01 SES 17 A, Leadership Development and Principalship
In this paper, we examine the education and implied knowledge base of Swedish school principals, and to what extent and in what sense recent attempts to educate principals can count as professionalization. The National school leadership training program (NSLP) is mandatory for newly appointed principals in Sweden. It is designed as a three year long part time in-service or job training program, and as an advanced academic program at the university. It is regulated by the state, governed by the National Agency of Education and provided by selected universities. It qualifies, perhaps strangely, for occupations the participating principals already have. The complex design gives rise to questions about the program as a promoter of professionalization, that is, as a way of organizing working life to be mutually advantageous for both autonomous professionals and their clients (Evetts, 2011).
The professionalization of school leaders has been debated all over the world (Huber, 2010). Many nations have invested massively in education school leaders. However, the urgency of these investments is not primarily linked to professionalization in the traditional sense; rather, it is primarily linked to responses to globalization in and the economization of the education sector. Globalization, it is imagined, calls for enhancing the competitive edge of nations and the upskilling of a nation’s human capital, which in turn calls for education reform and for the upskilling of educational professionals (Rönnström, 2015, Mundy et al, 2016). The economization of the public and education sector has been discussed as a New Public Management. Economization has, inter alia, meant changed conditions for public sector organization, augmented professionalization of leaders, increased standardization linked to conceptions of quality and the elevation of effectiveness as the overarching norm for public sector success.
Professionalization, globalization and economization of school leaders and school leadership are co-dependent but not necessarily converging processes. The education of principals in Sweden is clearly influenced by a globally structured agenda based on instructional leadership, but this influence also challenges Swedish traditions of school leadership (Pashiardis and Johansson, 2016). Moreover, the NSLP aims at some kind of standardization although it differs from recently developed leadership standards in the US, UK, Netherlands, Germany or China (Wei, 2017, Young et al, 2017). However, as Ingvarson et al (2006) argues, most standards for school leaders are developed for purposes linked to economization, such as performance management. If this is correct, standardization of school leaders cannot be linked to occupational professionalism in the traditional sense, but to a steadily growing organizational professionalism in late modern society marked by globalization and economization (Evetts, 2011). The changing landscape of professionalization calls for thinking such processes anew rather than reifying a polarization between those who see recent developments as signs of professionalization (c f Ingvarson et al, 2006; Forde et al, 2016), and those who warns for a malicious deprofessionalization (Ringarp, 2011; Terhart, 1990).
It is against this background we critically examine and investigate into recent reform and institutionalization of principal training and education in Sweden, and more precise: 1) the political, economic and professional motives for the NSLP, 2) the character of NSLP as a site for professionalization and as a promoter of knowledge base for principals, and, finally, 3) to what extent and in what sense the training and education of school principals can count as professionalization. We draw our theoretical framework from profession oriented sociology and history (Svensson, 2010), and from the recently developed tradition of social imagination and globalization studies (Rönnström, 2015; Taylor, 2004). We also depart from the field of educational leadership and management, and particularly research into the professionalization of school leaders and leadership standards.
In this study, we critically examine the political, economic and professional motives for the NSLP, and the character of NSLP as a site for professionalization and a promoter of a knowledge base for Swedish principals. We also critically examine to what extent and in what sense the training and education of school principals in Sweden can count as professionalization, a process we have recent to think anew in a changing landscape of professionalization, or so we will argue. To be able to examine NSLP as a site for professionalization we have collected, examined and analyzed data and documents from different sources. First, we have based our research on policy documents, laws, regulations and commissions relevant for or playing constitutive roles in the recently developed NSLP in Sweden. This type of data reflects the making of and the debate on the NSLP at the national policy level. Second, we have followed the National Agency of Education and their governance of the NSLP from 2009-2019. We base our research on all publically available data and documents produced by the National Agency of Education in terms of goal documents, yearbooks, annual reports, conference invitations, evaluations and other documents that express directions, intentions and content connected to the NSLP. Third, we also follow the institutionalization of the NSLP at the different universities selected as providers of the NSLP. Six universities were selected 2009-2015, and a new selection was made in 2014 for the period 2015-2021. We base our research on data and document from all selected universities with regard to their program design, annual reports, study guides and course material. The data and document has been analyzed with an analytical framework drawn from our earlier work on the professionalization, globalization and economization in education, and from recent sociology of professionalization and social imagination (Ringarp, 2011; Rönnström, 2015). In our analytical work we conceptualize different motives for the NSLP at the policy level, we reconstruct the character of professionalization and the promoted knowledge base at the level of the governing National Agency of Education and at the level of the institutionalization at different universities. Finally, we suggest a new understanding or a re-imagination of the professionalization of school leaders.
The recent globalization and economization of the education sector have created new conditions for the professionalization of school leaders, but also for our social scientific understanding of professionalization which can be seen as a changing landscape. The Swedish NSLP is an interesting case in this context, and at this stage we can share some preliminary results of our study. We argue that the recent development of principal training and education in Sweden constitutes an example of new forms of organizational professionalization growing of importance in society. The NSLP is not, or only to a vanishing degree, a case of occupational professionalization, that is, the traditional understanding of professionalization in the sociology of professions. Moreover, as a case of organizational professionalization, we argue that the standardization of school leadership in Sweden promoted by the NSLP is a weak and limited form of standardization compared to recent developments in other countries in Europe, the US and Asia. This is so because of the vague and visionary character of the policy documents, and because of the limited use of the weak standardization within the context of the NSLP. The mandatory character of the NSLP is at odds with traditional views of professionalization since occupational professionalization seems to depend on a prior organizational professionalization. Finally, the NSLP stresses the role of the principal as an agent for the organizational professionalization of teachers. As a consequence, the recent economization of education and organizational professionalization of principals seem to move the principal away from the community of teachers and towards a primary identification with local school organization and administration and with the national governance of education.
Evetts, J. (2011) A new professionalism? Challenges and opportunities. In: Current Sociology 59:4, 406-422. Forde, C., McMahon, M. A., Hamilton, G. & Murray, R. (2016) Rethinking professional standards to promote professional learning. In: Professional Development in Education 42:1, 19-35. Ingvarson, L., Anderson, M., Gronn, P & Jackson, A. (2006) Standards for School Leadership. A critical Review of Literature, Teaching Austria, Australian Institute for teaching and school leadership. Mundy, K., Green, A., Lingard, B and Verger, A. (eds.) (2016) The Handbook of Global Education Policy. Wiley Blackwell. Pashiardis, P. and Johansson, O. (2016) Successful School Leadership. International Perspecives. Bloomsbury. Ringarp, J. (2011), Professionens problematik. Lärarkårens kommunalisering och välfärdsstatens förvandling, Lund: Lunds universitet. Rönnström, N. (2015) Educating competitive teachers for a competitive nation?. In: Policy Futures in Education 13:6, 732-750. Svensson, L. G. (2010) Professions, organizations, collegiality and accountability. In: Svensson, L. G. & Evetts, J. (eds.) Sociology of professions: Continental and Anglo-Saxon traditions. Göteborg: Daidalos Taylor, C. (2004) Modern Social Imaginaries. Duke University press. Terhart, E. (1990) Professionen in Organisation: institutionelle Bedingungen der Entwicklung von Professionswissen. In: Alisch, L-M., Baumert, J. & Beck, K. (eds.) Professionswissen und Professionalisierung, Braunschweig: Technische Universität Braunschweig. Wei, W. (2017) Educational Policy Borrowing: Professional Standards for School Leaders in China. In: Chinese Education & Society 50, 181-202. Young, M. D., Anderson, E., Nash Miles, A. (2017) Preparing School Leaders: Standards-Based Curriculum in the United States. In: Leadership and Policy in Schools 16:2, 228-271.
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