Master Ann Elisabeth Gunnulfsen
Micro Policy Making in Schools. Use of National Test Results in a Norwegian Context.
This thesis reports the results of the Norwegian Micro Policy Making (MPM) project, which aimed to investigate how and why lower secondary school professionals (school principals, senior leaders, and teachers) make use of national test results. The overarching research question is: How and why do school professionals in a Norwegian social democratic context make use of national test results?
The concept of “making use of” national test results is explained as school professionals’ construction of discourses regarding the central government’s demands for national testing policies; how they deal with the intentions of such policies, and how power and talk play into these policies. The MPM project is particularly concerned with policy makers’ increasing transnational emphasis on the relations between school quality and large-scale student assessment and how new modes of accountability influenced by new public management have entered the educational context of Norway, which has long been dominated by social democratic values.
This multiple-case study applied a mixed-methods approach to the empirical data from one municipality, which include 12 individual interviews with school principals and senior leaders from four schools, on-site observations, and informant-conducted video recordings of meetings of school principals and senior leaders and of teacher teams in two lower secondary schools. In addition, 176 lower secondary teachers were surveyed.
The empirical data are related to perspectives on micro policy making, including perspectives on micro policy enactment, actors, talk, and discursive roles as well as on the crafting of policy coherence. Among central contributions is the finding that the principal’s discursive role and facilitating practices as a formal leader seem to depend on the principal’s relationship with teachers. Moreover, local school context, perspectives on conforming practices, and symbolic responses to national testing policies are important findings, but also great trust in school professionals and internal responsibility for the core purpose of education are essential.
In summary, this study contributes new knowledge about micro policy making in schools in a social democratic educational context and how the power at play may take unpredictable and diverse forms both within and between schools.
The work was conducted at the Department of Teacher Education and School Research, University of Oslo.