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Public Defence: Eivind Larsen

Master Eivind Larsen at the Department of Teacher Education and School Research will defend his doctoral dissertation "Leading Education for Democracy in an Age of Accountability." for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor.

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Click here to attend the trial lecture and public defence via Zoom

Trial lecture - time and place

"Comparing social work and education, is there a difference between these areas in democratic accountability and in the tensions between democratic accountability and performativity?"

25th of March, 2022. 10 am, Aud 3. Helga Engs hus

Adjudication committee

  • 1st opponent Professor Philip Woods, University of Hertfordshire, UK
  • 2nd opponent Professor Olof Johansson, Umeå University, Sweden
  • Committee Chair Associate Professor Hedvig Abrahamsen, University of Oslo

Chair of defence

Professor Eli Ottesen, University of Oslo



This PhD project investigated what leading education for democracy looks like in an age of accountability. The thesis reports on what I have coined the LED (Leading Education for Democracy) project. Focus was placed on how policy expectations of education for democracy in the wake of a national education reform are interpreted and translated by educational leaders in Norway.

While current international research has investigated what it means to be a democratic professional in high-stakes accountability contexts in addition to researching educational leaders’ democratic practices, less is known about how education policy for democracy is interpreted, translated, and legitimized in low-stakes accountability systems such as that in Norway.

The LED project demonstrated that there is a need to understand that educational leadership at the school level is embedded in wider structures of power, and hence the first sub-study reports on how professionalism and the democratic mandate in education are constructed and legitimized in key education policy documents. Moreover, the LED project revealed how democratic policy directives are interpreted, translated, and legitimized in low-stakes accountability systems. Accordingly, the LED project examined what characterizes professional discretion and professionals’ stories of policy enactment (the second sub-study) as well as how teachers perceive the democratic character of their schools (the third sub-study). In this regard, I use the term “democratic enactment” to capture the idea and process behind the professionals’ interpretations and translations of the democratic mandate that is expected of them at the policy level (part of the institutional primary task).

The LED project contributed theoretically by blending the three perspectives on democratic leadership, professionalism, and educational accountability and arguing that they are integrally linked. Also, the project provided an empirical contribution to the current body of literature by demonstrating how democratic enactment of an institutional primary task plays out in a low-stakes accountability system.

The findings contrast with approaches to democracy in high-stakes contexts such as Chile and England. Democratic enactment suggests the existence of a viable alternative to leading education for democracy compared to the use of governance instruments aimed at reducing learning gaps in basic skills between groups of students in high[1]stakes systems of accountability. Specifically, the LED project points to the importance of democratic enactment as a process whereby educational professionals are given VIII leeway in interpreting and translating policy expectations by engaging meaning making of the democratic purpose by internalizing codes of ethics while showing awareness of the wider power structures in which schools are embedded.

Published Mar. 11, 2022 1:57 PM - Last modified Mar. 24, 2022 10:53 AM