Research in the area of systematic quality work, leadership, management within the preschool are limited (Lager, 2015). This study focuses on elucidating and understanding how the leadership structure and process for the systematic quality work in preschools are managed and distributed from a school improvement perspective. Development, improvement and quality are concepts that permeate the education system both in Sweden and in many other countries. Preschools and schools in Sweden are today valued as a competitive factor in the market-oriented, knowledge-based economy where children and parents are seen as customers (Elfström, 2013; Carlbaum, Hult, Lindgren, Novak, Rönnberg & Segerholm, 2014). The concept of quality has been introduced on a broad front in educational policy and creating historically alien to preschool as quality assurance, systematic quality assurance and quality indicators. Even if the quality concept in itself is not new for the preschool, it is today loaded with other values. Quality in preschool is a controversial term and is seen as a concept of multifaceted meaning and content (Brodin & Renblad, 2014). In the late 80s, the debate on quality in preschool started. Mainly the talk was about the more structural issues, such as finance, and organizational factors, such as how large groups of children it could be in relation to staff (Kärrby, 2001). The view of what quality in education is, and must be, has changed. The concept of quality is a frequently used term, today, in policy texts and concepts are combined with many other words in education contexts, such as quality assurance, quality control, quality assurance, quality management, quality assessment, quality improvement, quality control and quality measures (Bergh, 2010; Segerholm, 2012).
The preschool in Sweden is since 2010 a part of the whole education system with goals to reach. The preschool is now closer to the rest of the educational system, in terms of laws and regulations (Folke-Fichtelius, 2008). In the revised curriculum (2011) for the preschool in Sweden, new goals have been formulated, a new section on evaluation and development are described, and responsibilities for the head of the preschool and the preschool teachers are formulated. The systematic quality work is compulsory both in the preschool curriculum and school law. The head of the preschool has a responsibility to systematically and continuously plan, follow up, evaluate and develop education (2010: 800) at the school level. The head of the preschool has overall responsibility for the systematic quality work and the preschool teachers have a special responsibility to work with the systematic quality work at activity level.
To sum up, research in this area is limited. Mainly, research deals with work on pedagogical documentation in the field of systematic quality. Research on leadership in preschool in Sweden only consists of a few articles and book chapters. In preschool research, the focus is on quality assurance and if quality could be measured or not, in a subjective and objective discussion (Sheridan, 2009). Very seldom the focus are in the burgeoning field of school improvement, development or change. Therefore, it is of interest to study the preschool and their systematic quality work in the light of the concept of capacity building and school improvement.
The aim of this study is to elucidate and understand how the structure and process of the systematic quality work in preschools are managed and distributed from a school improvement perspective.
The methodology used is a case study design and the case is leadership structure that is, how its management and distributed in the systematic quality work and the example is two preschools. The collected data consists of individual interviews with the head of the preschool, pedagogical developer and observations of meetings when the work with the systematic quality is discussed between the head of the preschool, pedagogical developer and preschool teachers. The material will be analysed within a framework of research in the area of school improvement (Harris, 2002; Mitchell, C. & Sackney, L. 201; Hopkins, 1996), distributed leadership (Leithwood, Mascall, & Strauss (Eds.). (2009) and capacity building (Harris, 2001; Stringer, 2013) and in contrast to the concept of quality in preschool activity (Lenz Taguchi, 2012, Vallberg Roth, 2014; Dahlberg, Moss & Pence; 2001; Sheridan, Williams & Sandberg, 2013). The case study is suitable in this study since the empirical material and research question aims to investigate a phenomenon where the boundary between the phenomenon and the contextual factors and conditions of the phenomenon is not clear (Yin, 1994). The study is seeking a deeper knowledge of events in the present, focusing on the how questions and the causal relationship to what happens and seeking knowledge of the specific, not to strive to generalize the results (Stake, 1995). A holistic case design is used though the survey unit is studied from a more global perspective than from embedded units that are the analyses is on the organization level and not at an individual level. Benefits according to Yin (1994, p.41) is: "The holistic design is advantageous when no logical subunits can be identified and when the relevant theory underlying the case study is itself of holistic nature."
There are some preliminary tendencies, but it is still research in progress and the analysis of the empirical data is still ongoing. I hope to give a more complete picture in the paper at the conference.
Intent of publication
The purpose of the paper is that after the conferences valuable feedback rewrite the paper to an article for publication.
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