26 SES 07 C, Dialoguing, Mentoring, Coaching, Using Mission Statement – Tools to Improve Education?
A basic question in developing schools is how principals and teachers can improve students’ results and increase students’ social skills. One of the challenges for school leaders all over the world is to combine strong expectations from national policies, superintendents, staff, parents, students and other stakeholders, and at the same time maintain a strong focus on leading, and creating conditions for learning in their schools. A lot of principals are stuck in administrative work, unable to act as pedagogical leaders.
This article use the concepts of pedagogical leadership and Leader-Member-Exchange Theory to examine a case where school principals have regular dialogues with all staff members focusing teaching and learning in the classroom. In this case study the principals say they save time using dialogues with all staff members, and they say they now can act as pedagogical leaders.
Pedagogical leadership is a concept used especially in the Nordic countries and in Australia. When comparing the concept to international concepts, pedagogical leadership is a combination of instructional and transformational leadership (Leithwood et al. 2002, Hallinger 2005). According to Day and Leithwood (2007) successful principals use both transformational and instructional leadership. The common aim for pedagogical, instructional and transformational school leadership is to improve the quality of teaching, and to enhance student learning.
Ärlestig and Törnsén (2014) constructed a model for pedagogical leadership based on the Swedish national curriculum, their own research, and factors of successful principals identified in the International Successful School Principal Project (Day & Leithwood, 2007). They argued that pedagogical leadership can be summarized in three main parts: creating conditions for learning and teaching, leading learning and teaching, and linking the everyday work of teaching and learning with organizational goals and results.
A basic assumption in this study is that leadership is a process which is relational and contextual (Pierce & Newstrom 2007). Most research on educational leadership focus on the relation between the school leader and a group of teachers assuming that leaders work with followers using an average leadership style. In LMX-theory, used in this study, the researcher’s interest is directed to the dyadic relations that might exist between school leaders and individual teachers (Graen & Uhl-Biel 1995, Northouse 2016).
In the first studies of LMX-theory the researchers focused on the vertical linkages leaders formed with each of their followers, and a leader’s relationship to the work unit as a whole was viewed as a series of vertical dyads (Northouse 2016, p 137). Two general types of linkages were identified, the in-group where followers receive more information, influence, confidence and concern than followers in the out-group. As LMX theory has evolved, its focus is more on the consequences of LMX (Bauer, Erdogan 2015). Leadership making is an approach concerned with how leaders develop a partnership, how they work with each person on a one-to-one basis (Graen & Uhl-Biel 1995). This approach go beyond theories about subordinates and followers and see the partnership among dyadic members. A key difference is that leaders in Leadership making should develop LMX partnership. In this study a school principal and two assistant principals use regular dialogues to establish relationships with all staff.
The purpose of the study is to identify aspects of leadership making (Graen & Uhl-Biel 1995) and pedagogical leadership (Ärlestig & Törnsén 2014) that relates to improved teaching by use of dialogues between principals and teachers.
This leads to the following research questions:
1. What kind of professional partnership is established through the dialogues?
2. How does the partnership create conditions for learning and teaching at different levels in the organization?
This is a case study conducted on a single school. The emphasis in the analysis of this case study is to come up with concepts, suggestions and hypothesis, to try to explain what is happening, and why, in this specific case (Denscombe 2010). The school was identified by reputation, because of its method to give priority to pedagogical leadership in the school by use of what they call dialogues for quality. The school is located in one of the largest cities in Sweden. It has 550 students from preschool class to grade 6. The principal and two assistant principals work together with 80 teachers, pre-school teachers, leisure time teachers and other staff. The school is considered as successful where 100 % of their students pass in all subjects in grade 6 2016/2017, compared to the average of 62 % in the city where the school is located. The principals have divided the staff among themselves for the dialogues. The principal has a more strategic position and she has dialogues with teacher leaders from the different teams, teachers in special education and staff linked with student health care, in total 17 people. The assistant principals have about 30 teachers each. The dialogues are 30 minutes long, and takes place once a month for each teacher. It means that every staff member has 8 – 10 dialogues with a school leader and the principals has a fixed schedule for dialogues taking roughly one day per week for three weeks, and then a week without dialogues. The study uses individual interviews (Creswell 2007) with the three school principals and six teachers, one from each grade. The interviews were semi-structured. Some questions in the interviews were based on the seven item questionnaire (LMX 7) designed to measure the three dimensions of leader-member relationships: respect, trust and obligation (Graen & Uhl-Biel 1995, Northouse 2016). All interviews were recorded and transcribed, and after the first qualitative content analysis (Bryman 2012) there was a new set of individual interviews and a focus group interview with the principals.
Using concepts of Leadership Making (Graen & Uhl-Biel 1995, p 231) most of the relations are “mature”, with established roles, natural reciprocity and a high level of LMX. Some teachers are in the “acquaintence” phase, in role-making, mixed reciprocity, where LMX is at a medium level. All teachers say that they are now being listen to, and they can address issues linked with teaching, learning and work environment. They discuss current teaching and learning activities, their purpose, methods and outcomes. The importance of getting relevant and adequate feedback from the leader is highlighted. The principals can give feedback, and get a good picture of what is actually happening in the classrooms. The level of trust is very high, and the teachers state that the principal will support them if needed. The leader also understand the teachers’ job problems and needs, with examples linked with special needs education, how to relate to problematic parents etc. The teachers point at the fact that now all teachers meet a principal regularly. Before, only some went to the principals’ office. It is mentioned that there are no longer any evident negative informal leaders in the school, and the level of stress has gone down. If you have a problem you know you have individual access to a principal on a regular bases. The principals use the information in organizing teacher teams, and linking teachers who could learn from each other. In this case some, but not all, of the teachers see the dialogues as a part of school improvement on individual, group and organizational level. One conclusion is that the pedagogical leadership is working well at an individual level, and an improvement point is to link the outcomes of the dialogues with organizational goals and results at a group and organizational level.
Bauer, Talya N. & Erdogan, Berrin (red.) (2014-2015). The Oxford handbook of leader-member exchange. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Bryman, Alan (2012). Social research methods. 4. ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press Day, Christopher and Leithwood, Kenneth. (2007), Successful Principal Leadership in Times of Change, Springer, Dordrecht. Denscombe, Martyn (2010). Good research guide: for small-scale social research projects. 4. ed. Maidenhead: Open Univ. Press Graen, George B. & Uhl-Bien, Mary (1995) Relationship-based approach to leadership: Development of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multi-level multi-domain perspective, The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 6, Issue 2, 1995, Pages 219-247 Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Hallinger, Philip (2005) Instructional Leadership and the School Principal: A Passing Fancy that Refuses to Fade Away. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 4:3, 221-239 Leithwood, Kenneth & Jantzi, Doris & Steinbach, Rosanne (2002). Changing Leadership for Changing Times. Buckingham: Open University Press. Northouse, Peter Guy (2016). Leadership: theory and practice. 7. ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Pierce, J.L. & Newstrom J.W. (2011). Leaders and the Leadership Process. (6th ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill. Ärlestig, Helene & Törnsen, Monika (2014). Classroom observations and supervision – essential dimensions of pedagogical leadership. International Journal of Educational Management. Vol. 28 Iss. 7 pp. 856 - 868
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