Skip to main content
Back to Events

25 May 2022 - 25 May 2022

1:00PM - 2:00PM

Online seminar using Zoom

Share page:
This is the image alt text School of Education main building

Part of the School of Education Research Seminar Series.

Crafting narrative and Foucauldian theory into the exploration and representation of educational leadership

Dr Denise Mifsud, Bath University

This will be a virtual seminar using Zoom. Contact for details about how to take part.

Based on the need to address the empirical reticence in the leadership literature revolving around networking dynamics in school governance, I conducted a case study of a Maltese multi-site school collaborative, the findings of which are represented in a semi-fictionalized narrative dramatization (Mifsud, 2017). This presentation focuses on the crafting of this narrative dramatization and the rationale behind this choice of narrative in social science, utilizing what I label as my ‘triple use of narrative’ in data collection, analysis and representation (Mifsud, 2016). I attempt to give a contribution to leadership theory, practice and policy through my engagement with theoretical and methodological innovation. My forthcoming attempt at explaining the rationale behind my particular choice of narrative dramatization and demonstrating its actual crafting addresses the following research question:

How does a researcher negotiate the methodological tensions and contradictions in qualitative inquiry in order to construct knowledge differently?

I further demonstrate how the technique of collating data from multiple sources (interviews, observation, documentary analysis) provides me with more inventiveness to yarn the narrative and to show competing perspectives. Foucault is very much a living presence in this drama, involved in a discussion with the Interpreter (one of my various roles) at the end of each scene over the unfolding actions through his theories of power, governmentality, subjectification, discipline, and discourse. This method allows me to incorporate researcher interpretation and social theory without breaking the flow of the various scenes. Foucault is a constant presence throughout the play-writing process: during its conceptualization, drafting, and interpretation. As the drama unfolds, both Foucault and Denise occupy a chair on the right-hand side landing of the flight of stairs leading to the auditorium, as they have to confer after each scene. I briefly explain my engagement with the process of ‘plugging-in’ (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012:1), which constitutes a focus on the theorist (Foucault) and specific concepts, rather than the theoretical framework – the process of ‘reading-the-data-while-thinking-the-theory’ (ibid, p.4).

To conclude the presentation, I give further examples of how I adopt Foucauldian theory and narrative dramatization to bring out the disparities between policy and practice (Mifsud, 2021).


Jackson, A. Y. and Mazzei, L. A. (2012) Thinking with theory in qualitative research: Viewing data across multiple perspectives, London: Routledge.

Mifsud, D. (2016) Data representation with a dramatic difference: negotiating the methodological tensions and contradictions in qualitative inquiry. Confessions of a budding playwright… International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 29:7, 863-881.

Mifsud, D. (2017) Foucault and School Leadership Research: Bridging Theory and Method, London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Mifsud, D. (2021) (Mis)Leading for social (in)justice and (in)equity … (Un)Following a script? IN D. Mifsud (Ed.) (2021) Narratives of Educational Leadership: Representing Research via Creative Analytic Practices, 73-113. [Part of the Springer Educational Leadership Theory Book Series] Singapore: Springer.

Biography:  Dr Denise Mifsud is Associate Professor in Educational Leadership, Management and Governance within the Department of Education at the University of Bath. She has many years of practitioner experience in education settings in both teaching and top-level leadership roles within the Ministry for Education, Malta. She previously held a full-time lecturing post at the University of the West of Scotland as well as being a part-time lecturer at the University of Malta. She is also an Associate Fellow of the Euro-Mediterranean Centre for Educational Research within the same university. She was awarded her PhD by the University of Stirling in 2015. Research areas of interest include educational policy analysis, generation, reception and enactment; critical leadership theories, with a particular interest in educational leadership, especially distributed forms; school networks and educational reform; teacher education; teacher leadership; power relations; Foucauldian theory; Actor-Network theory, as well as qualitative research methods, with a particular focus on narrative, as well as creative and unconventional modes of data representation. She is a member of several professional organizations, in addition to being an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She has published in several international top-rated journals, in addition to monographs and edited volumes.

Here is a link to my research profile: