01 SES 08 B, Leadership, Pedagogy and Professional Development
All over the world, educational activities are subject to organisational arrangements. However, the person who is the principal organiser and who is ultimately responsible for these arrangements varies. In Sweden, educational activities, such as those that take place at the primary and secondary school level, are arranged by a public- or a private principal organiser. With respect to public training, every municipality has to convene one or more political boards (SFS, 2010:800). These boards are responsible for the training that is provided within the municipality, in accordance with prevailing regulations. Although there is no formal requirement for it, all Swedish principal organisers have a chief officer who is the board’s representative within the school organisation. This officer’s title can differ: in this study it is director of education. From an international perspective, there can be differences between school organizations, of course. So even if the board has a chief officer, the chief officer’s role and responsibilities can differ, from country to country (Rapp, Segolsson & Aktas 2018).
In Sweden, the Director of Education (as the board’s representative) is expected to take ensure that teaching that takes place fulfils the school’s regulatory goals and outcomes (Svedberg, 2014, Moos, Nihlfors & Paulsen, 2016). This includes following up the school principal’s work with respect to teaching and learning, i.e. the pedagogic leadership shown by the school principal. This leadership is regulated by the curriculum:
As a pedagogical leader and head for teachers and other staff in school, the principal has the overall responsibility […] The principal is responsible for school outcomes […] (Skolverket, 2011).
Even if the concept ‘pedagogical leadership’ is easily understandable in an international arena, this concept is used only infrequently (Rapp, 2010; Svedberg, 2016). More commonly used concepts are ‘transformational leadership’ and ‘instructional leadership’ (Beatty, 2008; Huber, 2008).
If the school principal fails to fulfil the responsibility for the students’ teaching and learning, the director of education is supposed to act and intervene in such a way which guarantees the students’ legal rights. If the director of education does not fulfil his or her responsibility in this area, then the state, through its authority, the National School Inspectorate, is obliged to take action against the director of education (SFS 2010:800).
Today, students from different parts of the world are represented in many classrooms; often the result of human migration. Some schools have successfully integrated these students into their school system and culture, but examples of where this has not taken place can also be found. In Swedish schools, every student, independent of his or her of background, has the legal right to achieve national goals and be provided with equal education opportunities throughout the country (SFS 210:800). Accordingly, every student has the right to receive support, based on his or her own conditions. Consequently, resources should be assigned on an individual basis so as to secure this right.
Aim and Questions
The purpose of this research is to examine the local school board’s expectations with respect to their director of education as a leader of pedagogical issues. This examination will thus improve our understanding of the expectations that are placed on each director’s pedagogic leadership.
The following research questions guide the study:
1. How does the school board oversee its chief officer in his/her work on pedagogical issues?
2. What strategies are available to a school board as it oversees how the director of education can influence student results?
3. How does the school board communicate these strategies to the director?
Academic success is clearly important to the future career opportunities of many young people, and so the director of education’s assignment to provide education that is in accordance with the regulations is also of particular importance. The present study presents an investigation of how the school board, through its director of education, works so as to positively influence student results (Rapp, 2011). The director commonly affects teachers and students by setting out the conditions for teaching and learning. Accordingly, the director exerts an indirect pedagogical leadership (Törnsén & Ärlestig, 2014). The director is often the chief supervisor of the principals and of the local school administration of a particular geographical area. In order to achieve a ‘Weberian ideal type’, the administrative assignment of the director of education is to fulfil the criteria for clear and predictable rules as pertains to a bureaucracy (Lundqvist, 1992: 16). A bureaucracy consists of a rational organisation within a public administration managed by officials (Dalin, 1994). Simultaneously, such bureaucracies are confronted by postmodern societal expectations that are strongly characterised by New Public Management (NPM); including freedom of choice and routines for evaluation. It is in this –tension between classical bureaucracy and NPM where the director of education has to guarantee equal educational opportunities to all of the students which he or she is ultimately responsible for. A quantitative method will be used in this research project. Data will be collected by an e-mail-based survey that will be sent out to all the chairpersons of public local school boards in charge of primary and secondary schools in Sweden. The survey will include statements with fixed-response options and open questions. In Sweden, there are 290 municipalities in total, which vary widely in terms of their number of inhabitants. The smallest municipality has about 3 000 inhabitants, while Stockholm has approximately 1 million inhabitants. After they have been analysed, the answers to the survey will be contrasted against a frame factor theoretical approach. Lundgren (1986) claims that three frames are especially important for the school: the (i) economical, (ii) legal, and (iii) ideological frames. To these, more frames can be added. For example, the ‘evaluation’ and ‘follow-up’ frames. One can argue that these frames delimit the possibilities and set limitations on the scope of actions that principal organisers can take (e.g., Broady & Lindblad, 1998; Broady, 1999; Lundgren, 1999; Rapp, 2001).
In Sweden, the role of director of education has not been subject to a great deal of research, including investigations into local school boards’ expectations of their director of education. Before starting the proposed investigation, a review of international research models will be performed. It is common that school management is considered from a rationalistic perspective (Abrahamsson, 1975, 1992). Dalin (1994) claims that Max Weber’s theory about bureaucracy has had a great influence on the school, as an organisation. Whilst this bureaucratic model exerts a great deal of influence on such organisations; there are other competitive management models that also affect how school are organised. One such model is New Public Management (NPM), where the concepts of ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘private good’ are deemed to be key concepts (Englund, 1995). Within the logic of NPM, market forces are encouraged to influence school development. In the results of the investigation, answers from the school board chairs will be presented from a frame factor theoretical perspective. This will give us insight into to how the pedagogic leadership of the directors of education is controlled by the local school board. By linking the political level to the level of the director of education (a bureaucratic administrative level), we aim to develop our understanding of why and with what expectations does the political level influence the director of education, and thereby reveal how the administrative bureaucracy could develop in the future. In summary, this study will increase our knowledge of how and by what means the local school board steers its director of education. At the same time, answers about what strategies that are used to influence student results will also be revealed. These steps are taken to strengthen the equal educational opportunities and to improve student outcomes.
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