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Moving Beyond Internal Affairs: Making Sense of Principals' Leadership Practices in Collaboration for School Improvement
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Education. (Forskargruppen för Utbildningsledarskap och skolutveckling)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3481-1648
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The thesis takes its point of departure from the recent interest in collaboration and networking as major school improvement strategies and the school leader’s crucial role in these processes. Educational research indicates that if schools are to meet future demands, then leadership must rest on trust within the organisation and a principal’s leadership must be understood in the frame of professional collaboration and social learning. The aim of this thesis is to, from an institutional perspective, deepen the understanding of regulative, normative, and cultural‐cognitive aspects of school leaders’ practices in collaboration beyond school at the local school level.

The research undertaken in this thesis is a part of a larger research and school improvement project. This longitudinal study draws on data from a qualitative case study of three schools conducted over three years. Qualitative data including semistructured interviews, a part of a questionnaire to participating teachers with open‐response questions, and observations were used. Additional contextual data, such as field notes, document analysis, and project meeting notes were also used. The theoretical framework is based on institutional perspectives on organisations and sense‐making theory, used to provide an understanding of how principals and teachers make sense of principal leadership practices.

This thesis builds on four separate papers (I‐IV) with their own aims and research questions but with the common goal of providing answers to the overall aim and research questions of the study. The four papers are complemented by this introductory part that ties them all together. Paper I, “Internationalization as an internal capacity builder for school improvement: a case study”, examines if and how the work with internationalization can build internal capacities for school improvement, but also examines the meaning of a principal’s leadership in relation to the work with professional collaboration and social learning. Paper II, “Collaboration With Private Companies as a Vehicle for School Improvement ‐ Principals’ Experience and Sense‐Making,” elaborates on principals’ experiences and sense‐making of a school collaboration with private companies from the local community of the school, focussing on leadership and school improvement. Paper III, “Making Sense of External Partnerships: Principals’ Experiences of School‐University Collaborations,” examine principals’ sense‐making of a school–university collaboration. Paper IV, “Teachers Making Sense of Principals’ Leadership in Collaboration Beyond School,” aims to create a deeper understanding of collaborations beyond the school with a focus on principals’ leadership and of how such processes reshape regulative, normative, and cultural‐cognitive aspects (Scott, 2008). The role of the formal leader is addressed in all four papers.

Finally, the findings show that the principals have had the possibility to build professional capacity in their schools, create a supportive organization for learning, and connect with different external partners as a result of these beyond‐school collaborations. The different actors in the beyond‐school collaborations also became a part of the schools’ overall distributed leadership practices. The findings show that beyond‐school collaboration influences and affects the normative and cultural‐cognitive aspects that exist in the participating school to some extent. The development of collective commitments to guide collaboration, engagement in collaborative work, an increase in shared responsibility for work, and the fostering of learning‐oriented collaboration and research‐based knowledge construction are examples of norms and values that seem to have started to move during the various beyond‐school collaborations. From the cultural‐cognitive aspect, the study shows that aspects of this dimension appear more or less in the schools. The principals have interpreted and made sense of the value of beyond school collaboration in different ways. The cultural‐cognitive aspect also seems to affect the teachers somewhat, where they make sense of the importance of the formal leader in beyond‐school collaboration. They also emphasise the importance of having a pedagogical leader. The findings showed that there were challenges that became visible in the various beyond‐school collaborations. However, being aware of the challenges and broadening professional learning communities through collaboration that goes beyond school all in all seem to support the principals in their leadership practices at the local school level and also support development in a school’s practices.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sundsvall: Mid Sweden University , 2019. , p. 106
Series
Mid Sweden University doctoral thesis, ISSN 1652-893X ; 304
Keywords [en]
beyond‐school collaboration; collaboration; leadership; leadership practices; organisation; principal; principal leadership; school leader; teacher.
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-37156ISBN: 978-91-88947-17-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-37156DiVA, id: diva2:1349418
Public defence
2019-10-18, E409, Sidsjövägen 5, Sundsvall, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Vid tidpunkten för disputationen var följande delarbeten opublicerade: delarbete 3 (inskickat), delarbete 4 (inskickat).

At the time of the doctoral defence the following papers were unpublished: paper 3 (submitted), paper 4 (submitted).

Available from: 2019-09-09 Created: 2019-09-09 Last updated: 2019-09-09Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Internationalization as an internal capacity builder for school improvement: a case study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Internationalization as an internal capacity builder for school improvement: a case study
2019 (English)In: International Journal of Leadership in Education, ISSN 1360-3124, E-ISSN 1464-5092Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

This article presents findings from a case study that examined how internationalization at one Swedish upper secondary school could be understood in relation to building internal capacities for school improvement. This article used a case study methodology in which aspects of capacity building, and internal capacities constituted the theoretical point of departure. Data consisted of interviews with the principal and teachers, observations, and field notes. The article argues that internationalization at the upper secondary school supported capacity building, and it is evident that internationalization is an internal capacity. It is also apparent that the principal’s leadership is distributed and vital to the school’s success in terms of internationalization and school improvement. Above all, internationalization serves not only as an external form of collaboration but also as an internal capacity at the school for leadership, professional development, and internal collaboration. It is evident that these internal capacities are intertwined. 

Keywords
leadership, school improvement, internationalization, capacity building, internal capacities
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-36150 (URN)10.1080/13603124.2019.1591511 (DOI)
Available from: 2019-05-17 Created: 2019-05-17 Last updated: 2019-09-09Bibliographically approved
2. Collaboration with private companies as a vehicle for school improvement: Principals’ experiences and sensemaking
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Collaboration with private companies as a vehicle for school improvement: Principals’ experiences and sensemaking
2019 (English)In: Journal of Professional Capital and Community, ISSN 2056-9548, E-ISSN 2056-9556, Vol. 4, no 1, p. 15-35Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine principals’ experience and sensemaking of collaboration with private companies, focussing on leadership and school improvement.Design/methodology/approach – This paper is set against the backdrop of a project where three public Swedish schools collaborated with private companies within their communities. Data were collected over three years and consisted of semi-structured interviews, meeting notes, field observations, field notes and document analysis. A qualitative content analysis was performed using the Atlas.ti 6.2 software tool.Findings – The study shows that important sensemaking for the principals in this collaboration between schools and private companies is related to the sense of collective responsibility and involvement, development of improvement culture and trust between key actors, and common improvement initiatives based on mutual interest. Challenges in the collaboration are related to principal changes, a lack of implementation of the collaboration, and that there was no clear vision of external collaboration in two out of three schools. In terms of possibilities, the collaboration was based on the needs of the school, a collaborative culture was developed, and the development/activities were undertaken between involved schools and private companies during the collaboration.

Research limitations/implications – Inevitably, there are limitations that need to be identified and recognised in this study. First, the small number of cases in this multiple case study, as well as the specific social context, limits the possibility of generalising the findings. Second, the study was not independently selected, and the findings and analyses are linked to national and local contexts, which can be seen as a limitation and strength. Notwithstanding, this study contributes with in-depth information about how a beyond-school collaboration with private companies is practised as well as how involved principals made sense of the collaboration from the perspective of school improvement.

Originality/value – The originality is the collaboration between schools and private companies. The paper contributes with new knowledge about how principals experience and make sense of this collaboration as a vehicle for school improvement.

Keywords
School improvement, Beyond-school collaboration, Broadening professional communities, Principals’ sensemaking, Professional collaboration, School–business partnerships
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-35051 (URN)10.1108/JPCC-03-2018-0013 (DOI)000455091600002 ()2-s2.0-85064197982 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2018-12-05 Created: 2018-12-05 Last updated: 2019-09-09Bibliographically approved
3. Making sense of external partnerships: Principals’ experiences of school–university collaborations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Making sense of external partnerships: Principals’ experiences of school–university collaborations
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-37170 (URN)
Available from: 2019-09-09 Created: 2019-09-09 Last updated: 2019-09-09Bibliographically approved
4. Teachers making sense of principals’ leadership in collaboration beyond school
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Teachers making sense of principals’ leadership in collaboration beyond school
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-37171 (URN)
Available from: 2019-09-09 Created: 2019-09-09 Last updated: 2019-09-09Bibliographically approved

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