19 SES 06 A, Neoliberalism, Leadership and School Actors
This is a meta-ethnographic study of the new landscape in Swedish school for student teacher and headmaster after years of policy implementation following a neoliberal idea tradition (Arreman and Holm, 2011; Ball, 2006; Beach, 2010; Beach and Dovemark, 2007; Erlandson & Karlsson 2016; Hjelmér and Rosvall, 2017; Karlsson & Erlandson 2015).
The reform logic has involved a transfer of private sector logics into the educational system that has led to a replacement of a welfare discourses with the discipline of the market were market competition are considered to raise standards and increase the quality of both schools, teachers and students (Ball, 2003). The performances (of individuals or organisations) serves as measure of qualities and productivity that in turn has increased interest in producing information that can be used for the control and governance of the school sector. A theoretical term describing this is performativity that according to Ball (2003) is a technology embedded in the neoliberal education packages together with technologies of the market and managerialism. McKenzie (in Locke 2015) claims that the logic of performativity has displaced the notion of discipline as the tool for social evaluation (Locke, 2015). To demonstrate quality becomes an important task for school leaders, and in the wake of this, quality and change work has become part of the everyday school life where change work dissolves and where the school organization, teachers and students are in a state of constant change.
The aim of this study is to describe and analyze the state of constant change that is the outcome of the wave of reforms put to work in order to increase educational efficiency, transparency and measurability. We focus on headmasters as a hub for school development and school change. That means we see headmasters not only as schools leaders and as people in charge for developing local school environments and the education offered within this educational environments, but also as willing or un-willing participants in economically driven networks of power. Three types of change are of particularly interesting for us. First policy-doctrines on national and supra national levels that are transmitted down to the actual schools and put to practice in local school. Secondly organizational development focusing on school staff and routines, are meant to develop and increase the effectively of the working practice for the working staff. Thirdly school development that aim at increasing the teachers effectively in the classroom, i. e. increasing the students learning in terms of (measurable) outcomes.
The study is empirically grounded in two classical ethnographical studies. The research process was inspired by Hammersley and Atkinson´s (2007) suggestion for introducing oneself as a researcher in a field. Dynamically we elaborating design and research focus in regard to context (See also Hammersley 2004). Time, place and objects where strategically selected (Troman 2004). The studies follow the Scandinavian tradition of critical ethnography (see for example Beach 2010). They comprise five years and 600 hours of in the field and include survey data, but mainly ethnographical data produced in schools and at conferences. We conducted interviews and conversations with principals and headmasters and also officials from the local educational department, as well as other relevant stakeholders. We also obtained access to written material such as press clippings and related policy documents. The headmasters and principals were all informed that participation in the research was both confidential and voluntary. Active consent was obtained for all interviewees. We did not use any personal or individual data in our analysis from the time on the field before the formal interviews. Furthermore, when analysing the data, we tried to come as close as possible to local practices. Then we used the theoretical framework to process the data. In the actual writing process, this became a recurrent process of what Nicolini (2009) calls zooming in and zooming out. The data used in the meta-analysis have been identified primarily through the previous independent project codes related to key themes, topics or ideas that had been identified in the aggregated and analysed data from the two earlier ethnographies and a survey described in their written reports, chapters and research articles.
The tentative analyses show that the different kinds of development projects are often contradictory in terms of aims, they are temporally badly matched and seams unrelated to each other. The headmasters often seem to have a poor understanding of the aim of the projects, how they are played out in the schools and what kind of development the projects contribute with to the school and the educational environment at large. Keeping up changes seems to be a way to govern rather than a way to improve school quality. More important however is how these never-ending processes of change seems to be a way to successively construct a new kind of subject – new kind of teachers, headmasters and students. Following a Foucauldian logic, we argue that in the same time as the headmasters is very tangible in their course management of the school and therefor effectuate power, the headmaster is at the same time more interwoven in the networks of power, and already more subjected through them, then the teaches that s/he via the developments of projects drags in, in to the workings of these power-network. The continuing pressure of performativity leave open for the headmasters’ agency only a small window of possible action. The headmasters do not use the technologies of new public management but are used by them. This study contributes in understanding of how neoliberal reform technologies making new professional identities by providing new modes of description of what teachers and headmasters do and how this reforming of schools has provided new motives and possibilities for action that in turn has changed both what education is and what it is for.
Arreman IE and Holm A-S. (2011) Privatisation of public education? The emergence of independent upper secondary schools in Sweden. Journal of Education Policy 26: 225-243. Ball SJ. (2003) The teacher's soul and the terrors of perfomativity. In: Ball SJ (ed) Education Policy and Social Class The selected work of Stephen J. Ball. Abingdon: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 143-156. Ball SJ. (2006) Education policy and social class: the selected works of Stephen J. Ball, London: Routledge. Beach D. (2010) Neoliberal Restructuring in Education and Health Professions in Europe: Questions of Global Class and Gender. Current Sociology 58: 551-569. Beach D and Dovemark M. (2007) Education and the commodity problem: Ethnographic investigations of creativity and performativity in Swedish schools, London, United Kingdom: the Tuffnell Press. Erlandson P. & Karlsson M.R. (2018): From trust to control – the Swedish first teacher reform, Teachers and Teaching. (2018), 24: 22-36. Hjelmér C and Rosvall P-Å. (2017) Does social justice count? ‘Lived democracy’ in mathematics classes in diverse Swedish upper secondary programmes. Journal of Curriculum Studies 49: 216-234. Karlsson, M.R. & Erlandson, P. (2018). Facilitators in ambivalence, Ethnography and Education 13: 69-83. Locke K. (2015) Performativity, Performance and Education. Educational Philosophy and Theory 47: 247-259.
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