26 SES 13 B, Educational Infrastructure, ICT Context And Resources As Factors That Shape Educational Leadership
Aims and objectives
This paper is a part of a larger research project, School Leaders’ Work Environment: A Project on Organizational Conditions, Stress-related Psychological Illness, Mobility and Potential for Improvement. It is a three year project (2018 – 2020) funded by AFA Insurance, an organization owned by Sweden's labour market parties.
The purpose of this sub study is to examine what role external expectations, demands, resourses and support play in relation to school leaders’ health and leadership.
The research questions for this paper are as follows:
‒ What kind of internal and external demands and expectations are principals experiencing?
‒ How do principals manage internal and external demands and expectations?
‒ What different types of resources and support are available to the principals?
‒ What kind of resources and support do the principals want in order to strengthen their leadership?
A number of researchers have stressed the role of school leaders in educational development and classroom learning (Leithwood and Day 2008, Pashiardis 2014, Pont et al. 2008). It is expected that the leader should work closely with teachers and students to discuss and evaluate teaching, and create a favorable climate for learning (Hallinger 2005). At the same time, according to a Talis report (2013), school principals in Sweden spend the largest part of their time on administration (51%), devoting only 19% of their time to curriculum and teaching tasks.
National policy and educational reforms often have a strong belief in the importance of educational leadership (Pont et al. 2008). One of the challenges for school leaders is to combine the strong expectations from national policies with the requirements from the local school organizer at their own school. At a local level teachers, students, parents, superintendents and other actors have different demands and expectations on school leaders (Leo 2015). This creates a kind of cross pressure on school leaders that might affect their health and their leadership.
One of the problems in schools in a lot of countries today is the high number of turnover of teachers and school leaders. According to the Swedish National Agency for Education (2015) 27 % of the school principals changed schools from one school year to another. The reasons for changing schools are unclear and needs to be further investigated. There is also a lack of research on school leaders’ health.
One point of departure in this study is the job – demand – resource model (Schaufeli & Bakker 2004), a model that integrates research on stress in the demands - control - support model (Karasek & Theorell, 1990) with motivational research (Demerouti et al. 2001).
According to the model, job demands in the work can be both negative and positive for an individual. Wellbeing require access to different types of resources and support to manage the demands. The model describes that resources at work can contribute to internal and external motivation and that the negative significance of job demands in the work is reduced (Demerouti & Bakker (2011.
The Swedish Work Environment Authority conducted a supervision to assess especially principals’ psychosocial work environment in a district in 2011. According to the report (2011) the following risk factors were identified:
‒ The workload is too heavy and principals have too many working hours a week
‒ The distribution of responsibilities and power is unclear
‒ There is a lack of supporting structures
‒ There are a lot of stressful situations to handle
The final aim of this research project is to produce a catalogue with actions to support principals’ wellbeing and sustainable leadership in sustainable organisations.
The research project use a mixed methods approach (Johnson et al 2007). The methodology for the whole research project is in five steps. This sub study use data from the first and especially, the second step. The first step is a web survey. The web survey had responses from n=2043 school leaders from preschool to adult education. Their mean age was 49 years (SD 7 years) and 78 % were women. 45% of the school leaders had remained in the same school the last five years, 37 % had changed once, and 18 % had changed twice or more times. The questionnaire had around 160 questions to get data on the school leaders’ social situation, working conditions, health and well-being. There were also questions about job strain, resources and support linked with the leadership. One question was open and designed to get more qualitative data to support future interventions. Here the respondents could give proposals for improving school leaders working conditions with local initiatives, initiatives from the districts and from a national perspective. The second step consists of seven group interviews. School leaders in all levels of the educational system are participating in the large study and this is reflected in the selection of participants for the group interviews. The informants expressed consent to participate in qualitative studies in the web survey. Based on this, two municipalities were chosen. One is a bigger city and one is a smaller city. The cities are from different parts of the country. In each city there are three group interviews, one with pre-school principals, one with elementary school principals, and one with high school principals. Each group has between 6-7 school leaders. The seventh group interview has elementary school principals from rural schools. The third step is a second web survey (September 2019) basically with the same questions. The fourth step is a second round of group interviews with the same groups, and the fifth step consists of workshops aiming at the production of a catalogue with measures to support the health of school leaders to obtain sustainable organizations. The data is processed and coded by use of SPSS, and Nvivo. The data analysis of the interviews is done inductively to build patterns and categories by organizing the data into increasingly more abstract units of information, (Creswell, 2007).
One of the questions in the web survey (n=2043) was designed to identify stressful external expectations (0, not at all stressful – 6 very stressful). 34 % of the school leaders experience the expectations from the national School Inspectorate as very stressful (grade 5-6). A rather high percentage of school leaders experience very strong stressful expectations from teachers (25,5%) and parents (27,7) % and from the superintendent (12 %). 7 % of the school leaders experience very strong stressful expectations from students. This reveals a negative top down pressure from the School Inspectorate, and a strong pressure from teachers and parents that is further investigated in the group interviews. The results of the interviews will be elaborated and: - highlight what kind of expectations and demands the school leaders are experiencing, where the expectations come from, and the possible consequences this has for their work, leadership and health. - make it more clear how school leaders handle the demands and expectations in their work, what they actually do as leaders. - identify what types of support / support structures there are in the organization, in different levels, and what is missing. The results of this first group interview also form part of a coming second group interview (step four in the data collecting process) where sustainable school leadership in sustainable organizations is at the center.
Creswell, J.W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Demerouti, E., Bakker, A.B., Nachreiner, F. & Schaufeli, W.B. (2001). The job demands resources model of burnout. Journal of Applied psychology, 86 (3), 499–512. Demerouti, E. & Bakker, A. B. (2011). The job Demands–Resources model: Challenges for future research. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 37(2), 1–9. Hallinger, P. (2005). Instructional Leadership and the School Principal: A Passing Fancy that Refuses to Fade Away. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 4:3, 221-239 Johnson, B; Onwuegbuzie, A.; and Turner, L (2007) Toward a Definition of Mixed Methods Research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research 2007 1: 112 Karasek R, Theorell T. Healthy Work, stress, productivity and the reconstruction of working life. New York: Basic Books; 1990. Leithwood K., & Day C. (2008). The impact of school leadership on pupil outcomes, school leadership and management. Formerly School Organisation, 28(1), 1–4. Leo, U (2015). Professional norms guiding school principals’ pedagogical leadership. International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 29 Iss 4 pp. 461 – 476 Pashiardis, P (2014). (Ed) Modeling school leadership across Europe: in search of new frontiers. Springer Pont, B., Nusche, D., & Moorman, H. (2008). Improving School Leadership, Volume 1 Policy and Practice. Report OECD. Schaufeli, W.B. & Bakker, A.B. (2004). Job demands, job resources, and their relationship with burnout and engagement: A multi-sample study. Journal of organizational Behavior, 25(3): 293–315. Swedish National Agency for Education, Skolverket. Beskrivande data 2015. Förskola, skola och vuxenutbildning. (Stockholm, 2015) Talis 2013, Country Note Sweden. https://www.oecd.org/sweden/TALIS-2013-country-note-Sweden.pdf
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