22 SES 08 B, Teaching and Learning: Professionalisation and Leadership
Leadership research is an developing field within higher education research, nevertheless unclear in its profile. Within higher education, research has focused on teaching-studying-learning and assessment, as well as on policy and governance. In a higher education context, these focuses could be described as a micro level and a macro level respectively. However, between these, a meso level of mediating mechanisms exist that could be identified as higher education leadership. Higher education leadership can thus be viewed as the missing link between the micro level of teaching-studying-learning and the macro level of policy and governance.
When looking at educational leadership as a field of research it is mostly developed within the field of compulsory education (Hallinger, 2003). Although both schools and universities are educational institutions typically financed, governed and directed by political decision-making, there are crucial differences between the two fields from a leadership perspective. Among these, the absence of national core curricula within higher education is one; universities are largely autonomous in creating their curricula. Another key difference is the role of research. Higher education leadership not only leads teaching, it also leads research. As university teachers are simultaneously researchers, professional development has largely been focused on developing as a researcher. In contrast, professional development within compulsory education has mainly focused on developing teacherhood. However, the issue of professional development of teacherhood has in recent years increased in importance in a HE context as well. To this extent the role of educational leadership in the compulsory and HE context is similar.
In previous research, educational leadership has been approached in several ways. Shields (2010), among others, distinguishes between a transformative, a transformational and a transactional approach to leadership (Bass, 1990). Burrell & Morgan (1979) describe educational leadership as possible to position on two continuums, one on a horizontal axis between either a subjective or an objective focus, and the other on a vertical axis between either a reproductive or a critical emancipatory approach. Yet another approach to categorising leadership is displayed by Gunther and Ribbins (2003) who distinguish between conceptual, descriptive, humanistic, critical, evaluative and instrumental approaches. Although all these approaches have merit and illuminate higher education leadership as a phenomena, they remain limited in their capacity to grasp the holistic character of the phenomena and the dynamics between the levels.
In our opinion, providing a conceptual structure for understanding higher education leadership requires a multilevel perspective (Fullan, 2005). Leadership in higher education can be seen as occurring at least on six levels: the teacher level, the program level, the faculty level, the university level, the national level and the supranational level. The challenge is to develop a position by which it is possible to handle this multilevel phenomenon in a coherent way. Instructional theory and didactic theory is valid at the level teaching-studying-learning, while policy and governance research are valid at the highest levels (Maassen, 2003, Välimaa & Hoffman, 2008). As previously mentioned, there does exist leadership research, but mainly focused on compulsory education. While the different existing areas of research are valid within their own field, they are not capable of handling the phenomena of higher education leadership as a holistic, multilevel phenomena. The question is thus what kind of language could be adequate to handle these different levels and research perspectives in a coherent way.
Our aim is to contribute to the field with a conceptual paper, analysing the field of higher education leadership by reviewing the literature and critically examining previous theoretical contributions and epistemological positions.
This conceptual paper presents non-affirmative theory of education as the foundation for a new research program in higher education leadership aiming at bridging traditional approaches to educational leadership and Didaktik. Bildung oriented non-affirmative education theory (Benner 1991; Uljens 2015; Uljens & Ylimaki, 2017) argues that understanding educational leadership requires a multi-level in addition to theorizing leadership and teaching as cultural-historical and critical-hermeneutic praxis. While both critical or transformative and conservative, socialization and reproduction oriented approaches in education typically result in instrumental notions of curriculum reform, leadership and teaching, non-affirmative education theory, instead views leadership and teaching as relational and hermeneutic, drawing on ontological core concepts of modern education: recognition; summoning to self-activity and Bildsamkeit. This position assumes two a non-hierarchical relation between societal forms of practice like education and politics as well as between education and economy. The principle of non-hierarchical relations between societal forms of practices means that education is both sub- and super-ordinate in relation to these other practices (Benner, 1991; Uljens, 2015). Educational leadership is thus considered mediating activity between different epistemic practices (research, teaching, learning, theory, administrative routines, cultural practices, architecture, IT) and value dimensions (ethics and politics). In this mediation, actors position themselves differently depending on their personal preferences and values, professional competencies and responsibilities as well as their position, tradition, and existing norms. Non-affirmative educational leadership is then about calling attention to, questioning or problematizing contemporary practices, values or interests, or, to do the same with ideals or political policies for the future. Non-affirmative influence acknowledges the open and aporetic character of discourses. Differently expressed, an interruption is an intervention in the Other’s relation to him- or herself, other persons, and the world (Fraser & Honneth, 2003). The educational discourse as invitation to self-activity and self-formation creates spaces within and between institutionalized levels.
Benner, D. (1991). Allgemeine Pädagogik. Weinheim: Juventa. Bass, B. M. (1990). From transactional to transformational leadership: Learning to share the vision. Organizational Dynamics, (Winter), 19–31. Burrell, G. & Morgan, G. (1979) Sociological paradigms and organisational analysis. Heinemann Fraser, N. & Honneth, A. (2003). Redistribution or recognition? A politicalphilosophical exchange. London: Verso. Fullan, M. (2005). Leadership & sustainability: System thinkers in action. Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Corwin Press. Gunter, H. & Ribbins, P. (2003). Challenging orthodoxy in school leadership studies: knowers, knowing and knowledge? School Leadership & Management 23(2), 129-147. Hallinger, P. (2003). Reflections on the practice of instructional and transformational leadership. Cambridge Journal of Education, 33(3) , 329–351. Maassen, P. (2003). Shifts in Governance Arrangements. An Interpretation of the Introduction of New Management Structures in Higher Education. In: A. Amara, V. L. Meek & I. M. Larsen (Eds.), The higher education managerial revolution? Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Shields, C. (2010). Transformative Leadership: Working for Equity in Divers contexts. Educational Administration Quarterly, 46(4), 558–589. Uljens, M. (2015). Curriculum work as educational leadership – paradoxes and theoretical foundations. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy 1(1), 22–30. www.nordstep.net/index.php/nstep/article/view/27010 Välimaa, J. & Hoffman, D. (2008). Knowledge society discourse and higher education. Higher Education, 56, 265–285.
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