26 SES 08 B, Leadership and School Improvement
The Swedish education system has since the early 1990s been highly influenced by neoliberalism (Blossing & Söderström, 2013; Lundahl, Erixon Arreman, Holm & Lundström, 2013; Bunar, 2010). This has led to new demands for school leaders who have taken on far more administrative and managerial tasks. However, neoliberalism is not encompassing, as aspects of the older Welfare era still prevails (Blossing, Imsen & Moos, 2013). Due to this, school leaders have to handle both old and new demands, in some cases demands conflicting each other. School leaders are thereby considered as caught in the ‘cross fire’ of reform, balancing between external accountability demands and the need for internal trust (Møller, 2009a; Moos, Moller & Johansson, 2004).
Research in this field is growing rapidly but as Lundahl et al. (2013) have noticed, there is an absence of research focusing the affects of neoliberalism on schools’ internal work and life. Arguable there is also a lack of research highlighting how school leaders understand the new circumstances, how they decide to act and how this affect the internal work and life in their schools. The intention with this study is to contribute with further understanding of these issues.
This paper addresses school leadership in the neoliberal influenced Swedish compulsory school. The aim is to explore how the new policy context affects internal school improvement work and school leaders’ pedagogical leadership. The research questions are:
- How do school leaders understand and make use of the new policy context in their pedagogical leadership and in the internal school improvement work?
- How can differences in school leaders’ actions and differences in the internal school improvement work be understood in relation to the new policy context?
Theoretically the study takes its starting point in the new institutional perspective (March and Olsen, 1989; March, 1995). Central is that actions in institutions are shaped by the ‘rules’ of the institution. ‘Rules’ are to be understood in a broad sense, defined by March and Olsen (1989:22) as routines, procedures, conventions, roles, strategies, organizational forms and technologies. Although ‘the basic logic of action is rule following’ (March and Olsen, 2005:8) this do not mean that actors respond unreflecting or that actions are predetermined in relation to institutions. Rather actions are always preceded by an individual statement and March and Olson (2005) mean that the statement taken usually is based within the logic of appropriate actions. Also organisational behaviour is shaped by rules, and particularly by informal norms of organisations. The dominated culture within the organisation set the scene for its members. For school leaders this means that they become influenced by the new policy context, but also by ‘rules’ at local level. Taking this perspective, policy impact is not all determining. Rather, to make sense of new situations both personal and contextual aspects are essential (Weick, 1995) and influences school leaders decisions, actions and shape their identity.
Blossing, U. & Söderström, Å. (2013). A School for Every Child in Sweden. In U. Blossing, G. Imsen & L. Moos (Eds.), The Nordic Education Model. ‘A School for All’ Encounters Neo-Liberal Policy (pp. 17-34). Dordrecht: Springer. Blossing, U., Imsen, G. & Moos, L. (2013). Schools for All: A Nordic Model. In U. Blossing, G. Imsen & L. Moos (Eds.), The Nordic Education Model. ‘A School for All’ Encounters Neo-Liberal Policy (pp. 231-239). Dordrecht: Springer. Bunar, N. (2010). Choosing for quality or inequality: current perspectives on the implementation of school choice policy in Sweden. Journal of Educational Policy, 25(1), 1-18. Cohen, L., Manion, L. & Morrisson, K. (2010). Research methods in education. (6th ed.) New York: Routledge. Lundahl, L., Erixon Arreman, I., Holm, A-S. & Lundström, U. (2013). Educational marketization the Swedish way. Education Inquiry, 4(3), 497-517. March, J. G. (1995). Fornuft og forandring (Reason and change). Fredriksberg: Samfundslitteratur. March, J. G. & Olsen, J. P. (1989). Rediscovering Institutions: The Organizational Basis of Politics. New York: The Free Press. March, J. G. & Olsen, J. P (2005). Elaborating the “New Institutionalism” Working paper, No. 11. University of Oslo: Centre for European Studies. Moos, L., Moller, J. & Johansson, O. (2004). A Scandinavian Perspective on Educational Leadership. The Educational Forum, 68(?), 200-210. Møller, J. (2009a). School leadership in an age of accountability: Tension between managerial and professional accountability. Journal of Educational Change, 10(?), 37-46. Scott, R. W. (2001). Institutions and Organizations. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Yin, R. K. (2011). Qualitative research from start to finish. New York: The Guilford Press. Weick, K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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