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Learning schools in Sweden – principals understanding of on-going school improvement in an era of accountability
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education. (SITE)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1157-7932
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education. (SITE)
2014 (English)In: Teachers Matter - But how?, 2014Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Learning schools in Sweden – principals understanding of on-going school improvement in an era of accountability

Over the last two decades there has been a general transnational policy trend towards major emphasis on learning outcomes. In Sweden – like in many other countries – there is an on-going discussion about pupils’ academic achievement, not to mention due to Swedish pupils’ low results in different international knowledge comparisons (cf. Ball et al., 2012; Grek, 2009). The Education Act of 2010 is part of a top-to-bottom curriculum reform in Sweden, which has put further pressure on municipalities and schools to implement new syllabuses, clearer goals and knowledge demands and a new grading system. At the same time there are still high expectations and demands on performance improvements and school-based development work. So what does it mean working with local school-development under such an external pressure?

The starting point for this paper is an on-going three-year research project in six Swedish compulsory schools with the general purpose of exploring and developing theoretical, methodological and practical knowledge for school improvement. The purpose is to explore how local school actors (principals in this case) understand and handle the parallel process of, on the one hand, external pressure to improve students achievement and, on the other hand, the local school-based curriculum development. In the light of such a tension, what are the principals understanding of:

                      - The selection of content areas for curriculum development?

                      - Principals own leadership and learning?

                      - The schools’ capital building, for school improvement?

The first theoretical starting point in this paper is a “classical” framework of curriculum theory (i.e. the frame-factor theory with its different levels of analysis – the societal/ideological level, the curriculum level and the teaching and classroom level, cf. Lundgren 1989). A second theoretical starting point used in this paper is theories about school actors’ and organizations’ learning (Schulman & Schulman, 2004; Resnick, 2010). The concept capital refers to individuals and organizations resources, in terms of skills and abilities, which can be used to act and make desirable changes. Schulman & Schulman (2004) distinguish between four different aspects of the capital concept: Moral, Curricula, Venture and Technical capital. These distinctions make it possible, in the analysis process, to study and better understand what forms of capital building emerge in schools and which capital building that seems to be the most important, and why?

 

Method

In order to explore and analyse the on-going school improvement process and changes after one year through principals’ understanding, different qualitative methods have been used. The most important sources are the qualitative group interviews with principals (n=13) at the end of the first year, but also sound recordings and field notes from eight planning meetings with the principals during the first year (from January to December 2013). Furthermore we have also analyzed planning documents from the schools showing local goals, school-based activities and evaluation plans.

Expected Outcomes

The following aspects of the result will be discussed:

-          Principals’ autonomy in relation to the local authority: a paradox?

-          Principals’ learning – an unexpected result from the local school improvement work.

-          The schools’ strategies focused, in the first hand, on the curriculum and technical capital building. How can this be understood in the light of an increased trend of accountability?

-           Schools’ selection of content – accountability dependent but also challenged by local curriculum development.

(some important) References

Ball, Stephen, Maguire, Meg & Braun Annette (2012). How Schools du Policy. Policy enactments in secondary schools. London and New York: Routledge.

Fullan, Michael (2001). The new meaning of educational change. 3. ed. New York: Teachers College Press.

Grek, Sotiria (2009). Governings by numbers: the PISA effect in Europe. Journal of education policy, 24(1), pp. 23-37.

Hargreaves, Andy & Fullan, Michael (2012). Professional capital: transforming teaching in every school. New York: Routledge.

Lundgren, Ulf P. (1989). Att organisera omvärlden: en introduktion till läroplansteori. 2. [dvs 4.] uppl. [Organizing the Surrounding World: Introduction to Curriculum Theory; in Swedish] Stockholm: Utbildningsförl.

Resnick, Lauren (2010). Nested Learning for the Thinking Curriculum. Educational Researcher. Vol 39 no. 3, pp. 183- 197. 

Schulman, Lee S & Schulman Judith  (2004). How and what teachers lean: a shiftning perspective. Journal of curriculum studies, vol 36, no 2, 257-271.

Stoll, Louise (2009). Capacity building for school improvement or creating capacity for learning? A changing landscape. Journal of Educational Change. 10:115–127.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-38849OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-38849DiVA: diva2:777445
Conference
Teachers Matter - But how? Linnaeus University Teleborgs Slott Växjö, Sweden, October 23-24, 2014.
Available from: 2015-01-08 Created: 2015-01-08 Last updated: 2017-02-16Bibliographically approved

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