Master Hedvig Neerland Abrahamsen
Title of dissertation:
School Leadership as Educational Discourses in an Age of Increased Accountability.
This thesis contributes to the field of educational leadership, and has the following research question: What characterises the interplay between national policy constructions of school leadership in a context of increased external accountability, and local sensemaking of leadership roles and practices at school level?
The article-based thesis has a qualitative research design, and includes three articles and an extended abstract. The thesis draws on empirical data comprising white papers, participant observations of leadership team meetings, individual interviews and focus group interviews.
Findings from the thesis show that constructions of school leadership at the national policy level are characterised by tensions between an individualised and a distributed perspective on school leadership, and have led to the reorganisation of school leadership in many local communities by the local education authorities (LEA). This is linked to a reform agenda characterised by demands for hands-on instructional leadership and increased accountability. In this process principals function as coupling agents between national policy reform and local schools, and the reorganised deputy head role can be characterised as being in the middle, between autonomy and control. The thesis shows that the interplay between national policy and local sensemaking on school leadership is constituted in similar structural designs but with different interpretations in the investigated local communities. This can create tensions when developing school leader roles and practices.
The present thesis highlights the need to integrate perspectives on school leadership between local policy and school leaders as professionals. Further, the professional training of school leaders who are to lead and participate in school leadership teams should include a focus on developing the ability to reflect on practice. Third, as the deputy head management role is changing from an administrative towards a leader-of-learning role, this should be given attention in school leader education programmes. Finally, LEA should provide arenas within, and across local communities which can give school leaders room and space for reflections on the development of their new role.