, along with literatures in related fields of educational technology, educational leadership and student participation are used to address how and why student leadership of ICT for learning can contribute to changes in knowledge, practice and the school environment. Distinctly, the specific Doctoral research investigates the role of these students in leading learning with ICT from the perspective of a researching practitioner: not just what role they can and do play but also what are the consequences of their involvement in school policymaking. The findings show that (1) ICT leadership at the school is problematic, and students hitherto played no part in decision-making about school and classroom ICTs; (2) the student-led project highlighted the fact that students can provide knowledge and understanding about digital technologies, and that there is need for students and staff to develop a shared ethos about ICT for learning at the school; (3) students are quite capable of leading ICT changes in the knowledge, practice and environment at the school. The thesis goes further to use Bourdieu's thinking tools-field, habitus, capital and strategy-to conceptualise student leadership in practice.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHelen Gunter (Supervisor) & Drew Whitworth (Supervisor)


  • democracy
  • student leadership
  • student participation
  • student voice
  • Bourdieu

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