01 SES 14 C, Professional Development and Organisational Change
Educational changes are in the core of this project. The aims are to identify effective processes of change in compulsory schools in Iceland (6 – 16 years old) and develop a framework for sustainable, systemic improvements. The framework builds on theories about a professional learning community and consists of five main themes at classroom, schools and municipality levels. They are: creating coherence in policy; professional leadership; effective use of data; professional development; and building of relationships within and between schools. This is a study that is done in a partnership between schools and university researchers, that learn together in an active knowledge community (Sigurdardottir et al. 2018).
Literature on educational improvements emphasises the complexity of the educational system as well as interdependency of different components (Hopkins, et al, 2014). Capacity building, inquiry orientated practice, professional collaboration, and data driven decisions are considered as central themes in sustainable improvements (Blossing, et al, 2015; Fullan, 2016; Schildkamp, et al, 2012). This is reflected in theories about the school as a professional learning community (PLC) (Stoll & Louis, 2007) as a way to enhance professional development (Muijs, et al, 2014). Furthermore, it has been positively linked with student outcomes (Dogan & Adams, 2018; Sigurðardóttir, 2010). The conceptual and analytical framework for the study reflects these ideas. The framework is inspired by Cowan et al. (2012) model for systemic improvement, which is geared to be adaptive toward cultural context and the interdependence in the system.
Blossing, et al, (2015) emphasise the importance for each school to find its own way in the process of development because in different schools there are different organisational cultures and structures. After studying Norwegian schools, they identified six types of schools based on the ideas that drive and become meaningful in their improvement process: idea-driven school, plan-driven, model-driven, problem-driven, profession-driven or team-driven. These ideas or drivers affect how the teachers and school leaders organise their work and shape the role of the teachers both in classroom and collegial situations.
The main research questions are:
1. What is done in schools and municipalities to enhance coherence in policy, professional leadership, use of data, professional learning and professional relationships?
2. How are the schools’ and municipal activities related to the schools’ level of a professional learning community?
3. Which structural or cultural conditions seem to affect teachers’ engagement in the project with reference to local drivers for improvement?
This is a multiple case study including two years of intervention (2016-2018) in four schools in three municipalities, purposively selected. An electronic PLC survey (Qualtrics software), was conducting in 13 schools (including the intervention schools) before and after the intervention period in order to compare the outcome of the intervention schools with the other schools. Approximately 670 teachers were asked to respond to the survey in the autumn 2016 (70% response rate) and again in the autumn 2018 (60% response rate). Schools and municipalities received a report about their own results compared to the other. During the intervention the school staff choose the topic of the improvement, something they were already working on or at least interested in doing so. The schools were supposed to make an effort to enhance the five main themes both at classroom and school level. The themes are: creating coherence in policy; professional leadership; effective use of data; professional development; and building of relationships within and between schools. A developmental team was established in each of the schools that was supposed to lead the project within the school in close collaboration with the research team. Interview data and classroom data was collected along the way. The school leaders were interviewed at regular bases; all meetings with the developmental teams and in some cases teachers’ teams were recorded and transcribed. Finally, the directors of schools in all three municipalities were interviewed at the beginning and the end of the intervention. The data is analysed and represented for each school as a case and across cases by the five themes in the framework. The Blossing et al (2015) six types of schools by the local drivers for improvement are used to understand teacher’s engagement in the project.
In this presentation, preliminary results are presented with main focus on learning and development at school level. The process in the intervention was somewhat slower than expected and one of the schools dropped out after the first year of intervention as there was a disagreement between the school leaders and the teachers about process. Participating members (both teachers and leaders) in all the schools agreed with the ideas behind the project at the beginning claimed to be ready to work with the research team. The teachers, however, were reluctant when came to changes in practice. The leaders experienced difficulties in persuading the teachers to act even though they, theoretically, agreed on the overall approach. It is expected that professional learning community and teacher engagement is at higher level in team driven schools than in problem or professional driven schools. There is also a lot to learn from this study about how to create a knowledge community between researchers and practitioners. The results will hopefully contribute extensively to the body of knowledge concerning school improvement at different levels, both nationally and internationally. The suggested framework will might also serve as a practical and analytical framework for future policy, practice and research on educational improvements.
Blossing, U., Nyen, T., Söderström, A., & Tønder, A. H. (2015). Local drivers for improvements capacity. Six types of school organgisations. Heidelberg; Springer. Cowan, D., Joyner, S., & Beckwith, S. (2012). Getting serious about the system. California: Corwin. Dogan, S. og Adams, A. (2018): Effect of professional learning communities on teachers and students: reporting updated results and raising questions about research design. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, DOI:10.1080/09243453.2018.1500921 Fullan, M. (2016). The new meaning of educational change (5th ed). New York: Teachers College Press. Hopkins, D. Stringfield, S., Harris, A., Stoll, L., & Mackay, T. (2014). School and system improvement: a narrative state-of-the-art review. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 25(2), 257–281. Muijs, D., Kyriakides, van der Werf, G. Creemers, B, Timperlay, H., & Earl. L. (2014). State of the art – teacher effectiveness and professional learning. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 25(2), 257–281. Schildkamp, K., Ehren, M., & Kuin Lai, M. (2012). Editorial article for the special issue on data-based decision making around the world: from policy to practice to results. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 23(2), 123–131. Sigurðardóttir, A. K., Morris, A.; Skoglund, P., & Tudjman, T. (2018). Knowledge partnerships between schools and universities: modelling the process of connection and relations. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice, 14(4), 683–706. DOI: 10.1332/174426417X14872517690770 Sigurðardóttir, A. K. (2010). Professional learning community in relation to school effectiveness. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. 54(5), 395–412. Stoll, L., & Louis, K. S. (Eds). (2007). Professional learning communities: Divergence, depth and dilemmas. Maidenhead UK: Open University Press.
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