26 SES 06 A, School Leadership in a Digital Era
This paper presents a study aimed at understanding two school policy artifacts as part of a digitalized school leadership practice. A digitalized practice that today focus on the digital knowledge, skills and values of school leaders in particular (see e.g. Dexter, 2008;2018 for research on school leaders’ role for digitalized school practice, and Kampylis, Punie and Devine, 2015 for European policy). A practice, moreover, where educational policy makers today come in close contact with these individuals through digital school policy artifacts that suggest which actions to take in school practice.
Both artifacts in focus are online self-assessment questionnaires. One is authored by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), the other is authored by the European Commission (EC). Both artifacts are by these authors proposed to have a similar purpose: to support school leaders’ actions to digitalize their schools. Leaving the question whether ‘implementing’ digitalization in schools is appropriate or not to the side, our aim is to deepen educational research’s theoretical understanding of these policy artifacts. Specifically focusing on how they work as policy artifacts, and how they translate into digital competence and may work through the people that use them.
The approach we take to deepening the theoretical understanding, is to analyze possible policy translations, following Freeman and Sturdy’s (2014) policy embodiment, inscription and enactment framework and two different perspectives on leadership in schools. Freeman and Sturdy argue for a comprehensive approach to knowledge in policy, that builds on a few central assumptions that we share. The first is that that policy making today is influenced by governance processes (e.g. Kooiman, 2003): processes that take on horizontal aspects of policy movement between countries, between institutions, and between actors. Governance is often portrayed in contrast to vertical, top-down governing processes. Thus, governance in educational policy making can, for example, be framed in terms of large European policy actors influencing national educational policy (e.g. Grek et al., 2009) in contrast to one nation governing its own educational policy without influence from the surrounding environment.
The second assumption is that policy is concretely material, inscribed in material objects and bodies (Freeman and Sturdy, 2014). Depending on the materials, policy making naturally takes on different affordances and constraints. Today, of course, when our material world is increasingly digital, policy making is taking place increasingly in digital practice, inscribed in digital information technologies. Digital technologies can for example afford educational policy making to increasingly draw on real-time big data generated from people using digital policy artifacts (e.g. Williamson, 2016). Conversely, the technologies may also constrain action for supposed 'receivers’ of educational policy, such as school leaders in schools taking action based on ‘supportive’ digital policy artifacts.
The third is that knowledge in ‘policy in general’ is a process taking place in practice and can be framed in terms of practical knowledge. Through this perspective, knowledge in policy making is a very human process, operating on the same practical terms as people do and not as some universal epistemic truths. Freeman and Sturdy thus frame ‘policy in general’ as a knowledge process, where knowledge in policy is translated and thus transformed when it goes through phases of being embodied in people, becoming inscribed in policy artifacts, and is enacted by people taking action in complex practice.
This paper focuses the analysis on the creation of the questionnaires as described by the policy actors in documentation, and the statements included in the questionnaire items as they are made available to school leaders online. These documents and items constitute the study's data. The theoretical framing used in the analysis is Freeman and Sturdy (2014) to make visible the translation processes, as well as two different perspectives on school leadership practice. One perspective is role focused, where school leadership practice is described in terms of what successful school leaders do (Leithwood and Riehl, 2003). The other perspective is community focused, where school leadership practice is described in terms of the distributed leadership properties within the distribution of labor in schools (Gronn, 2000). By utilizing these two different perspectives, we will pursue a deeper theoretical understanding on the translation that school leaders may make when taking steps to digitalize their schools by use of the policy artifacts. The reasoning being that it seems reasonable that the artifacts can be translated as both individual leadership (role) and distributed leadership (community), depending on the person doing the translation and the practice where the person works. These different translations will lead to different actions taken. Documents and questionnaire items are analysed qualitatively using the computer program NVivo 12, where categories from Leithwood and Riehl (2003) and Gronn (2000) are used to systematically analyse the policy artifacts. Moreover, Freeman and Sturyd's (2014) description of the translation process is used to frame the artifacts as part of a knowledge process in the digitalized school leadership practice.
Our initial assumption is that to be an ‘adequately digitally competent school leader’ using these artifacts to digitalize school practice, one or the other perspective will weigh more heavily. Moreover, that translating digital competence as it is meant by policy actors ‘in the artifacts’, weighs more heavily into supplying digital technologies over either perspective’s broader assumptions about leadership in school practice. Our two-fold analysis is expected to bring a deeper understanding of digitalized school leadership practice where national and European policy actors are one important influence. There is a concrete need for both educational research and educational practice to go beyond the description found on the websites where they are labeled as supportive tools. This is a significant contribution not currently found in research on the digitalization of schools. We also expect that implications for educational research and practice relative to digital competence for school leaders will be found.
Dexter, S. (2008). Leadership for IT in schools. In International handbook of information technology in primary and secondary education (pp. 543-554). Springer, Boston, MA. Dexter, S. (2018). The role of leadership for information technology in education: Systems of practices. Second handbook of information technology in primary and secondary education, 483-498. Freeman, R., & Sturdy, S. (Eds.). (2014). Knowledge in policy: Embodied, inscribed, enacted. Bristol, UK: Policy Press. Grek, S., Lawn, M., Lingard, B., Ozga, J., Rinne, R., Segerholm, C., & Simola, H. (2009). National policy brokering and the construction of the European Education Space in England, Sweden, Finland and Scotland. Comparative Education, 45(1), 5-21. Gronn, P. (2000). Distributed properties: A new architecture for leadership. Educational management & administration, 28(3), 317-338.Kooiman, J. (2003). Governing as governance. London: Sage. Kooiman, J. (2003). Governing as governance. Sage. Leithwood, K. A., & Riehl, C. (2003). What we know about successful school leadership. Williamson, B. (2016). Digital education governance: data visualization, predictive analytics, and ‘real-time’policy instruments. Journal of Education Policy, 31(2), 123-141.
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