26 SES 07 C, Dialoguing, Mentoring, Coaching, Using Mission Statement – Tools to Improve Education?
International research on school leadership and student achievement has shown that quality school leadership is inextricably linked to improved student achievement (Dempster, 2009; Hattie, 2009; Robinson, Hohepa & Lloyd, 2009; Timperley, Wilson, Barrar & Fung, 2007). In the wake of this research, and given that expectations and requirements for principals already are high and will continue to increase, national authorities in many countries have initiated national school leadership education programmes for newly appointed school leaders and continuing education for existing leaders (Taipale, 2012).
Over the last 20 years new models and methods have been developed and implemented in the school management programmes organised and offered by universities and colleges (Huber, 2011). In addition to the cognitive (theoretical) learning methods of lecture and self-study, which mainly provide information, alternative learning methods have been used, including reflexive methods, such as mentoring and coaching (Huber, 2011). Such methods have grown in popularity around the globe, and in many countries (including the United States, Australia, South Africa, Singapore, China, New Zealand and Sweden) education authorities have initiated mandatory use of mentoring or coaching methods in national school leadership education (Aas & Törnsén, 2016; Hansford & Ehrich, 2006; Lim; 2002; Lumby, Crow & Pashiardis, 2008; Robertson & Earl, 2014). While coaching and mentoring are widely used in the private sector, where executive coaching and leadership mentoring are regarded as established professions, the coaching and mentoring of school leaders is a relatively new phenomenon that is under investigation both nationally and internationally (Aas, 2016; Bloom, Castagna & Warren, 2003; Bloom, Castagna, Moir & Warren, 2005).
Studies on how mentoring and coaching in national school leadership education is experienced, as learning methods of participating school leaders in national leadership programmes, are limited. Sciarappa and Mason (2014) argue that in order to assess how the mentoring or coaching of school leaders can be developed and improved, more research is needed into how these leaders experience their mentoring or coaching. Developing systematic knowledge about mentoring and coaching in use, how these methods are experienced by school leaders and the ways in which they are used in the qualification of school leaders is therefore crucial in order to assess their role in improving school leadership education.
The aim of this paper is to deepen understanding and knowledge of mentoring and coaching in national school leadership programmes, based in particular on school leaders’ experiences of participation in such programmes. Our research questions are:
- What are the characteristics of mentoring and coaching in national school leadership programmes?
- What are the experiences of mentoring and coaching among school leaders who participate in such programmes?
In addressing these questions, we will examine mentoring and coaching in national school leadership programmes in Norway, Sweden and New Zealand. The characteristics will be investigated by identifying the guidelines given by educational authorities to providers of the programmes, as well as if and how mentoring or coaching is mentioned in the providers’ framework and plans. Based on our identification of these characteristics, we will investigate the programmes’ existing theories of action and link them to heuristic theoretical approaches to and models of mentoring or coaching that are applied in the field of education (cf. Aas, 2016; Bloom et al., 2005; Robertson, 2008). Then, based on these links, we will develop theoretical frameworks for the examination of participants’ descriptions of what characterised their mentoring or coaching and their experiences thereof, with a particular focus on the importance of mentoring or coaching for the participants’ development as school leaders and their enactment of leadership practice.
This paper will report on a larger qualitative multi-case study of national school leadership programmes in Norway, Sweden and New Zealand, which used several methods and several data sources, particularly documents and focus groups interviews (Yin, 1994). We will carry out document analysis to describe the national authorities’ and providers’ visions, overall goals, principles and strategies for leadership education, including if and how mentoring or coaching is discussed. In this analysis we will focus on what characterises mentoring or coaching in the three countries’ school education programmes from a visionary and intentional perspective. This analysis will inform the development of a semi-structured interview guide for conducting focus group interviews with a student group (5–6 school leaders) at two different programme providers in Norway and Sweden, and two student groups in New Zealand, for a total of six interviews. Focus group interviews are particularly suited to producing data that illustrates norms for groups’ practices, interpretations and judgements (Halkier, 2010). The aim of the interviews is to gather data that can provide insight into school leaders’ experiences, and identify possible variations or similarities in whether and how mentoring or coaching practices affect participants’ development as school leaders and their enactment of school leadership. In order to reveal some of the variations in school leadership mentoring or coaching within and across national school education programs, first, the three countries are chosen based on “maximum diversity” (Yin, 2009). The most important criterion for country selection was our wish, as university employees (teachers and researchers) in school leadership education in Norway, to learn more about the impact that mentoring or coaching is assumed and experienced to have in the professionalisation of school leaders in Norway compared to similar countries. Second, a key criterion was that mentoring or coaching should be a mandatory component of leadership education in the country, which is not the case in Norway. Third, the choice of providers in Norway and Sweden is based on appropriate selection (Maxwell, 2009). The providers we have chosen are known to emphasise mentoring or coaching in education.
This paper will contribute important insight into mentoring and coaching in national school leadership programmes across national borders and educational contexts, why mentoring or coaching is used, and its relevance and importance for leadership practice. The project will also provide a rich empirical foundation that will make it possible to theorise about mentoring and coaching in school leadership education and to identify possible relationships between mentoring and coaching in use and school leaders’ professional development and enactment of leadership in practice. The study will also inform and create debate on the use of mentoring and coaching in the professional development of school leaders. A deeper understanding and systematised knowledge of mentoring and coaching in national school leadership programmes is important, particularly as many countries remain in the beginning phase of developing and implementing mentoring, coaching or similar methods in programmes for school leaders. As such, there is a need for more knowledge about the ways in which mentoring and coaching support the professionalisation of school leadership, both individually and organisationally¬¬, than can be gained from the piece of research this paper will report. Such knowledge could enhance our knowledge about if and how mentoring and coaching can improve and strengthen school leaders’ professional development and enactment of leadership in practice.
Aas, M. (2016). Bli en bedre skoleleder. Gruppecoaching som verktøy. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. Aas, M., & Törnsén, M. (2014). Examining Norwegian and Swedish leadership training programs in the light of international research. Nordic Studies in Education, 36(2), 173–187. Bloom, G., Castagna, C., & Warren, B. (2003). More than mentors: principal coaching. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=0B91C5F9DD925D5C35EDC3CD7B3F795F?doi=10.1.1.617.7661&rep=rep1&type=pdf Bloom, G., Castagna, C., Moir, E. & Warren, B. (2005). Blended coaching: Skills and strategies to support principal development. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press. Dempster, N. (2009). Leadership for learning: A framework synthesizing recent research. Edventures, paper 13 (pp. 1–13). Canberra: The Australian College for Educators Halkier, B. (2010). Fokusgrupper. Oslo: Gyldendal akademisk. Hansford, B., & Ehrich, L. C. (2006). The principalship: how significant is mentoring? Journal of Educational Administration, 44(1), 36–52. Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge. Huber, S. G. (2011). Leadership for learning – Learning for leadership: The impact of professional development. In T. Townsend & J. MacBeath (Eds.), Springer International Handbooks of Education: Vol. 25. Springer international handbook of leadership for learning (pp. 635–652). Dordrecht: Springer. Lumby, J., Crow, G., & Pashiardis, P. (2008). International handbook on the preparation and development of school leaders. New York: Routledge. Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Robertson, J. (2008). Coaching educational leadership: Building leadership capacity through partnership. London: SAGE Publications. Robertson, J., & Earl, L. M. (2014). Leadership learning: Aspiring principals developing the dispositions that count. Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice, 29(2), 3–17. Robinson, V., Hohepa, M., & Lloyd, C. (2009). School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why. Best evidence synthesis iteration. Wellington: Ministry of Education. Sciarappa, K., & Mason, C. Y. (2014). National principal mentoring: does it achieve its purpose? International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 3(1), 51–71 Taipale, A. (2012). Internationell Rektorkartläggning. Kartläggning av skolledningens arbeteoch fortbildning. Retrieved from http://www.oph.fi/publikationer/2012/internationell_rektorskartlaggning Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development: Best evidence synthesis iteration. Wellington: Ministry of Education. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods (4 ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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