26 SES 06 B, Distributed, Governance, And Beyond-School Perspectives On Educational Leadership
This paper aims to examine teachers’ sensemaking of principal leadership practices and roles in different collaborations beyond the school within the local community of the school, focussing on leadership and school improvement. Research has pointed to four broad categories of basic leadership practices or functions (Leithwood and Riehl, 2005; Leithwood et al., 2006; Day and Leithwood, 2007): setting direction, understanding and developing people, designing and managing communities, and managing the teaching and learning environment. Moos et al. (2011) added one more category: leading the environment. Schools are deeply dependent on their environment, whether it is political, administrative, community, cultural or other. Therefore, it is an important function for the principals to manage and lead relationships beyond the physical boundaries of their schools (Moos et al., 2011).
The leadership of the principal is known to be a key factor in supporting student achievement (Leithwood, Sun & Pollock, 2017; Wahlstrom & Louis, 2008), but how that leadership is experienced and enacted by teachers is less clear (Saaruka, 2016). Previous studies (Sahlin, 2018; Sahlin & Styf, in progress; Sahlin, submitted) in the three same schools have focused on the voices of the principals. In order to get deeper knowledge and to get a broader and more nuanced picture it is also important to make teachers experience and sensemaking visible. In this study, the focus is on teachers’ sensemaking of the principal’s role and meaning in these different collaborations beyond the school. The purpose of this study is to examine teachers’ sensemaking of principal leadership in collaborations beyond the school within the local community of the school, focussing on leadership and school improvement. The research questions that frame the study are: How do teachers’ make sense of principal leadership practices and roles in collaborations beyond the school?
In this study, the sensemaking theory presented by Weick (1995) is used to grasp teachers’ sensemaking of principal leadership practices and roles in school improvement processes at local school level. The sensemaking theory has been applied and combined with Ogawa’s and Bossert’s institutional perspective of leadership (1995), and the distributed perspective on leadership by Spillane, Halverson and Diamond (2004). The study draws upon an understanding of leadership as distributed practice, involving two aspects; the leader-plus aspect and the practice aspect (Spillane, 2006). The leader-plus aspect recognises that leading and managing schools can involve multiple individuals, both those in formal leadership positions and those not formally designated leaders (Spillane, Camburn, Pustejovsky, Pareja, & Lewis, 2008). The practice aspect focuses on the practice of leading and managing, as it takes form in the interactions among people and the situation. Individuals act in relation to others, which is the essence of practice (Spillane, 2013). Sensemaking is an interpretative process that concerns the construction and reconstruction of meanings about a situation (Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991; Seashore Louis et al., 2009). People act in different ways in different situations and then make sense or construct meanings about their enactments. Weick, Sutcliffe and Obstfeld (2005) highlights that what is plausible for one group, such as principals, often proves implausible for other groups, such as teachers. The present study focuses on how teachers make sense of the principal leadership practices and roles in different collaborations beyond the school within the local community.
In this study, a qualitative case study design (Yin, 2011) with a purposive sampling method in order to include schools working with collaborations beyond the school within the local community, in the framework of a collaborative improvement project. The present study aimed at examining teachers’ sensemaking of principal leadership and role in these beyond school collaborations within the local community of the school. In order to solve the problem in this study, a contextual depth is required. According to Stake (1995, p. 16), a case study allows it: "In qualitative case study, we seek greater understanding of the case, we want to appreciate the uniqueness and complexity, its embeddedness and interaction with its contexts." This is in line with Yin (2007), who means case studies as a research strategy is based on wanting to explore an area in depth, focusing on how and why (Yin, 2007). The case in this study, ‘the quintan’ (Stake 1995, 2006) was the principal leadership and role in three schools and was pre-selected to study (Stake, 1995). Data was collected during three years (2012-2015) and consisted of semi-structured individual interviews and group interviews with teachers at the schools. The interviews were conducted at the beginning, middle and end of the collaboration (in total 51 interviews, 40 individual interviews and 11 group interviews). The individual interviews lasted about 50-70 minutes each, and the group interviews 45-75 min. A part of the result of a questionnaire for teachers has also been used in this study (three questions and 375 answers). The part of the teacher questionnaire used in this study concerned questions with open-responses, about the different collaborations and teachers sensemaking of the collaboration. All interviews were recorded and saved as separate digital audio files and then transcribed verbatim (Patton, 2002). The Atlas.ti 6.2 software tool was used to organise the interviews and the answers from the questionnaire in the process of data analysis. Qualitative content analysis has been used for the analysis of this study and the collected empirical data was analysed using within-case analysis (Miles et al., 2014).
There are some preliminary tendencies as the collected empirical data are still under processing and analysis, but a complete picture of the results of the study will be presented at the conference. Implications for further research will be considered. For European educational research, this is one essential matter as it can be seen as a contribution to valuable knowledge about key factors for teachers, principals, and schools work concerning educational leadership school improvement and in a Nordic context, for both practitioners and policy makers.
Leithwood, K. and Riehl, C. (2005), “What we know about successful school leadership”, in Firestone, I.W.A. and Riehl, C. (Eds), A New Agenda: Directions for Research on Educational Leadership, Teacher College Press, New York, NY, pp. 12-27. Leithwood, K., Sun, J. & Pollock, K. (red.), How School Leaders Contribute to Student Success The Four Paths Framework, Springer International Publishing, Cham, 2017. Miles, M.B., Huberman, A.M. and Saldaña, J. (2014), Qualitative Data Analysis: A Methods Sourcebook, Sage, Los Angeles, CA. Ogawa, Rodney, and Steven Bossert. 1995. “Leadership as an Organizational Quality.” Educational Administration Quarterly 31 (2): 224–243. doi:10.1177/0013161X95031002004. Moos, L., Johansson, O. and Day, C. (Eds) (2011), How School Principals Sustain Success over Time–International Perspectives. Studies in Educational Leadership, Springer, London. Olofsson, A. (2015). Lärares inställning till rektors ledning. I J. Höög, & O. Johansson (Red.) Struktur, kultur och ledarskap – förutsättningar för framgångsrika skolor. (2., [uppdaterade] uppl.) Lund: Studentlitteratur AB. Saarukka, S. (2016). Lärares förväntningar på rektors ledarskap. (Teacher expectations on principal ́s leadership). In Nordisk Tidskrift för Allmän Didaktik. Vol.2, No.1, November 2016, (33-51). Spillane, James P., Richard Halverson, and John B. Diamond. 2004. “Towards a Theory of Leadership Practice: A Distributed Perspective.” Journal of Curriculum Studies 36 (1): 3–34. doi:10.1080/ 0022027032000106726. Spillane, J. (2013). The practice of leading and managing teaching in educational organizations. In Leadership for 21st century learning (pp. 59–82). Educational Research and Innovation, OECD Publishing. doi:10.1787/9789264205406- en Wahlstrom, K & Seashore Louis, K. (2008). How teachers experience principal leadership: the roles of professional community, trust, efficacy, and shared responsibility. Educational Administration Quarterly Vol. 44, No. 4 (October 2008) 458-495 Spillane, J., Camburn, E., Pustejovsky, J., Pareja, A. S., & Lewis, G. (2008). Taking a distributed perspective in studying school leadership and management: the challenge of study operations. In A. Harris (Ed.), Distributed leadership. Studies in educational leadership (Vol. 7, pp. 47–80). London: Springer. Weick, K.E. (1995), Sensemaking in Organizations, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.
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