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The voices of educational leadership. Investigations of the pedagogical thinking of school leaders in higher education: Presentation

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  • Lea Lund

School leaders have a significant role to play in schools as professional learning communities (Albrechtsen, 2015; Qvortrup, 2016; Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace & Thomas, 2006). This has been underlined by Erling L. Dale in his notion of the whole school as an organisation which is educationally rational (1998) or didaktisk rationel in Danish (Dale, 1999). And the latest Danish high-school reform requires school leaders to focus more on the core task of schools: teaching (Aftale om styrkede gymnasiale uddannelser, 2016). Evaluations in relation to Denmark show that school leaders have a central role in developing the quality of education, as well as strengthening local education leadership focusing primarily on feedback between teachers and managers (the TALIS report from: EVA, 2013, and EVA, 2015). The role of school leaders involves not only implementing rules for working hours, making financial adjustments and planning administrative tasks. There is also a need to develop educational leadership in schools, in particular with a view to narrowing the gap between the management and staff. This is a pedagogical theme that is also presented by Uljens and Ylimaki (2018): the idea of building a bridge between educational management and the curriculum studies and the German Didaktik tradition. The paper draws on data from Danish high-school leaders. This data is derived partly from an ongoing Danish development and research project called KLEO1 at five different schools and four different youth education programmes in the Central Jutland region, and partly from a model school project called FPL2 at three different youth education programmes and 16 different schools all over Denmark. Both projects focus on developing the role of educational management and ensuring closer links to the educational practice of teachers by working on the development of a common pedagogical and educational vocabulary shared by teachers and school leaders alike (Lund, 2017a).

The aim of the paper

This paper is a work in progress. The aim is to investigate the pedagogical thinking of school leaders in higher education and their perceived role within education. The paper presents and discusses preliminary considerations regarding the ability to analyse the educational thinking of educational leaders in the light of the Scandinavian and German Didaktik tradition and the Anglo-Saxon curriculum tradition. The aim is to discuss how we can develop methodological and analytical approaches – relating to empirical studies – within the field of curriculum studies and Didaktik by scrutinising the pedagogical and educational vocabulary of school leaders. In short, the research working question is: How can we investigate educational leadership methodologically and theoretically?

The theoretical framework

With regard to the background of the paper, I am interested in finding out how school leaders perceive their pedagogical role within education. For instance, do they follow a specific educational path such as striving to develop a learning community in a critical/emancipatory way, or a hermeneutic or instrumental path? Or is the thinking of school leaders aligned with research on teachers’ thinking showing that the teachers’ own belief systems direct their actions? (Relating to research on teachers' thinking: Buehl, 2009; Carlgren, Handal,
& Vaage, 1994; Elbaz, 1983; Kagan, 1992; Lund, 2017b; Richardson, 1996).

The theoretical framework is grounded in a matrix consisting of three levels relating to the school as an organisation (A, B, C) and four perspectives relating to the substance of the pedagogical vocabulary. I analyse which one of the three organisational levels is in focus when school leaders talk about their role in educational leadership: A) the organisation in society (between education and society); B) the organisation as a whole; and C) the interpersonal level in the organisation. And besides the three levels, the data is analysed from four perspectives
in which I categorise the vocabulary of school leaders relating their role to the following four perspectives on pedagogy and teaching: I) a curriculum focus, II) a critical/emancipatory approach, III) a hermeneutic approach, and IV) a technical approach aligned with the idea of teachers as evidence-based practitioners.

Udgivelsesår17 jan. 2019
Antal sider2
StatusUdgivet - 17 jan. 2019
BegivenhedDidactics and curriculum in complicated dialogue - SDU, Odense, Danmark
Varighed: 17 jan. 201918 jan. 2019


KonferenceDidactics and curriculum in complicated dialogue


  • Didactics and curriculum, educational leadership, school leaders in higher education

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