23 SES 08 C, Testing, Leadership and Inspection
In many countries in Europe, including Iceland, the governance of compulsory schools has been transferred from state to municipal control (Moos, Hansen, Björk & Johansson, 2013). In relation to this there is a call for increased coherence between the state, local authorities and the schools themselves (Fullan & Quinn, 2016) where national governance is seen as ‘an interdependent mix of the municipalities, the schools and the state system’ (Moos, Paulsen, Johansson & Risku, 2016, p. 293). Also, there is a growing consensus that to build a good educational system, educational leadership needs to be established at all levels (Louis, Leithwood, Whalstrom & Anderson, 2010; Fullan & Quinn, 2016; Hopkins, 2007; Moos, Nihlfors & Paulsen, 2016; Theisens, Hooge & Waslander, 2016). Educational leadership at the municipality level has been shown to indirectly affect student learning as well as the distribution of leadership and the professional development of principals and teachers schools (Louis et al., 2010). According to Louis et al. (2010), leadership influences actions at municipality level concerning setting directions, developing people, refining and aligning the organization and improving teaching and learning programs. Also, actions at state level have been found to influence how leadership is provided at the municipality level (Louis, et al., 2010; Moos, Nihlfors & Paulsen, 2016; Nihlfors, et al., 2013).
Moos (2009) points out that governance can be classified as hard or soft. ʽHard governanceʼ relates to passing laws and regulations that impose certain actions upon the lover levels. These are considered to be of fundamental importance to building a structure for the educational systems as a whole, including the local level. ʽSoft governanceʼ, on the other hand, relates to non-binding rules and indirect influence on people’s thinking and understanding of themselves and the world, through, for example, discourse and guidelines, and are powerful as such (Moos, 2009; Moos, Paulsen, Johansson & Risku, 2016).
In light of above, it is of value to have coherence between leadership at the government and municipal level. The purpose of this paper is to reveal how Icelandic national legislation, or ʽhard governanceʼ, prescribes educational leadership of municipalities. Accordingly, first, the Icelandic municipalities’ roles and responsibilities are outlined and mapped as they appear in educational acts and regulations. Second, the identified policy emphasis is compared to leadership practices that have been shown to improve students’ learning. The compulsory school level is the focus of this investigation. The study was guided by the following research questions:
- What educational roles and responsibilities does Icelandic legislation emphasize concerning municipal educational leadership?
- How does the identified policy emphasis compare to leadership practices of importance for municipal educational leadership?
A qualitative content analysis was used to explore Icelandic educational legislation applying Berg and Lune’s (2012) stage model of qualitative content analysis. The Compulsory School Act (no. 91/2008) was used as a focal point to identify the main regulations. All regulations referred to in the Act were read through, and those that were relevant for this study were explored in depth together with the national curriculum guide. The text was analyzed to search for specific words, such as ‘leader’ and ‘leadership’, as well as for themes that emerged from the documents (Berg & Lune, 2012) and relevant to the research questions. During the sorting process nine themes emerged, namely, inclusive education, well-being of all children, housing and equipment, school evaluation, school policy, school service, professional development, school development, and communicating and informing. They were then reorganized and developed into one main category – to ensure inclusive education for all – and five subcategories presenting the municipalities educational leadership practices: provide housing, equipment and playgrounds; evaluate the schoolwork and make it public; develop school policy in harmony with the schools and community and follow up on it; support regarding professional and school development that improves teaching and learning; and provide support and school service for students and ensure their well-being.
The findings reveal that roles and responsibilities delegated to municipalities by the state concern all main leadership functions believed to improve students learning such as setting directions, developing people, refining and aligning the organization and improving teaching and learning programs and is distributed in nature. The municipalities’ leadership roles and responsibilities are though somewhat tacit in current national legislation. There seems also to be uncertainty as to the responsibility concerning development of people and improving teaching and learning programs. It might lead to disfunction on behalf of the municipalities regarding those that could have negative influence on student learning. It is suggested that the educational system would benefit from these findings by paying closer attention to the local level as an important entity for educational development.
Berg, B., L., & Lune, H. (2012). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education. Compulsory School Act no. 91/2008 Fullan, M., & Quinn, J. (2016). Coherence: The right drivers in action for schools, districts, and systems. Thousand Oaks: Corwin. Hopkins, D. (2007). Every school a great school: Realizing the potential of system leadership. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Leithwood, K., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2008). Seven strong claims about successful school leadership. School Leadership and Management, 28(1), 27–42. Louis, K., S., Leithwood, K., Wahlstrom, K. L., & Anderson, S. E. (2010). Learning from leadership: Investigating the links to improved student learning: Final report of research to the Wallace Foundation. Retrieved at http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/school-leadership/key-research/Documents/Investigating-the-Links-to-Improved-Student-Learning.pdf Moos, L. Hansen, B., Björk, G., & Johansson, O. (2013). Leadership for democracy. In L. Moos, E. Nihlfors, & J. M. Poulsen (eds.), Nordic superintendents: Agents in a broken chain (pp. 113–132). Cham: Springer. Moos, L., (2009). Hard and soft governance: The journey from transnational agencies to school leadership. European Educational Research Journal, 8(3), 397-406. Moos, L. Nihlfors, E., & Paulsen, J. M. (eds.). (2016). Nordic superintendents: Agents in a broken chain. Cham: Springer. Moos, L., Paulsen, J. M., Johansson, O. & Risku, M. (2016). Governmentality through translation and sence-making. In L. Moos, E. Nihlfors, & J. M. Poulsen (eds.), Nordic superintendents: Agents in a broken chain (pp. 287–310). Cham: Springer. Theisens, H. Hooge, E., & Waslander, S. (2016). Steering dynamics in complex education systems. An agenda for empirical research. European Journal of Education, 51(4), 465¬–477. DOI: 10.1111/ejed.12187
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