26 SES 09 B, Middlemanagement and Managing Principals
During the last two decades it has been widely acknowledged that educational middle leaders are uniquely positioned to exert professional influence in terms of affecting instructional change (Harris, Jamieson, & Russ, 1995; Printy, 2008). Moreover, a line of research on professional bureaucracies (Mintzberg, 1993) supports this notion and adds supplemental explanatory power by showing significant impact upwards and downwards in the organizational hierarchy from middle leaders’ engagement in social networks – that is network centrality and network engagement (Pappas, Flaherty, & Wooldridge, 2004). The theoretical essence of these streams of leadership influence is boundary spanning, an organizational function characterized by actors crossing internal and external boundaries in the daily work and thereby diffusing information and assimilating knowledge vertically and horizontally (Pawlowski & Robey, 2004; Schwab, Ungson, & Brown, 1985). Yet boundary spanning also encompasses externally oriented activities, such as scanning, mapping and constructing a picture of the external environments, including predicting future trouble spots or potential allies (Ancona & Caldwell, 1992; Daft & Weick, 1984). In vocational training, which is the context of the current study, middle leaders may for example develop a series of relationships to the outside working life through their work with apprenticeship training and thus in principle integrate school interests with working life demands. Essentially, this mediating and integrating function is important to bind the elements of the system together (Weick, 2001). The current paper follows this line of reasoning and investigated middle leadership practices in six cases drawn from the Norwegian vocational training sector.
Standard vocational training in Norway is conducted as four-year programs half-split between schooling (2 years) and apprenticeship training in a workplace institution (2 years). After the completion of the total program students are normally certified with a craftsman certificate. However, there is no regulations that guarantees completion seen from the student’s point of view, and this educational segment can therefor fairly well be regarded as an extreme variant of a loosely coupled system (Weick, 1982). A central premise in loosely coupled system theory is that change, adaptation and innovations processes are most effectively activated from the playground of middle leaders, i.e. subject departments, where the specialist knowledge is highest (Orton & Weick, 1990). On the other hand, role stress, i.e. role conflict and role ambiguity, is a recurrent theme in the middle leader’s work context (Wise, 2001). Taken together, the theoretical premise of the paper is, firstly, that utilization of boundary spanning opportunities is a potent source of influence. Second, middle leadership in practice embraces a series of simultaneous situations of role stress and perceived influence. Based on the longitudinal case study, the paper discusses a re-conceptualization of the middle leader’s role as organizational learning facilitators and change agents in loosely coupled systems.
Ancona, D. G., & Caldwell, D. F. 1992. Bridging the Boundary: External Activity and Performance in Organizational Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 37(34): 634-665. Andersen, S. S. 1997. Case-studier og generalisering: forskningsstrategi og design (Case studies and generalization: research strategy and design). Bergen-Sandviken: Fagbokforl. Daft, R. L., & Weick, K. E. 1984. Toward a Model of Organizations as Interpretation Systems. Academy of Management Review, 9(2): 284-295. Harris, A. 1998a. Differential Departmental Effectiveness in Secondary School: Strategies for Change and development. Educational Management & Administration, 26. Harris, A. 1998b. Improving the effective department: strategies for growth and development. Educational Management & Administration, 26: 269-278. Harris, A., Jamieson, I., & Russ, J. 1995. A Study of ‘Effective’ Departments in Secondary Schools. School Organisation, 15(3): 283-299. Mintzberg, H. 1993. Structure in Fives. Designing Effective Organizations. New York: Prentice-Hall. Orton, J. D., & Weick, K. E. 1990. Loosely Coupled Systems: A Reconceptualization. Academy of Management Review, 15(2): 203-223. Pappas, J. M., Flaherty, K., E., & Wooldridge, B. 2004. Tapping into Hospital Champions-Strategic Middle Managers. Health Care Management Review, 29(1): 8. Pawlowski, S. D., & Robey, D. 2004. Bridging User Organizations: Knowledge Brokering and the Work of Information Technology Professionals. MIS Quarterly, 28(4): 645-673. Printy, S. M. 2008. Leadership for Teacher Learning: A Community of Practice Perspective. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(2): 187-226. Ragin, C. C. 1987. The Comparative Method. Moving beyond qualitative and quantitative strategies. Berkley: University of California Press. Ragin, C. C. 1992. Casing and the process of social inquiry. In C. C. Ragin, & H. Becker (Eds.), What is a case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schwab, R. C., Ungson, G. R., & Brown, W. B. 1985. Refining the Boundary Spanning- Environmental Relationships. Journal of Management 11(1): 75-86. Weick, K. E. 1982. Administering Education in Loosely Coupled Schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 63(10): 673-676. Weick, K. E. 2001. Management of Organizational Change Among Loosely Coupled Elements. In K. E. Weick (Ed.), Making Sense of the Organization. Malden MA: Blackwell Publishing. Wise, C. 2001. The Monitoring Role of the Academic Middle Manager in Secondary Schools. Educational Management & Administration, 29(3): 333-341. Yin, R. K. 1994. Case study research. Design and methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
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