Female Headship and Life History Research: Using Emotional Turning Points

Joanne Cliffe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A natural line of enquiry for women studying women’s lives is to use life history. Life history helps us to know and understand a subject’s identity. It distinguishes what people are “trying to do” and provides a framework to comprehend a person’s actions so an individual is a dynamic, rather than reflexive participant in her own life. Life history reflects the lived experience of those being researched as they construct their identity through recounting their stories and gaining a deeper understanding of themselves. This paper draws on stories recounted by female headteachers with an emphasis on the rich tapestry of their life experiences and their associated learning through positive and/or negative events. It is the outcomes of these events where the focus lies; particularly how the headteachers made effective use of emotional “turning points” in their lives. Their subsequent actions provide insight and possible contributions to future headship preparation programmes. Findings from two studies provide the data from which the paper is based. The first explored the career paths of seven female secondary school headteachers making sole use of life history interviews; the second was a through five-year longitudinal investigation of another seven secondary school female headteachers with a focus on emotional intelligence which used a range of methods, including life history interviews and psychometric tests (including emotional intelligence tests).
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number72765
    Pages (from-to)2774-2790
    Number of pages17
    JournalCreative Education
    Issue number18
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2016


    • life history
    • headteacher
    • female headteachers
    • school leadership
    • emotions
    • emotional intelligence
    • turning points


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