26 SES 17, Tools for Assuring Quality and Improving Schools
In the Swedish School law it is stated that the work within the Swedish schools should be based on science and proven experience (SFS 2010:800, 2010). The relation between science and the proven experience is dialectic, the interplay between these entities should act as a guarantee that the teaching will be rooted in a scientific approach (Håkansson & Sundberg, 2012). These concepts implies evident connections to research, scientific methods and professionalism. In Sweden every school must conduct their own quality assurance work and in each school the principal is responsible. In this paper the starting point is that principals need to have, and develop, their knowledge in these areas in order to conduct the quality assurance work they are assigned to do (Earl & Katz, 2003). The main theme of this paper is to address how to integrate a scientific approach in the Swedish training program for experienced principals TPEP (a program principals can attend after the compulsory principal training program). In the chapter Considering Time and Space Ahlström (2018) presents a model for principals’ work with their quality assurance work. This model uses the concept and four dimension of space time; height, whit, depth and time. These dimensions symbolizes four different approaches to the organizational data gathered within the quality assurance work in order to do relevant and systematical analyses. Ahlström (2018) describes height as differences in results and student achievement, high and low test scores or other forms of measurable outcomes. Whit describes that principals need to compare different group outcomes, it could be against a national average, differences between boys and girls or in relation to other schools with similar prerequisites. The third dimension, depth, is adding a qualitative aspect to the assessment. Where the two first dimension often is quantitative in its character the depth-dimension seeks to explore what lies behind these results. In order to be able to do this principals need to develop their skills in conducting qualitative studies such interview- and/or observation studies (Devine, 1997, Håkansson, 2012). These three dimension seeks to assure that the assessments conducted has a certain quality to them, that the results are valid and reliable. The fourth and final dimension, time, refers to that the analyses need to be systematic and over time in order to follow up and evaluate results and effects of different forms of organizational development efforts. But is additional dimensions needed? One can argue that in order to make a relevant analysis and to be able to initiate development strategies based on this analysis an organization theoretical approach would be helpful. This notion was the starting point to develop the TPEP in order to make a program that focuses the scientific approach for principals.
The Swedish school inspection argues that Swedish principals need to develop their skills when it comes to do analysis of their own organizations result and to interpret the goals and objectives of schools (School Inspection Report 2010). The TPEP and national principal training program has goals and assignments that correspond to the four dimensions presented above. A fifth dimension, focusing organizational theory, has been added to the TPEP in relation to the course in the form of seminars and the final exam. The fifth dimension aims to build a bridge between analysis of the own school and leadership actions that will focus strategies to improve student learning. The following are the research questions this paper sets out to answer;
How does principals attending the TPEP experience working with organizational theory
What benefits does the principals experience with an organizational theory perspective when working with developmental work in practice?
In order to answer our research questions we gathered written experiences and reflections from past and present participants in the TPEP program in relation to two specific assignments. By writing, and reflecting, about these experiences the informants creates a meaning to their experiences in relation to the study and their own practice (Manning & Cullum-Swan 1994). The assignments the principals were asked to reflect up on was designed to strive towards developing the principals’ ability to use organizational theory and models to analyze their own practice. The first assignment is called “analytical ears/analytical listener” which is designed to let the principal experience how theory can be used. In a literature seminar one principal were assigned to present the main features of a specific text to three or four colleagues, each of the colleagues had a different model that they used to filter the presentation trough. These models and theories were in some cases organizational models (i.e. Hoy & Mieskel 2013) or/and theories focusing leadership competences and the quality of teaching (i.e. Robinson 2008). The other assignment were their exam that were an analytical paper using organizational theory and scientific methods to analyze as specific area of interest in their own practice. The texts based on the principals reflections has been read exploratory in order to find clusters of meaning where the principals has elaborated on the assignments and the effect that they can detect on their own way to lead (Creswell 2013). By identifying the clusters of meaning we can find significant descriptions that, in some cases, are common and that the principals share as well as reflections more specific to each individual. In this paper we have focused on the lager clusters of meanings in the material which has been identified as themes related to aspects of analytical ability and using a theoretical framework in order to lead school development (Jacobsen & Thorsvik 2014, Håkansson 2012).
Our results show that principals attending the TPEP experience that they had a better understanding of how and why certain changes and improvement strategies were needed. And furthermore they thought that it was easier to communicate the basis for such improvement work. They also expressed that they had developed an ability to use a variety of analytical dimensions as a tool to identify and describe challenges and areas of special concern within their own practice. A theoretical standpoint helps the principals to order and lead work processes and it gives the leader support to anchor, integrate these processes together with the co-workers. By using theoretical models the principals express that they have developed a more analytical leadership and approach towards teachers within their own schools. They feel more secure communicating with staff when they have developed a professional language using terms and concepts rooted in theory. The organizational theories also helped as a structure to listen and communicate different factors that affect the specific schools development processes. The communication is not based on spontaneous and everyday chats, rather it can categorized as more systematic and based on a scientific approach. The collegial discussions can be categorized as being on a higher analytical level that uses theory as way to understand everyday practice.
Ahlström, B (2018) Med hänsyn till både tid och rum – Systematiskt kvalitetsarbete i fyra dimensioner [Considering Time and Space – Systematic Quality Assurance in Four Dimensions], Stockholm: Natur & kultur. (Forthcoming) Creswell, J. W. (2013) Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design – Choosing Among Five Approaches, Thousand oaks: SAGE Publications Devine, F (1997) Qualitative Analysis, In Marsh, David & Stoker, Gerry (Ed.) Theory and Methods in Political Science, London: Macmillan Press LTD Earl, L & Katz, S (2003). Leading Schools in a Data Rich World. Toronto: Aporia Consulting Ltd. (https://wasipteachers.wikispaces.com/file/view/Earl+%26+Katz+2002.pdf). Hoy, W. K. & Miskel, C. G. (2013). Educational Administration: Theory, Research, and Practice. London: McGraw-Hill. Håkansson, J (2013). Systematiskt kvalitetsarbete i förskola, skola och fritidshem: strategier och metoder, [Systematic Quality Assurance in Preschool, School and Leisure – Strategies and Methods], Lund: Studentlitteratur. Håkansson, J & Sundberg, D (2012) Utmärkt undervisning,[Excellent Education], Stockholm: Natur & kultur Jacobsen, D. I. & Thorsvik, J (2014) Hur moderna organisationer fungerar [How modern organization works], Lund: Studentlitteratur Manning, P. & Cullum-Swan, B. (1994) Narrative, content and semiotic analysis, In Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S., Handbook of qualitative analysis, Thousand oaks: SAGE Publications Robinson, V. M. J. (2008). "The impact of leadership on student outcomes." Educational Administration Quarterly 44(5): 653-674. School Inspection Report (2010) Rektors ledarskap – En granskning av hur rektor leder skolans arbete mot ökad måluppfyllelse, [Principal Leadership – An Examination of How Principals Lead the Schools Towards Higher Student Achivement] Stockholm: Skolinspektionen SFS 2010:800 (2010) Skollagen.[The School Law] Stockholm: Skolverket
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