01 SES 16 C, Leadership For Learning: Tensions and approaches
Steering groups inside school are established as a group of teachers, who are empowered by the principal or elected by the staff of the school, but they are not leading the school (Rolff, 2007). Steering groups can be seen as a change facilitating team (Fullan, 1993) and have gained importance for steering school development processes, carrying out development plans and supporting the school development policy (Dalin, Rolff & Buchen 1995). The main functions are to create plans, to prepare decision-making, to coordinate work groups and to support teacher teams and committees in everyday management of school organization as well as in school development processes.
The theoretical framework is related to the approach of learning organizations. We have to consider that the architecture of a learning organization requires firstly visions and motivations for development with clear goals and mission statements, readiness for innovation and collective self-efficacy. Secondly schools should be able to use development strategies (for ex. organization development, school program work, evaluation and trainings). Thirdly an infrastructure for innovation is crucial: schools should develop a culture of organization, in which effective leadership, professional teamwork, learning from networks and from evaluation and data-use take place. So it seems that change management cannot be effective without purposeful steering of the development process. This requires that the main tasks of change management through steering groups should consist of
(1) process-steering, which includes developing aims and plans, coordination and organization, moderation, project management and controlling,
(2) support for teacher teams and principals by focusing on goals and systematic development processes and professional learning,
(3) knowledge transfer, dialogue with focus on professional learning and development, communication and documentation within school improvement processes.
Previous empirical studies show (Berkemeyer & Holtappels, 2007; Holtappels & Feldhoff, 2010): Important conditions for successful impacts of steering groups at the school level are acceptance by the staff, collaboration with the principal, supporting teacher teams and take-over of responsibility and steering in development processes as characteristics of leadership practice. In schools with high school and teaching quality steering groups show higher scores on collective self-efficacy, professional collaboration inside the team, effective management of schools’ organization and acceptance by teachers than schools with poor culture. Since the 1980 in Germany schools establish steering committees in the most of the development projects and reform programs. In several innovation processes empirical surveys find out that 70 until 80 percent of the schools are developing innovations with internal steering groups (Holtappels, 2007).
In self-managing schools in Germany steering groups were able to initiate readiness for innovation and to foster teacher collaboration (Feldhoff & Rolff, 2008); indirect impacts were reported for teaching development and higher teaching practice. Hall (1989) showed that principals were successful for causing improvement while collaborating with supporting stakeholders and with a „change facilitating team“. Beyond this steering groups could be a „boundary spanner“ by managing knowledge transfer, supporting schoolwide communication and giving impulses for teachers’ work (Jones, 2001; Jones, 2006).
Our analyses will follow three research questions:
- What kind of action show middle management concerning steering school development processes and in everyday school organization?
- How far is middle management accepted and supported by the staff?
- Can we identify effects of middle management action on school development work, professional collaboration and quality of teaching practice?
- How far could schools establish conducive structures and an organizational culture for building capacity of change?
The presentation bases on a recent study about middle management in Belgian schools. The evaluation study about school management work and effectiveness is embedded in a coaching and further training program with eight secondary schools in the German speaking community of East Belgium. In every secondary school two or three teachers are working as a middle manager with half of working time on management and half on teaching. The middle management teams (MM-Teams) are collaborating close with the principals. Their main tasks should comprise management of school organization, school curriculum plans, coordinating and steering school development activities, for ex. school program work, staff development, further trainings. Principals and middle management teams in every single school have got each an accompaniment of our project team over two years with elements of a) knowledge transfer about school organization, school development processes, steering and leadership practice, b) further training and c) coaching in order to gain competencies for school management and steering of school improvement processes. The processes of accompanying MM-Teams was documented in a process report about every school and could be used for operating case studies. Our data sets consist in a) qualitative case analyses based on eight process documents about the implementation of middle management in eight secondary schools and b) standardized survey of the members of steering groups in eight schools about work areas, steering styles, acceptance and effectiveness of middle management teams and school development and school quality indicators (readiness for innovation, professional teacher collaboration, use of evaluation, teaching development). The data of the survey are based on questionnaires with 18 principals and deputies, 17 members of middle-management-teams and 520 teachers from eight schools. Proved and new created instruments as reliable Likert scales measuring the teachers' perceptions concerning school quality indicators and school development work were used. The analyses contain mean comparison tests, correlations and path analysis.
The results concerning the work of middle management show that the teams were very engaged to coordinate school development activities, to improve information and communication within the staff, to clarify goal orientation for development work, to initiate in-house trainings and to support teacher teams and principals. The MM-Teams have showed purposeful steering with regard to common plans for projects, coordination and organization but without intervention and controlling to foster quality improvement. MM-Teams contribute to more systematic school development work but often far away from progress in teaching quality. Half of the teachers showed acceptance for steering by MM-Teams. Apparently steering groups are mainly perceived as service for supporting the staff, expecting that the middle managers take on special tasks for organizing school and relieve conducive conditions; only a minority perceive the managers as a group, who gives goal orientation, shows leadership and fosters consequently quality management. Especially teaching development activities were poor and we find no significant increase of professional teacher collaboration. Only in three schools institutionalized teams were established for continuous work on curriculum and teaching practice on an elaborated level. Comparing teacher assessments with perspectives of principals and MM-Teams we receive big differences concerning their beliefs and opinions about successful implementation of middle management and reached goals of improvement. School cases show in general that the main focus of middle management work consists in operative tasks and less in strategic steering with regard to school improvement. Purposeful steering of MM-Teams is closely related to intensive efforts for school development and high level of school and teaching quality. Steering is effective, if they use goal-oriented styles, take responsibility and are accepted by the staff. The results are able to discuss European perspectives about necessary infrastructure for professional development and school improvement.
Berkemeyer, N. & Holtappels, H. G. (2007). Arbeitsweise und Wirkung schulischer Steuergruppen -Empirische Studie. In N. Berkemeyer & H. G. Holtappels (Hrsg.), Schulische Steuergruppen und Change Management. Theoretische Ansätze und empirische Befunde zur schulinternen Schulentwicklung. (S. 99-137). Weinheim/München: Juventa. Dalin, P., Rolff, H.-G. & Buchen, H. (1995): Institutioneller Schulentwicklungsprozess. Ein Handbuch. Soest. Feldhoff, T., Kanders, M. & Rolff, H.-G. (2008). Schulleitung und innere Schulorganisation. In H. G. Holtappels, K. Klemm, H.-G. Rolff & H. Pfeiffer (Hrsg.), Schulentwicklung durch Gestaltungsautonomie (S. 146- 173). Münster: Waxmann. Feldhoff, T. & Rolff, H.-G. (2008). Einfluss von Schulleitungs- und Steuergruppenhandeln. In H. G. Holtappels, K. Klemm, H.-G. Rolff & H. Pfeiffer (Hrsg.), Schulentwicklung durch Gestaltungsautonomie (S. 293-303). Münster: Waxmann. Hall, G.E. (1989): The Principal as Leader of the Change Facilitating Team. In: Journal of Research and Development in Education 22 (1), S. 49-59. Holtappels, H. G. (2007). Schulentwicklungsprozesse und Change Management. Innovationstheoretische Reflexionen und Forschungsbefunde über Steuergruppen. In N. Berkemeyer & H. G. Holtappels (Hrsg.), Schulische Steuergruppen und Change Management (S. 5-34). Weinheim/München: Juventa. Holtappels, H. G. & Feldhoff, T. (2010). Einführung: Change Management. In T. Bohl,. Schelle (Hrsg.), Handbuch Schulentwicklung (159-166). Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt. Jones, M. L. (2001). Sustainable organizational capacity building: is organizational learning a key? Int. J. of Human Management, Februar, 91-98. Jones, O. (2006). Developing Absorptive Capacity in Mature Organizations – The Change Agent´s Role. In: Management Learning 37 (3) pp. 355-376. Rolff, H.-G. (2007). Studien zur Theorie der Schulentwicklung. Weinheim/Basel: Beltz.
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