26 SES 02 A, Interests, Motivations And Preparation For Becoming A School Leader
In Switzerland School principals have been introduced in the 1990s. As a federalist country the introduction varied in each canton according to the cantonal law, regarding the introduction time but also regarding the competences of the school principal (Huber 2016). Throughout the country the function encompasses the management of the individual schools in collaboration with the teachers and the local school board: Principals are responsible for the operational management, whereas the school board leads the school strategically (Kohlstock, 2013). According to the social cognitive career theory (Lent, Brown & Hackett, 2002), the decision to take on such a position in a tight net of interrelated responsibilities and interests, is linked to contextual aspects (such as the educational policy, support structure, financial resources). Individual components such as the own biography, prior knowledge, previous experiences, motivation and self-regulation are additional important factors. We link this theoretical approach of social cognitive career theory with international findings on professionalization of school principals (e.g. Fullan, 2014, Beycioglu & Pashiardis, 2015) and with general approaches on leadership in schools (Day, Gu & Sammons 2016; Day & Gurr 2014; Moos, Johansson & Day 2011). With regard to the national aspects of school leadership, we also take into account the Swiss approaches on leadership in schools (e.g. Dubs, 2005, Seitz & Capaul 2005, Thom, Ritz & Steiner, 2002).
Having introduced school principals in Switzerland approximately twenty years ago, the question arises, how to assess the success of school principals in the Swiss School System. Considering the fact, that Switzerland does not have a test tradition or school rankings such as many other countries (Grissom, Kalogrides & Loeb 2015), this poses a major challenge. Therefore, the term ‘successful principal’ needs to be specified for the Swiss context. In accordance with Day and Leithwood (2007, p. 171f.), successful school principals share a common set of values and consistently use a range of behaviour that can be seen across cases and contexts: „Successful principalship requires a combination of cognitive and emotional understandings allied to clear sets of standards and values, the differential application of a cluster of key strategies, and the abiding presence of a passion for people and education” (Day & Leithwood, 2007, p. 172).
With regard to the social cognitive career theory we therefore focus on 1. contextual aspects and 2. on individual components in respect of successful principalship outlined by Day and Leithwood. Our research questions are as follows:
How came the school principal into the actual position? What was his/her motivation, how did he/she proceed in building up his position at the school? What kind of challenges were perceived? How does he/she perceive the concept of a “successful school” and how would he/she value the school he/she leads? Are contextual factors and his/her personality linked in any way?
Based on the German translation of the protocol of the International Successful School Principal-Network (ISSPP, Kohlstock, Bieri Buschor & Brauckmann, 2015, Kohlstock & Bieri 2018) we conducted a case study in a primary school in a remote and rural area in northeastern Switzerland. The case was selected based on the fact that the principal has been transforming this school into a self-organised learning institution for adolescents for the last 15 years. The external school evaluation is full of praise. Furthermore, the principal is a co-founder in a network of innovative schools. The school is considered to be a model regarding mixed-age teaching in an age of digitalization and is visited by international scholars and school boards. As the principal gained international and national reputation we wanted to find out how he transformed and leads the school based on the ISSPP-protocol. In 2018 we conducted interviews with the school principal, with the staff, with a member of the school board, the school administrator, with the school inspector, the parents and last but not least with the pupils. Additionally, we used shadowing (Tulowitzki, 2019) to get further insights into the principal’s approach leading the school. All interviews were transcribed from Swiss German into High German. We then analysed them based on the categories deducted from the ISSPP-Protocol (Content Analysis, Mayring 2014) and checked them additionally based on an inductive approach (open and axial coding, Corbin & Strauss, 2008). In spring 2019 the findings will be presented and discussed at the school with all stakeholders, which enables us to enrich our presentation at the ECER Conference 2019 with additional insights based on the feedback given and received from the school.
This innovative public school has been rated among the top schools in the canton for years. Several aspects draw our attention and raised our scientific interest: - Whereas the school gets a lot of international attention, the neighbouring schools lack interest and criticism is being formulated. The school has a difficult standing amongst peers in the school system in the canton, although it is visited from teachers and researcher from all over the world. Why is that so? - Having transformed the school for the past 15 years one would guess that the school principal is in search of a new challenge. Astonishingly, he denies it and points out that the main challenge lies within the pedagogical questions remaining. Nevertheless, he delicately points out, that he, having turned fifty, wonders what he should be doing for the remaining fifteen years of his working life. - Teachers and principal express that transitions into other schools are seen as tremendous professional drawbacks. Risks for a closed system can be identified. How can teachers be encouraged to spread their knowledge out of the school? How can the school remain open to the community? Having conducted research in many schools in Switzerland it came to our attention that for school leaders, having been pioneers in the Swiss School System for many years, the true challenge of school leadership seems to shift from a system pioneering on the school level to a pedagogical pioneering on school level, but also including and convincing neighbouring communities and families as well as the administrative and political system.
Beycioglu, K., & Pashiardis, P. (2015). Multidimensional Perspectives on Principal Leadership Effectiveness. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference (an imprint of IGI Global). Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. L. (2008). Basics of Qualitative Research. Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Day, C., & Leithwood, K. (2007). Successful Principal Leadership in Times of Change. Dordrecht: Springer. Day, C., Gu, Q., & Sammons, P. (2016). The impact of leadership on student outcomes: How successful school leaders use transformational and instructional strategies to make a difference. Educational Administration Quarterly, 52(2), 221-258. Day, C., & Gurr, D. (Eds.) (2014). Leading Schools Successfully. London: Routledge. Dubs, R. (2005). Die Führung einer Schule: Leadership und management. Zürich: Verlag SKV. Fullan, M. (2014). The Principal: Three keys to maximizing impact. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Grisson, Jason A., Kalogrides, Demetra & Loeb, Susanna (2015). Using Student Test Scores to Measure Principal Performance. In: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 37(1), p. 3-28. Huber, S. (2016). Switzerland: The school leadership research base in Switzerland. In H. Ärlestig, C. Day & O. Johansson (Eds.). A Decade of Research on School Principals. Cases from 24 countries (pp. 421-444). Heidelberg: Springer. Kohlstock, B. (2013). Kritische Analyse von Schulprogrammen und der Balanced Scorecard am Beispiel der Steuerungssysteme für die Volksschulen im Kanton Zürich. Doctoral dissertation, University of Zürich, Switzerland. Kohlstock, B., Brauckmann, S., & Bieri Buschor, C. (2015). Paper based on the validation workshop ‘Cross-checking and adaptation of the German version of the ISSPP protocol’. Zurich: University of Teacher Education. Kohlstock, B. & Bieri Buschor Christine (2018). Shared Responsibility of Three Principals in a Swiss Primary School. In: International Studies in Educational Administration, 46(2), p. 26-44. Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (2002). Social cognitive career theory. In D. Brown (ed.), Career choice and development (pp. 255–311). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Mayring (2014). Qualitative content analysis: theoretical foundation, basic procedures and software solution. Klagenfurt: Beltz. Moos, L., Johansson, O., & Day, C. (2011). How School Principals Sustain Success Over Time. Berlin: Springer. Seitz, H., & Capaul, R. (2005). Schulführung und Schulentwicklung. Bern: Haupt. Thom, N., Ritz, A., & Steiner, R. (2002). Effektive Schulführung: Chancen und Risiken des Public Managements im Bildungswesen. Bern: Haupt. Tulowitzki, P. (2019). Shadowing school principals: what do we learn? In: Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 47(1), p.91-109.
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