03 SES 03, Leadership and Curriculum Change
The paper presents a case study of an emergence of a new upper secondary school in a sparsely populated community in rural Iceland. New national laws in 2008 followed by a new curriculum opened up a possibility for independence for schools in designing their curriculum. The focus of the paper is on the role of the head master in designing and implementing a new curriculum in response to the societal situation in the community and which issues were important for successful implementation.
The Tröllaskagi upper secondary school is situated in northen Iceland and was founded in 2010. It serves a sparsely populated community consisting of three fishing towns each with 1000-2000 inhabitants. Students are 150-200 each school year, of them 40-50 are distance students. The schools offers diverse education in traditional academic subjects as well as emphasizing creative arts, use of copmuters and cultivating good ralationship with environment and culture in the community. As an example of untraditional subjects is entrepreneurship in cooperation with local entrepreneur companies, programming of computer games, sea surfing and outdoors activities in snow.
The headmaster, a woman in her fifties was hired given the role to design and prepare the foundation of the school. She had neither education nor former experience as a head master. However she had long and diverse experience of school development as an innovator in the use of ICT and holds masters’ degrees in education (M.Ed) and art photography (MFA).
Our research questions are:
- How did the head master make use of her diverse former experience when preparing and designing a new school and which situational factors facilitated her doing so?
- How did the new curriculum as well as characteristics of governance on behalf of the ministry of education give her agency and freedom enough to design a new model for a rural school based on her experience and ideal visions?
- Which internal issues, such as hiring teachers and collaborating with them mattered most for successful implementation of the new school design?
- What kind of external support mattered most for successful implementation of the new school?
- Which are the challenges ahead for sustaining and developing the new school model?
Cultural-historical activity theory based on the theories of Vygotsky (1978) are used to analyse the genesis of a new school and the role of the head master when taking actions responding to the situation in the rural community and the structural characteristics of the educational system in Iceland. We use Vygosky‘s concepts of experience and externalisation when we analyse the emergence of the new school model where the headmaster is externalising her experience by contributing to school development. We take the challenge proposed by Vygotsky (1994) of using experience as a category as our unit of analysis and look at contradictions as the driving force for development. Contradiction between what is and what could be may be a driver of individual action, keeping in mind though that action always is the result of person-environment transactions. Here we refer to theories of place based education and transformative activiststance. (Coughlin and Kirch, 2010). Vygotsky reminded that a specifically human characteristic is the ability to envision, based on past experiences, the world differently than it currently is. He considered the role of the ideal for directing our actions to be important and in our analysis we also refer to Stetsenko who has expanded Vygotky’s approach by emphasizing the role of ideology for directing activites (Stetsenko and Arievich 2004).
Coughlin and Kirch. (2010). Place-based education: a transformative activist stance. Cultural Studies of Science Education 5(4):911-921 Holstein, J. A., & Gubrium, J. F. (2004). The active interview. In D. Silverman (Ed.), Qualitative research. Theory, method and practice (2nd ed., pp. 140-161). London: Sage Publications. Stetsenko, A. (2013). The challenge of individuality in cultural-historical activity theory: “Collectividual” dialectics from a transformative activist stance. OUTLINES – Critical Social Studies, 14, 7–28. Stetsenko, A. & Arievitch, I. (2004). Vygotskian collaborative project of social transformation: History, politics, and practice in knowledge construction. International Journal of Critical Psychology, 12 (4), 58-80. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Vygotsky, L. S. (1994). The problem of the environment. In R. van der Veer & J. Valsiner (Eds.), The Vygotsky reader (pp. 338-354). Oxford: Blackwell.
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