26 SES 06 B, Distributed, Governance, And Beyond-School Perspectives On Educational Leadership
The educational institutions of modern society – including the field of school leadership – are currently subject to major processes of change. The processes of change are originating in neoliberal ideas that are diffused across national borders owing to the dynamics of globalisation and a global educational reform movement (Jarvis, 2007; Sahlberg, 2016; Steiner-Khamsi, 2014). In these educational reforms, school leadership is constructed in terms of theory and policy primarily within a universal and functionalistic or normative-prescriptive framework (Uljens & Ylimaki, 2017). Research into public educational governance and international, comparative education has revealed that school leadership can assume very different forms both socio-culturally and institutionally (Moos, 2016, 2017). This creates a scientific need to understand school leadership in an international, comparative perspective; and to construct knowledge about this field that can both broaden our perspective and form an alternative to the dominant paradigm.
The purpose of this research project is to contribute to international educational research by generating knowledge about school leadership as a phenomenon of governance in an international, comparative and critical sociological perspective. The research is based on the Ph. D. project “Sensemaking and Power in School Leadership-constructions of Governance in an International, Comparative Perspective” (Storgaard, Forthcomming). The field of study is examined in the light of the consequences of modern educational governance for school leadership and the school as a local, social policyfield. The field of study is also examined in terms of its dialectical relationship to the nation as a policyscape specifically to contribute to Danish policy-making within the field of education. This international, comparative research project constitutes an alternative approach to the study of school leadership by employing a comparative research design embedded in a poststructuralist position. School leadership is studied as a phenomenon of governance in high-performing schools in Denmark and Ontario, Canada. The study approaches these schools as unique cases, which have achieved the intentions in the global educational discursive order of competition (Sahlberg, 2016; Sivesind & Wahlström, 2017). The two nations have been chosen because they are connected by similar goals in terms of educational reform: Denmark has derived inspiration from Ontario’s educational policy.
The study employs a critical mapping strategy into the existing knowledge in the field of school leadership in high achieving schools (Gunter & Ribbins, 2003). A critical discussion of school leadership as a limited knowledge formation subsequently shapes the subject field and the applied methods in the empirical study. For this purpose, the analytical perspective is constructed within a multi-perspective approach (Stormhøj, 2006). This connects the theory of modern governanceforms in education (Dean, 2010; Foucault, 1982), theory of organisational sensemaking processes (Weick, 1995; Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005), and critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 2015; Norman, 1992). The approach is located within a critical sensemaking perspective, which is a recent and relatively undeveloped approach (Helms Mills, Thurlow, & Mills, 2010). The overall analysis creates empirical insight into the discursive constructions of reality of the active players on three sociological levels. The international comparison of school leadership as a governance phenomenon is achieved through the study of discourses. These are abstract and generic concepts that are able to form a critical cross-national analysis. The research design is inspired by the comparative sociology of education, with the concept of functional comparability being used as the basis for selection of school leadership and high-performing schools (Alexander, 2009; Phillips & Schweisfurth, 2014). The comparative analyses are also inspired by an innovative, comparative case method that tracks the subject field via horizontal, vertical and transversal, historical comparisons (Bartlett & Vavrus, 2017). In this methodological approach the classical understanding of the nation as a delimited, unit of analysis is reconstructed, and the nation is understood within the concept of a national policyscape (Carney, 2008; Steiner-Khamsi, 2014). The governance processes enacted in school leadership are in this approach dialectically constructive of-, and constituted within the national, institutional realm of policy, that forms an open and social, educational policyframe of reference
The analytical findings from the international, comparative study of school leadership in high achieving schools displays a tendency of school leadership as predominantly local enactments of governance. However, through the systematic analysis of similarities and differences following the tracing logic, common fields shared across the nations also emerges. First, school leadership as a governance phenomenon shows a tendency of being dialectic related to the national, institutional field and the dominant governance order in this. In Denmark as a policyscape, the school leadership regimes are dialectic related to an order of competition, whereas in Ontario, the dominant order is improvement. The consequences of this positions school leadership in Denmark as a phenomena of local top-management, performance management and decoupling in the organization. In one governance regime this was enacted through processes of social hierarchy and strategic, economic commandership. In Ontario, the order of improvement were in relation to the school system as a centralized, bureaucratic system. This positions school leadership as phenomena of counselling, control and mediation of the bureaucratic power though seduction and the construction of a discursive order of love and friendship. Across the four cases a global discourse of academic achievements emerged, but in one of the high achieving, Danish cases, this was constructed in a different school leadership regime. This was a regime of democratic deliberation, flat hierarchy and a broad understanding of the democratic purpose of education. In conclusion, the researcher adopts a critical position drawing attention to the discursive constructions of school leadership in Danish national policy and international organisations as unilateral leadershipforms related to the bureaucratic improvement order. Subsequently, the emerging international, monodisciplinary, academic performance discourse is critically discussed in relation to policy loan and democratic formation in education.
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