ERG SES E 05, Management and Education
Recent research proposes sustainability as a highly relevant topic for educational organisations - that is schools - to turn (Mogren & Gericke, 2017; Qvortrup & Rasmussen, 2019; Wals & Benavot, 2017). Wals and Benavot (2017)argue that education contains a potential when it comes to increase actions with a positive impact on ecology and environment as it can help people and institutions to both understand and respond to environmental issues in respectively a global, regional and local perspective. In a forthcoming publication Professor Ane Qvortrup and I propose sustainability as an upcoming formula of contingency in the Danish system of education, i.e. sustainability is a challenge, that schools from a society perspective is expected to respond to (Qvortrup & Rasmussen, 2019 in press). Here sustainability is proposed as a response to decrease societal risk.On the other hand Mogren and Gericke (2017)speak of a global sustainability agenda, that challenges the educational system with a call for schools to respond to an increasing complexity and uncertainty in the surrounding world, posing new demands on their organizations. And maybe one could go as far as to ask if the sustainability agenda places schools within a paradoxical situation, where sustainability on the one hand is relevant in order to handle risk and on the other poses a risk? But perspectives on how this paradox is handled in practice, and on the possibilities and implications that such forms of handling can lead to, remain vague. The research question of this paper is:
How does an organizational focus on sustainability disturb the prognosis of Future on a Danish upper secondary school?
In this paper some preliminary findings - empirical as well as conceptual - from my Ph.D. study is presented. In the Ph.D. I study present leadership features in Danish upper secondary schools with a particular focus on how didactical perspectives manifest themselves in leadership decisions. I draw on empirical data from respectively two ethnographic case-studies and two document studies. The latter on respectively political reforms and vision reports from 28 schools. Through a pilot study significant leadership themes accentuated at each case-school have been identified, and sustainability appeared as an overarching theme at one of the case-schools. This paper draws on data from this case-school.
This paper is theoretically founded on systems theory as it was developed by the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann (Luhmann,  2000,  2016; Luhmann & Schorr, 1979). Luhmann describes modern society as functionally differentiated into social systems where each system maintains a function in society. To describe the emergence that characterizes the way social systems organize themselves in recursive networks, Luhmann draws on the concept autopoiesis, as it makes it possible to observe systems as autonome but not autarch, that is systems respond to some of the possibilities their environment poses by taking them in, while others are ignored. However, thesedecisions are on the one hand observed as a feature of the present and on the other, as linked to both past and future, i.e. experience and expectation inherent in the school as an organization. In this way decision and the ever going future of schools is linked to the Prognosis of futureas it establish itself in a conceptual unity of the Space of experienceand the Horizon of expectation(Koselleck, 2004 ).
Methodologically this paper draws on a case study on a Danish upper secondary school, based on qualitative ethnographic data collected through semistructured interviews with school leaders and teachers (N=16), focussed recall interviews with teachers (N=10) and go-alongs with a school leader and through observation of teaching and meetings (Dempsey, 2010; Kusenbach, 2003; Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009; La Cour, Knudsen, & Thygesen, 2005). Data are systematically reflected within a multilevel perspective as it is proposed by the Finnish professor Michael Uljens (Uljens, 2015; Uljens & Ylimaki, 2017) and further developed within a systems theoretical frame. According to Uljens educational leadership is currently characterized by a need to navigate between different epistemic practices and value spheres and emphasizes that educational leadership seen from different perspectives are not perceived as the same. Based on both pedagogical non-affirmative theory and discursive institutionalism Uljens proposes five analytical categories that together constitutes an analytical framework that can be used to observe the challenges that education leadership currently is facing. The perspectives are distinguished by focusing on education leadership as a relational question that reaches out both internal within the educational system, but also to the external environment. Uljens defines first order educational leadership as “teachers’ leadership of the students’ study activities”, second-order as “the principals’ leadership of teachers’ teaching activities”, third-order concerns “leaders who lead other leaders”, fourth-order as linked to “developing and deciding on new national policies, curricula and the like” and fifth-order brings in educational leadership perspectives at “the transnational level” (Uljens, 2015, p. 24). Theses “levels” are analytically processed into five systems theoretical perspectives on educational leadership, and a model where each perspective has its specific function, performance, codes and communicative foci is proposed, and sustainability as a leadership theme is reflected within it.
The main hypothesis in this study is that a shift that relates to the question of what educational leadership in upper secondary schools is expected to focus on and be about, is manifesting itself. A shift that internationally is seen as a change from School Management where the school leader focuses on the school as an organization to Educational Leadership, where leadership is seen as a more processual and dynamic size that must support the school's function, to educate. With the shift, focus changes from the school leader to leadership. I suggest that the phenomenon can be seen as a change within the relationship between didactical and leadership decision making. This change is already proposed in Danish studies, based on empirical data (Hjort & Abrahamsen, 2016) as well as in more conceptual studies (Bjerg & Staunæs, 2014; Krogh & Raae, 2017; Raae, 2016). And internationally by focusing on efficiency and improvement (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012; Harris & Jones, 2017) and reflexivity (Midtsundstad, 2010; Uljens, 2015; Uljens & Ylimaki, 2017). In these studies, the phenomenon is described partly as a managerial orientation closely linked to didactics and with reverse sign, as an extension of the didactical space, as didactics currently is attributed with great leadership importance. In this way, educational leadership seems to relate closely to teaching practice. By emphasizing the relation between didactics and leadership through a systematic analysis drawing on both conceptual and empirical saturated observations, it is the intention to open up new understandings about sustainability as a present leadership orientation in Danish upper secondary schools by proposing a model for reflecting present leadership features.
Bjerg, H., & Staunæs, D. (2014). Læringscentreret skoleledelse : tænketeknologier til forskningsinformeret skoleledelse. Frederikshavn: Dafolo. Dempsey, N. P. (2010). Stimulated recall interviews in ethnography. Qualitative sociology, 33(3), 349-367. Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: Transforming teaching in every school: Teachers College Press. Harris, A., & Jones, M. (2017). Leading educational change and improvement at scale: some inconvenient truths about system performance. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 1-10. Hjort, K., & Abrahamsen, M. (2016). Frihed til at vælge, men ikke frit valg. In J. D. Bøje (Ed.), Mellem ledere : uddannelsesledelse som problem eller svar? (pp. 206 sider). Aarhus: Klim. Koselleck, R. (2004 ). Futures past: on the semantics of historical time: Columbia University Press. Krogh, E., & Raae, P. H. (2017). Didaktisk udviklingsledelse. In Gymnasiepædagogik (pp. 677-689): Hans Reitzel. Kusenbach, M. (2003). Street phenomenology: The go-along as ethnographic research tool. Ethnography, 4(3), 455-485. Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Interview: introduktion til et håndværk: Hans Reitzel. La Cour, A., Knudsen, M., & Thygesen, N. T. (2005). Det systemteoretiske interview: Interviewet som meningsdannelse: Lindhardt & Ringhof. Luhmann, N. ( 2000). Sociale systemer: grundrids til en almen teori: Hans Reitzel. Luhmann, N. ( 2016). Samfundets samfund. Kbh.: Hans Reitzel. Luhmann, N., & Schorr, K. E. (1979). Reflexionsprobleme im Erziehungssystem (Vol. 740): Klett-Cotta Stuttgart. Midtsundstad, J. (2010). En skoleteoretisk ramme for sammenlignende undersøkelser. Teoretisk systematisert og empirisk anvendt i danske og norske skoler Trondheim. Mogren, A., & Gericke, N. (2017). ESD implementation at the school organisation level, part 2–investigating the transformative perspective in school leaders’ quality strategies at ESD schools. Environmental Education Research, 23(7), 993-1014. Qvortrup, A., & Rasmussen, H. F. (2019). Uddannelsessystemets hensigt-fra perfektion og perfektibilitet over dannelse til entrepreneurskab og bæredygtighed. In A. Qvortrup & K. Kiær (Eds.), Den Professionelle Og Moderne Didaktik(er). Frederikshavn, Danmark: Dafolo Forlag A/S. Raae, P. H. (2016). Effektive mellemledere. In J. D. Bøje (Ed.), Mellem ledere : uddannelsesledelse som problem eller svar? (pp. 206 sider). Aarhus: Klim. Uljens, M. (2015). Curriculum work as educational leadership–Paradoxes and theoretical foundations. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 2015(1), 27010. Uljens, M., & Ylimaki, R. M. (2017). Bridging Educational Leadership, Curriculum Theory and Didaktik. Wals, A. E., & Benavot, A. (2017). Can we meet the sustainability challenges? The role of education and lifelong learning. European Journal of Education, 52(4), 404-413.
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