11 SES 05.5 PS, General Poster Session
General Poster Session
Schools in various parts of the world adopt plans or projects to improve the quality of school processes and students’ learning (Leithwood, Jantzi & McElheron-Hopkins, 2006; Mbugua & Rarieya, 2014). Generally, schools’ improvement efforts are formalized in a school plan (a document) which is conceptualized through a formal planning process (Strunk, Marsh, Bush-Mecenas, & Duque, 2016). Like in other countries (cf. Strunk et al., 2016), in Portugal, several school reform policies have mandated formal planning as a mean of change and improvement. As an example, in the last two years, Portuguese schools were mandated to elaborate, submit and implement Strategic Action Plans (SAPs) for students’ success improvement (Ministry of Education, 2016).
Despite this widespread use of plans, little evidence exists concerning both processes and outcomes of planning and implementing school strategic plans (e.g., Leithwood et al., 2006; Strunk et al., 2016). School improvement plans seem to be quite similar in terms of structure and content, typically with a listing of goals, objectives, and strategies (Meyers & Hitt, 2018). Prevalent planning practices in schools are often short-term, usually based on the immediate needs of the school and the main focus has been the distribution of duties and resources as well as control budget and accountability (Mbugua & Rarieya, 2014).
Few studies were found to have examined the quality of the school plans, its translation into changed or improved practices and the related outcomes over time (Strunk et al., 2016). Besides, the scarce research on strategic or development planning identify less positive findings and it supports the idea that “the mere act of generating strategic plans in school reforms is not enough” (Strunk et al., 2016, pp. 263-264). Indeed, it is crucial to deepen the knowledge about what the planning and implementing processes for high-quality school strategic plans are, both for research, practical and political implications.
The main focus of the present study is to analyze the school improvement processes (planning and implementing SAPs in Portuguese schools). Specifically, it is intended to analyze the critical processes of strategic action. Little research has been conducted on teachers and other stakeholders’ participation in strategic planning in Portuguese schools. The purpose of this study was to examine teachers’ participation in decision making and strategic action plans in Portuguese schools and explore associations with organizational and teacher variables.
A survey employing self-administered scales, with a Likert-type scale assessing teachers’ participation, other stakeholders participation, planning and decision making, professional development, plans importance and validation, and ownership, was used. Data were collected from 820 Portuguese teachers. The results suggest that teachers participation on strategic action plans is considered to be moderate, indicating that opportunities and conditions for collaboration and participation are still neglected. Some differences related to experience as a teacher and as a school leader were found. In this study, participants are still considering that teachers participation in SAPs is moderate and other stakeholders participation is low. It seems that decision making and strategic planning are not of a participative nature and it tends to be a responsibility of a restrict group or of the management team. When comparing teachers with different professional roles, top and intermediate leaderships present high levels of knowledge and participation in SAPs.
This study support the need of exploring the prevalent participation and collaboration types in Portuguese schools as well as analyzing the importance of other organizational variables. School leaders should encourage collaboration and participation, by modeling expectations and behaviors for active involvement, offering time and spaces for it and valuing/using teachers and other stakeholders contributions.
The study was conducted with a sample of principals, teachers and other educational professionals from Portuguese schools. Participants were recruited nationally, through an invitation letter sent by email to the principals of the 663 schools with SAP. The final sample consisted of 820 participants from a total of 539 schools (see table 1 for a description of sample characteristics). The sample is composed of 23,8% males and 76,2% females. Participants aged 25 to 69 years (M=50.42, SD=7.17). Considering professional experience, 44,6% of the participants have 21 to 30 years of experience as a teacher, and 39,6% of teachers have less than 10 years of experience in the actual school. The variables were tested using two scales - Participation on Strategic Planning and Action (PSPA) scale and Strategic Action Processes for School Improvement (SAPSI) scale - validated in earlier studies (Carvalho, Cabral, Verdasca & Alves, 2018ab). PSPA have 15 items with a 5-point scale that measure the degree of participation of teachers and other stakeholders on school strategic action plans. Participants indicate their degree of knowledge or participation on a 5-point Likert scale (from “very low” = 1 to “very high” = 5, giving a possible maximum score of 75). Each item presents a correlation with the total score ranging from .64 to .94, and the global internal consistency of the total scale, measured by Cronbach’s alpha, is .95. SAPSI has 27 items with a 4-point scale that measure dimensions of school strategic action plans related to teachers’ knowledge and participation, decision-making processes and professional development related to school priorities. Participants indicated their degree of agreement with each statement on a 4-point Likert scale (from “strongly disagree” = 1 to “strongly agree” = 4, giving a possible maximum score of 108). Each item presents a correlation with the total score ranging from .54 to .89, and the global internal consistency of the total scale, measured by Cronbach’s alpha, is .95. An open space for additional comments was added.
In accordance to the results of the study, participation and collaboration are important determinants of plans and actions success in educational contexts. Teachers participation in SAPs is related to the recognition of its importance and validation and with the sense of being author and owner of it. The participative nature of decision making and strategic planning highs relevance, value and adequacy of schools plans from the perspective of teachers and other stakeholders. Even though the current legal framework in Portugal encourages the participation of teachers and other stakeholders in school decision making, it appears that, in practice, this is not realized. In this study, participants are still considering that teachers participation in SAPs is moderate and other stakeholders participation is low. It seems that decision making and strategic planning are not of a participative nature and it tends to be a responsibility of a restrict group or of the management team. When comparing teachers with different professional roles, top and intermediate leaderships present high levels of knowledge and participation in SAPs. Besides, as in other countries, in Portugal, there is still a tendency to an individualistic paradigm, where some leaders neglect conditions and opportunities for collaboration and participation (Mbugua & Rarieya, 2018) and where some teachers have the reluctance to seek greater involvement in decisions mainly of school or managerial nature (Sarafidou & Chatziioannidis, 2013). Schoolwide participation in planning and decision making related to SAPs was weakened by these conditions. Knowledge about plans, recognition and validation and sense of ownership need to be supported on participation. Teachers and other stakeholders need to be actively involved in the process of strategically planning for their school. Active participation and collaboration need to be a routine in schools daily life. School administrators should encourage staff to participate in formulating strategic plans.
Carvalho, M, Cabral, I., Verdasca, J. & Alves, J. M. (2018a). Participation on strategic planning and action (PSPA). A validation study. Manuscript in preparation. Carvalho, M, Cabral, I., Verdasca, J. & Alves, J. M. (2018b). Strategic action processes for school improvement (SAPSI). A validation study. Manuscript in preparation. Leithwood, K., Jantzi, D., & McElheron-Hopkins, C. (2006). The development and testing of a school improvement model. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 17(4), 441–464. https://doi.org/10.1080/09243450600743533 Mbugua, F., & Rarieya, J. F. A. (2014). Collaborative strategic planning: Myth or reality? Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 42(1), 99–111. https://doi.org/10.1177/1741143213499258 Meyers, C. & Hitt, D. (2018). Planning for school turnaround in the United States: an analysis of the quality of principal-developed quick wins. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 29(3), 362-382. https://doi.org/10.1080/09243453.2018.1428202 Ministry of Education (2016). Programa Nacional de Promoção do Sucesso Escolar — Edital de Abertura de Candidatura à apresentação de planos de ação estratégica dos Agrupamentos de Escolas/Escolas não Agrupadas com vista à promoção do sucesso escolar. Sarafidou, J. O., & Chatziioannidis, G. (2013). Teacher participation in decision making and its impact on school and teachers. International Journal of Educational Management, 27(2), 170–183. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513541311297586
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