01 SES 09 A, Making Sense of PL: Roles and Responsibilities of Leaders Within Professional Learning
In the last decades of the 20th century, European countries have increasingly emphasized multiculturalism in education, especially as a result of changes in a society that is becoming increasingly multi-ethnic (Fase, 1994). Migration from unstable countries, affected by wars, unrest, famine and poverty, to economically more developed countries is also contributing to the diversity. It is this phenomenon that has caused more and more people in Europe to view migration not as something that enriches our society, but as a great challenge or even a problem (Hernandez-Bravo, Cardona-Molto, & Hernandez-Bravo, 2017). The concept of culture, however, does not only cover ethnicity and race but can be extended beyond ethnic dimensions to dimensions such as urban/rural culture, social class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. (Gollnick & Chinn, 1998), meaning that this extension calls into question the homogeneity of any society. However, for a culturally diverse society to be successful, intercultural dialogue, cooperation and the recognition and positive acceptance of all cultural diversity, as a common heritage of humanity, are important (Council of Europe, 2013; UNESCO, 2001).
Increasing migration, diversity and a multicultural environment create new challenges and opportunities for schools, which in turn have a major impact on the work of teachers and, above all, the work of principals (Billot et al., 2007). The discourse of education reform over the last twenty years has argued that schools, teachers, and especially principals must be responsive to diversity in school (and wider) communities (Day et al., 2003). It is the principal's values and the conceptualization of interculturalism that shape school philosophy, needs and priorities, and indirectly, the school culture (Adalbjaranardottir & Runarsdottir, 2006; Angelides, 2012). Research has shown that the principal's pedagogical vision, goals, and ways of leadership influence the way interculturalism is reflected at the school level (Hajisoteriou & Angelides, 2013; Keung & Rockinson-Szapkiw, 2013). Additionally, one of the most important elements of leadership, within multicultural educational settings to achieve social justice within the school, is creating an inclusive school culture (Delpit, 1995; Foster, 1995), which can be supported by better preparing our teachers and principals to use inclusive and anti-discriminative practices and strategies, to develop school values that promote inclusion and multiculturalism, to promote collaboration among stakeholders etc. Therefore, when attempting to create an inclusive school culture, school principals need to concentrate on creating consent on what inclusive values and practices at the school level are and lead the way. This, however, is a complex process, thus, Dyson et al. (2002) suggest that school leaders should be selected and suitably trained, especially in the area of creating common inclusive values and participatory leadership.
Despite the fact, that Slovenia, Croatia and Republic of North Macedonia are becoming more and more diverse societies, the professional development for principals does not include topics such as creating inclusive school cultures, diversity or social justice, on which principals have a large impact (MZO, 2020; Šola za ravnatelje, 2020) and are vital for creating an inclusive environment. Since each professional development programme aims to be effective, several researchers (Cordingley et al., 2015; Knowles, 1973; Knowles et al., 1998) suggest that it should be closely connected to participants’ experiences and needs and it should be related to the context in which participants work.
Based on these two premises, the objective of this paper is to examine Croatian, Macedonian and Slovenian principals’ experiences and needs in the field of creating an inclusive school culture and thus to provide a platform for further development of professional development programmes, which could support principals in this area.
Participants: A convenience sample consisted of 380 principals (CRO: N = 86; 74 % females; RNM; N = 187; 51% females; SI: N = 107; 64 % females). Instrument: The newly developed questionnaire was divided into four different sections: 1. Demographics: gender, educational background, years of working experience etc. 2. Previous professional development activity in the area of inclusive school culture: two slightly adapted items from the teacher and principal TALIS 2018 questionnaires 3. Professional development characteristics that had the greatest positive impact on the principal’s school leadership in the last 12 months: slightly adapted scale from TALIS 2018 questionnaires and adapted to our current study (CRO: α = 0,69; RNM: α = 0,76; SI: α = 0,67). 4. Principals’ professional development needs in the area of inclusive school culture: This part of the questionnaire was content-wise based on the Index of inclusion (Booth & Ainscow, 2002) and adapted to specific survey’s needs (such as adaptation to regional contexts, adaptation to screening the needs instead of screening the current state etc.). Therefore, it covered the principal’s needs for professional development in (1) creating an inclusive culture (building community, establishing inclusive values), (2) producing inclusive policies (developing the school for all, organising the support for diversity), and (3) evolving inclusive practices (orchestrating learning, mobilising resources). The participants needed to assess the extent to which they currently need professional development by answering to 18 items covering the above-mentioned areas on a four-point Likert scale (1 = no need at all; 2 = low level of need; 3 = moderate level of need; 4 = high level of need) (CRO: α = 0,92; RNM: α = 0,95; SI: α = 0,93). Procedure: The survey is a part of the HEAD: Empowering School Principals for Inclusive School Culture project. After the development of the questionnaire in the English language, partners from Croatia, Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia made the translations into their own language. Since the Albanian language is also an official language in the Republic of North Macedonia, the instrument was translated in the Albanian language as well. An email invitation, with the link to the principals’ needs questionnaire, was sent to the principals, whose emails were in the partners’ databases. The online questionnaire was available from the beginning of March 2020 to the beginning of April 2020. Data analysis: Reliability tests, descriptive statistics, and one-way ANOVA were calculated with IBM SPSS Statistics 26.
The results showed that there are no statistically significant differences in principals’ overall needs for professional development in the area of creating inclusive school culture between the Republic of North Macedonia and Croatia (CRO: M = 3,04; SD = 0,47; RNM: M = 3,13; SD = 0,60). However, Slovenian principals have shown an overall statistically significant lower level of needs in this area (M = 2,68; SD = 0,52). Nevertheless, there are no statistically significant differences in principals’ overall needs according to educational level in all three participating countries. More specifically, principals from all three participating countries reported a high need for preparing school staff to respond to students’ diversity, whereas the needs of becoming aware of principal’s own beliefs and raising principal’s own awareness about diversity were among the lowest expressed needs in all three countries. The present study was intended as a preliminary one and, therefore it was limited by the use of a convenience sample of principals. The questionnaire was mainly based on the self-assessment of needs, which covered set areas of inclusive school culture. To gain more objective data and more in-depth information, observation of principals’ practices could be implemented, besides the self-assessment measure. To conclude, several researchers (Cordingley et al., 2015; Knowles, 1973) claim, that the most effective professional development activities are based on the principals’ experiences and needs and related to the context in which participants work. Therefore, analysis of the professional development needs, before designing the professional development activities, should become a norm. Future research could include a larger number of principals from different European countries, allowing us to provide an overview of the professional development needs in this field on the European level, and thus providing groundwork knowledge for outlining future projects and studies, professional development programmes and their implementation.
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