26 SES 16 B, International Perspectives on Educational Leadership
In 1981 I became a member of the primary schools inspectorate in the Republic of Ireland (RoI). Due to a decline in the number of teachers for probation at the time, as well as the fact that the probationary period for Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) was reduced from two to one year, the perception among more senior inspectors was that their ‘bread and butter’ raison d’étre, namely the probation of NQTs, needed to be replaced with another core activity. The alternative to probation work was ‘Tuairiscí Scoile’ (School Reports), already an established practice that had, to a significant degree, fallen into abeyance; neglected. Instead, two months- November 1981 and February 1982 were to be devoted exclusively to general whole school inspection. At a time when inspection was all but non-existent in much of the post-primary sector, this new emphasis was described by the primary teacher union’s general secretary as a ‘blitz on schools’. In the context of the time, it certainly was a shift in emphasis (J. Coolahan, 2017; J. Coolahan, with O' Donnovan, P. F., 2009; O' Donovan, 2017).
This shift in emphasis has subsequently gone through several transmogrifications (Sugrue, 1999, 2006). From a policy perspective, perhaps most significant among them have been a ministerial decision in 2006 to publish all Whole School Evaluation (WSE) Reports, as well as subsequent publication of ‘Looking at Our Schools’ (Inspectorate., 2016c, 2016d), published as part of a cluster of revised policy statements regarding school ‘self-evaluation’ (Inspectorate., 2016e, 2016f) in addition to specific guidelines regarding school inspection (Inspectorate., 2016a, 2016b). Such policy considerations are situated within a legislative context whereby the Educational legislation (Ireland, 1998) states that the school principal has responsibility for the ‘instruction provided’, while the Teaching Council (Ireland, 2001), established in 2006, has responsibility for promoting the interests of the profession and upholding professional standards. This is the background, legislative and policy context in which the theoretical framework for analysis is generated.
The paper draws on the language and logics of accountability and professional responsibility (Englund & Solbrekke, 2011; Solbrekke & Englund, 2011) and combines such perspectives with the concept of ‘formation’ (Sutphen & de Lange, 2015), as a means of positioning as well as identifying the field of force created within the tensions between accountability and responsibility as they extract the ‘emotional labour’ of teachers and principals alike during the periods of school inspection. While considerable work has been published previously on emotions in teaching (Hargreaves, 1998, 2000b), on impact on inspection on teachers (de Wolf & Janssens, 2007; Perryman, 2007), in addition to the framing indicated here the purpose of the paper is to look at the dynamics of inspection through an analytical lens that combines the logics framework with aspects of emotional labour refracted through a ‘distributed’ leadership lens (Gronn, 2003; Spillane, Camburn, & Pareja, 2009; Spillane & Diamond, 2007), the dominant leadership discourse in the setting.
Through this multi-focal lens the following questions are addressed:
- How do teachers talk about the emotional labour of inspection in its immediate wake?
- How do they talk about the ‘legacy’ of inspection months after the event?
By focusing on these empirical questions, the intention is to analyse through a leadership lens the extent to which such emotionally heightened encounters, such ‘critical incidents’ have a temporary or lasting impact on professional formation and leadership within the school and whether or not such legacies provide lessons for leadership (Tripp, 1993).
First, the paper articulates a robust theoretical framework that draws on the various threads identified above to situate emotional labour centrally as part of the inspection process. Second, it e simultaneously crafts an analytical framework that permits close critical scrutiny of the inspection process, its impact on the school community, and the extent to which leadership lessons may be extracted from the emotional ‘bricolage’ of the encounter (Bauman, 2000/2006, 2017). The first element of the methodology therefore is a selective literature review combining materials identified above as well as other sources. In terms of empirical data, I was fortunate in 2017 to have access to a school in the days immediately following the completion of a WSE. The principal and teachers were willing to be interviewed—the principal informally. The ‘case study’ (Stake, 1995) school is a primary school in a socially disadvantaged context. Two focus groups among the staff were created—those teachers in the school who were visited by members of the inspector team, and those that were not. These encounters were recorded, lasted approximately one hour, consisted of five teachers in each group. These recordings were transcribed verbatim, and were read repeatedly and coded abductively as the theoretical lens was being developed (Alvesson & Skolberg, 2000). Several months later, and having undertaken considerable coding and interpretation of the data from both transcripts, the school was revisited, the two groups were again interviewed, on this occasion with a series of questions that emerged from the earlier analysis in dialogue with the literature. It was at this point that the focus was on legacy issues, and whether learning was temporary, or lasting, with a particular focus on possible leadership lessons. Here too, the interviews were recorded, transcribed and subsequently coded, while there were also conversations with the principals and a member of staff to gain further contextual insights and understanding.
Three chronological themes are documented. WSE Rehearsal: mastering and manufacturing the script Receiving formal notification of the WSE precipitates a flurry of ‘Spring Cleaning’ in order to be ready for the event, while it unites staff against an external ‘threat’, thus a heightened sense of anticipation, activity and anxiety is created, and this energy is harnessed as various forms of rehearsal are enacted with the intention of ensuring a powerful production when there is an ‘external’ audience. This theme is critically scrutinised for its insights into teacher collaboration, leadership, and the roll and contribution emotional labour plays, is enacted and manifests itself. WSE Live: Performing the script Some staff members play a more prominent role in the performance, since not everyone’s classroom is visited during the three days when the inspectors are present in the school. There is considerable anxiety induced by uncertainty, the roles played by the performers and those who are cast in supporting roles. These distinctions are carefully documented, and critically analysed for insights into emotional labour and the possible leadership lessons learned. WSE: Immediate Wake and subsequent post mortem Oral feedback is provided on the day the WSE is completed, which is largely accepted without comment. A written report is received a few months later. This theme compares and contrasts the emotional intensity felt during the ‘wake’ and the anti-climactic consideration of the written report after the emotions have subsequently settled. It is in the interstices between these two events, separated by time, that a comprehensive discussion and conclusion focuses by returning to the analytical framework and its fit for purpose, as well as possible leadership lessons learned, while more tentatively determining if the emotional labour of the process yields leadership and learning dividends commensurate with the investment.
Alvesson, M., & Skolberg, K. (2000). Reflexive Methodology. New Vistas for Qualitative Research. London Sage. Bauman, Z. (2000/2006). Liquid Modernity Cambridge: Polity Press. de Wolf, I. F., & Janssens, F. J. G. (2007). Effects and side effects of inspections and accountability in education: an overv iew of empirical studies. Oxford Review of Education, 33(3), 379-396. doi:10.1080/03054980701366207 Englund, T., & Solbrekke, T. D. (2011). Professional Responsibility Under Pressure? . In C. Sugrue & T. Dyrdal Solbrekke (Eds.), Professional Responsibility: New Horizons of Praxis (pp. 59-73). London & New York: Routledge. Hargreaves, A. (1998). The emotional politics of teaching and teacher development: with implications for educational headship. International Journal of Leadership in Education Theory and Practice, 1(4), 315-336. Hargreaves, A. (2000b). Mixed emotions: teachers' perceptions of their interactions with students. Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 16, pp.811-826. Inspectorate. (2016a). A Guide To Inspection in Primary Schools Retrieved from Dublin: Inspectorate. (2016b). A Guide To Inspection In The Post-Primary School Retrieved from Dublin Inspectorate. (2016c). Looking At Our Schools 2016 A Quality Framework for Post-Primary Schools Retrieved from Dublin Inspectorate. (2016d). Looking At Our Schools A Quality Framework for Primary Schools Retrieved from Dublin Inspectorate. (2016e). School Self-Evaluation Guidelines 2016-2020 Post Primary. Retrieved from Dublin Inspectorate. (2016f). School Self-Evaluation Guidelines 2016-2020 Primary Retrieved from Dublin Perryman, J. (2007). Inspection and Emotion Cambridge Journal of Economics, 37(2), 173-190. Solbrekke, T. D., & Englund, T. (2011). Bringing professional responsibility back in. Studies in Higher Education, 36(7), 847-861. Spillane, J., Camburn, E. M., & Pareja, A. S. (2009). School Principals at Work A Distributed Perspective. In K. Leithwood, B. Mascall, & T. Strauss (Eds.), Distributed Leadership According to the Evidence (pp. 87-110). London & New York: Routledge. Spillane, J., & Diamond, J. B. (Eds.). (2007). Distributed Leadership in Practice. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. Stake, B. (1995). The Art of Case Study Research Thousand Oaks, London & New Delhi: Sage Publications. Sugrue, C. (1999). Primary Principals' Perspectives on Whole-School Evaluation. Irish Journal of Education, xxx, 39-76. Sugrue, C. (2006). A Critical Appraisal of the Impact of International Agencies on Educational Reforms and Teachers' Lives and Work: The Case of Ireland? European Educational Research Journal, 5(3 & 4), 181-195. Sutphen, M., & de Lange, T. (2015). What is Formation? A Conceptual Discussion. Higher Education Research and Development, 34(2), 411-419.
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