32 SES 05, Power Relations and Perception Gaps as Factors of Organizational Development
Recent school reform in Denmark stresses the importance of local actors to design, enact and make sense of change. The local leader becomes pivotal for the translation of policy into practice – and vice versa (Danish Ministry of Education 2015). Correspondingly, leadership theory on the distribution of tasks has emphasized the importance of the school’s flexible coherence as an organization (Spillane, Halverson and Diamond 2004, Harris 2008) and its capacity to evaluate organizational development (Vanhoof, Verhaeghe and Verhaeghe 2010). In the case of Denmark, similar ideas are being implemented in the professional development of teachers and leaders.
Data from the Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning (CALL) survey, however, indicates that the ways in which leaders and staff look at school development vary significantly (Modeste et al. 2016). It would appear that perception gaps between teachers and leaders are in fact typical (Blitz and Modeste 2015), and the reality is thus somewhat at odds with the ideal of shared understanding across the professional community of the organization (e.g. OECD 2013).
The research question of the paper is how to gauge the importance of perception gaps between leaders and teachers, and what implications such differences may have for school reform and development. The paper suggests that while we should expect a certain variance in perceptions between roles, deeper differences in perception may cause de-coupling and thus come to obstruct reform of the school organization.
Based on analysis of survey data from Danish schools, the paper undertakes a theoretical discussion of two aspects of the research issues. First, whether this variance is to be expected as an expression of differences according to role, or, secondly, if we may look at such variance as the result of differences in the beliefs of leaders and employees (Hallett 2010) not adequately addressed in reform programs aimed at increasing cooperation and distribution of leadership in schools.
The discussion is informed by reviews of research on perception gaps in multi-source assessments and how they are used in feedback processes (Atwater, Brett, and Attira 2007, Bailey and Fletcher 2001), and related research on the organizational dynamics of self-other rating agreement (Fleenor et al. 2010). While predominantly focusing on individual psychology, the paper demonstrates the value of insights from these research fields for the analysis of roles and feedback in task-based leadership practice in education.
Atwater, L. E., Brett, J. F., & Charles, A. C. (2007). Multisource feedback: Lessons learned and implications for practice. Human Resource Management, 46(2), 285–307. http://doi.org/10.1002/hrm.20161 Blitz, M. H., & Modeste, M. (2015). The Differences Across Distributed Leadership Practices by School Position According to the Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning (CALL). Leadership and Policy in Schools, 14(3), 341–379. http://doi.org/10.1080/15700763.2015.1024328 Danish Ministry of Education. (2015). Ledelse af den nye folkeskole. Syv ledelsesfelter til skoleledelser og forvaltning. København. Fleenor, J. W., Smither, J. W., Atwater, L. E., Braddy, P. W., & Sturm, R. E. (2010). Self–other rating agreement in leadership: A review. Retrieved from http://www.elsevier.com/copyright Hallett, T. (2010). The Myth Incarnate: Recoupling Processes, Turmoil, and Inhabited Institutions in an Urban Elementary School. American Sociological Review, 75(1), 52–74. http://doi.org/10.1177/0003122409357044 Harris, A. (2008). Distributed School Leadership. Developing tomorrow’s leaders. Oxon/New York: Routledge. Modeste, Marsha; Hornskov, Søren; Bjerg, Helle; Kelley, C. (2016). Examining Practice Across International Policy Contexts: Orgnizational Roles and Distributed Leadership in the US and Denmark. Detroit: UCEA. OECD. (2013). Leadership for 21st Century Learning. Spillane, J. P., Halverson, R., & Diamond, J. B. (2004). Towards a theory of leadership practice: a distributed perspective. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 36(1), 3–34. http://doi.org/10.1080/0022027032000106726 Vanhoof, Jan; Verhaeghe, Goedele; Verhaeghe, J. (2011). The Influence of Competences and Support on School Performance Feedback Use. Educational Studies, 37(2), 141–154.
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