An Exploration of the Perceptions of Subject Leaders of Design and Technology about their Leadership Practices in Sustaining and Developing the Subject in the Secondary School Curriculum

  • Paul Kinyanjui Mburu

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Research in subject department leadership underscores the importance of subject leaders and much of this research is situated on long-established views on models of educational leadership and management (Bush, 2008). This approach has not taken into consideration the complex settings of the subject departments that subject leaders work in. This study explores the perceptions of subject leaders about their practice in sustaining and developing Design and Technology in the secondary school curriculum. The study’s contribution of knowledge is in the leadership of Design and Technology departments in secondary schools. However, in this study, to understand how subject leaders of Design and Technology perceive their leadership practice the contextual and social settings of departments are of importance. To address the limitations in subject department leadership literature, this study uses Engeström’s (1987; 1999; 2001) Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as a suitable analytical lens to understand and analyse the perceptions of subject leaders of Design and Technology in their department social contexts. The subject leaders at the focus of this study worked in six different departments of Design and Technology in secondary schools. The study is qualitative in nature and data was collected through semi-structured interviews, field notes and document analysis. Thematic analysis is first applied to data and then cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) is used as an analytical lens. Findings from this study suggest that subject leaders view their roles similarly or differently in monitoring teaching and learning, building relationships and showcasing Design and Technology. Subject leaders, appropriate tools differently to work on the objects of the activity in the Design and Technology department leadership activity systems. Moreover, findings show that in building relationships subject leaders differed in their approach to working with the departmental staff and their school’s senior leaders. In addition, findings highlight that the various tools that subject leaders use are guided by the culture of the department. The study concludes by suggesting further research on an understanding of how senior leaders in schools perceive the work of subject leaders of Design and Technology. Additionally, the study suggests that subject leaders forming new ways of working would be useful; to explore whether collaborating Design and Technology departments in different schools could adopt a similar approach in encouraging pupils to study the subject at General Certificate for Secondary Education (GCSE) level.
Date of Award22 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorAnthony Thorpe (Director of Studies) & Alaster Scott Douglas (Co-Supervisor)


  • Subject leaders
  • Design and Technology
  • subject departments

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