Theorising the value of collage in exploring educational leadership

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This article contributes to theorising the value of collage as a methodological approach. It begins with a discussion of the methodological difficulties of exploring hidden meanings and individual experience through the research process. The illuminative potential of arts-based methodologies in qualitative research is then investigated. The article makes the case for the specific advantages of using collage to explore the experience of leadership, through a discussion of two collage-based studies. It proposes a variant of the ‘think aloud’ process, used in conjunction with collage, as a route to producing deep understandings of the multiple ways in which leadership is experienced and understood as a social process. The argument is made that collage enables the accessing and sharing of profound levels of experience not accessible through words alone, and considers the impact of the physicality of collage on its potential to release these profound insights. A five-stage process for the analysis of collage is then set out. The article concludes by offering a theory of the value of collage as a methodological approach to exploring experiences of leadership, through use of the concepts of physicality, wholeness and participant agency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)626-642
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number4
Early online date9 Jul 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jul 2018


  • arts-based methods
  • distributed leadership
  • hierarchical leadership
  • methodology
  • participant agency
  • qualitative research


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