Principals of Higher Education Institutions in Barbados

A Life History Methodology

by Jean Butcher-Lashley (Author)
©2022 Monographs XVI, 192 Pages


This book uses the life stories of principals of higher education institutions in Barbados to assert that since lives are socially constructed and our biographies or stories can influence our professional life, it is important to not only listen to the personal stories or narratives of those whose professional lives and actions have public social consequences but more importantly through a life history methodology, also to contextualize those stories. In so doing there is better understanding of what motives or values persons bring to their professional practice, particularly too, if those missions and values emanate from a colonial hegemony still in existence within a postcolonial society. Persons could be causing harm or doing what is beneficial. They need to know what they are perpetuating and why. This book is primarily for those with interests in domination, power, capitalism, colonialism and neocolonialism; those planning professional development courses for teachers, principals and administrators in the field of education and other areas of professional practice; life history researchers; auto-ethnographers; postgraduate students and qualitative researchers in higher education, specifically and education, generally.
“Jean Butcher-Lashley has made a unique contribution to the literature around teachers’ lives and careers in general and those of Caribbean teachers in particular. Taking a decolonising life history which considers individuals’ personal and professional narratives in the contexts of the times through which they lived, this fascinating book gives important insights into how and why Barbadian higher education principals’ careers evolved as they did and what the consequences for the country’s education system have been.”—Pat Sikes, Professor of Qualitative Inquiry, University of Sheffield
“This book is of considerable importance, not just in the contingent area of understanding Barbadian higher education principals’ motives and missions—but because it takes an important life history approach. This approach looks at de-colonising the accounts that are given, so as to give us a broader picture of how professional life histories are conceptualised and constructed.
The book essentially contextualises each of the life history profiles, in a way that allows us to see the effect of colonisation and the effect of time and place on the way that people story their professional lives. This is part of a broader project which well elucidated in the book on ‘Understanding Pervasive Patterns of Domination'. The book stands as a useful antidote to those kinds of narrative studies which ignore context and simply concentrate on voice. To make sure that 'voice' is an empowering genre—it is important that 'voice' is located in its contextual landscape.
This book is an exemplary piece of work that does this work of contextualising, both energetically and with great erudition.
I heartily recommend the book to any readers in life history approaches generally, or those interested in issues of decolonisation and domination.”
—Ivor Goodson, Professor of Learning Theory, University of Brighton, Sussex, England

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. The Prologue
  • The Focus of the Book
  • Purpose and Relevance of the Book
  • Positionality and Ethical Issues
  • Chapter 2. The Life History Approach
  • Positionality
  • The Life Story
  • Life History
  • Life Story, Life History, and Professional Lives
  • Life Narratives and Identity
  • Life Narratives, Life History, and Professional Identity in a Postmodern Era
  • Chapter 3. The Context
  • Geographical Location and Ethnic Profile of Barbados
  • Review of a Hundred Years of Emancipation
  • Barbados in the 1930s to 1960s
  • Development of Higher Education in Barbados
  • The Erdiston Teachers’ Training College
  • The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus
  • The Barbados Community College
  • The Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology
  • The Regional and Global Context of Higher Education in Barbados
  • Chapter 4. The Interview Process
  • Preparation for Interviewing
  • Making Contact with Participants and Anonymity
  • Interviewing Participants and Relationships
  • Storing Stories and Transcribing
  • Reporting
  • Chapter 5. An Approach to Analysis
  • A Framework-Dependent Approach
  • The Constructivist Grounded Theory Approach
  • Constructivist Grounded Theory and Interpretation
  • Reflexivity and Ethics in Analysis
  • Coding
  • Chapter 6. Analysis of Life Stories
  • Structure of the Analysis of Stories of Principals
  • Section 1: Connections between Personal Experiences and the Professional Sphere
  • Mr. Hector Belle
  • Dr. Maureen Lucas
  • Mrs. Norma Holder
  • Sir Keith Hunte
  • Section 2: Female Principals in Higher Education
  • Role of Fathers and Significant Others
  • Balancing the Personal and Professional Sphere
  • Educational Opportunities and Mentorship
  • Section 3: Themes
  • Models of Leaders or Authority Figures
  • Leadership
  • Institutional Growth and Financing Tertiary Education
  • Quality Assurance and Accreditation
  • Values and Vision of Principals
  • Chapter 7. The Epilogue
  • Summary of Results and Implications of This Study
  • Implications for Future Research
  • Implications for Practice and Policy
  • The Life History Approach within a Global Re-colonization Agenda
  • The Life History and a De-colonization Agenda
  • Reflections of a Researcher
  • Appendix 1: Information Letter and Consent Form
  • Appendix 2: Interview Guide
  • Appendix 3: Ethics Approval Letter
  • Appendix 4: Dates for Principals
  • Appendix 5: From Kingston to Oxford to Bridgetown with Love
  • Index

←xii | xiii→


The journey leading to the writing of my doctoral thesis on which this book is based was one of the most significant journeys in my life. It turned out to be far more than I expected and was truly transformational and liberating! I thank God for the opportunity afforded to me, and I wish to express special thanks to Hon. Ronald Jones, former Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, who had confidence in my ability to succeed in a process culminating in this book.

I want to express a very special note of thanks to Professor Patricia Sikes, who was a constant support: You ignited something in me that kept me focused during all the twists and turns of this process. I found my passion—that passion that sustained me throughout!

To my colleagues and friends: Principal, Annette Alleyne; Dana Gilkes; ivan walters; Cherish Holmes; Claire Millington; Dr. Haajima Degia; Saverna Ross (R.I.P); Derek Oderson; Valerie Jones; former Senator Alwin Adams; the staff of divisions of Commerce and General and Continuing Education, and so many others. You were and continue to be an inspiration! Thank you!

To those who shared their life stories: I thank you for giving of your time and of yourself to an effort that you did not have to engage in but did so magnanimously and selflessly. The richness of your life experiences greatly ←xiii | xiv→enhanced my life. To Mrs. Norma Holder who transitioned on February 14, 2016: Gone but never forgotten. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.

My parents, Marlene and Richard Butcher—thank you for being constant in your support throughout my life. My children: Jerome and Camille; and grandson, Dimitri and cat, Patches—team number one! Wow! The discussions we had, our outings between researching and writing, those smiles, the teasing, the dribbles, the disruptions…they kept me entertained and involved with every facet of your lives during those months and years! You were what I needed to get me through!

To my colleagues and friends from Trinidad, St Vincent, and Barbados: I will never forget the warmth and generosity of your spirits—sisters and brothers bonded together. Thank you!

Finally, I thank Dr. Caroline Hart and Professor Ivor Goodson, for your insightful comments and recommendations.

←xiv | 1→


The Prologue

The life history methodology or approach taken in this book acknowledges that who we are or perceive ourselves to be through the stories we tell of our personal lives and within the professional sphere need to be examined within a particular historical, political, socioeconomic, and educational context. It is important therefore to listen to each other and acknowledge what we say about our lives. Listening to the stories of others therefore becomes an important and appropriate research method. In this prologue, I begin by sharing my personal past history with the process of collecting and sharing stories, examining issues around how stories can be used within a postcolonial and neoliberal capitalist world, and considering the concept of “giving voice.”

When I first thought about the process of listening to the stories of principals from higher education institutions, I chuckled silently. I saw the irony of seemingly returning to an activity that I used to be engaged in as a young teacher on staff at The Barbados Community College, one of the higher education institutions once led by one of the principals whose story I heard. After teaching for five years at the secondary level, I had joined the staff at The Barbados Community College in April 1990. I collected information, wrote for and edited a weekly four-page publication called The College Update. One of the features of The College Update was sharing the stories of retiring staff ←1 | 2→members who spoke about the early days of the institution. The stories connected me to the College and created a sense of belonging.

The Barbados Community College was first established as a sixth-form college that challenged the elitist structure of sixth-form provision of education in Barbados. It democratized the provision of post-secondary education for students excluded from such provision. At the time of its establishment, there were only four secondary schools with sixth-form sections catering to only 250 students. There was much controversy at the time of its establishment. Some of the stories shared with me by members of staff were of the early days of struggle, but there were also stories of exciting times and feelings of pride in being a part of an institution that would revolutionize higher education provision within a largely conservative Barbadian educational landscape.

I relinquished responsibility for The College Update when having two young children, a full-time teaching position, and starting a Master’s program became too much, but the process of collecting the stories and sharing them had had a great impact personally and professionally. Even though in 1979 I had gone to one of the more established secondary schools with sixth-form provision, I understood about exclusion and how education functioned as a vehicle for social mobility. I became even more committed to the students, staff, College, and its mission. Stories can be impactful and transformational (Plummer, 2013; Richardson, 1990). However, the life history approach to stories is also a powerful reminder that because life stories can be impactful and transformational, if not contextualized, they can also be consciously or unconsciously misused. Goodson (2006) shares a perspective on the life story work done by social scientists and subtly implies an appropriation of their work to a political agenda:

The rise to power of the social sciences in the twentieth century corresponded to the rise of the modern surveillance state. That state required information on its citizens. Social scientists, of both qualitative and quantitative commitments, gathered information for this society. The recent return of the life story celebrates the importance of the individual under the conservative politics of late postmodernism (p. 8–9)


XVI, 192
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (August)
principals higher education life history methodology qualitative leadership decolonization Barbados postcolonial interviewing contextualization reflexivity Principals of Higher Education Institutions in Barbados Jean Butcher-Lashley
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Lausanne, Oxford, 2022. XVI, 192 pp., 1 table.

Biographical notes

Jean Butcher-Lashley (Author)

Jean Butcher-Lashley, head of the Quality Assurance and Enhancement Unit at Barbados Community College, holds a doctorate in Education (University of Sheffield); a master’s degree with Merit (University of Surrey); a professional teachers’ diploma and a bachelor of arts degree with Honors (University of the West Indies). Dr. Butcher-Lashley is the co-author of a book chapter in Affirming Methodologies (2022).


Title: Principals of Higher Education Institutions in Barbados
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210 pages