Making sense across levels in local school governance
Dialogue meetings between a superintendent and subordinated school leaders
Dialogues and relations between interdependent leaders working at different hierarchical levels within a given school governance system are crucial for developing shared understandings which are seen as a prerequisite for effective school development. Shared understandings among interdependent actors emerge from productive and dialogical sensemaking processes. The current study provides insight into how sensemaking plays out in dialogue meetings set up by a school superintendent and a team of subordinated school leaders, initiated at the purpose of establishing and maintaining a shared interpretation community working with important areas of pedagogy and schooling. Drawing on action research with observations, reflective conversations, and reflection notes from five key participants in the local school system, and framed within a theory of sensemaking, this issue is addressed by demonstrating how dialogue meetings strengthen the relations between a superintendent and school leadership teams. In such a context of asymmetrical power relations, the current study argues that sensemaking constitutes the pivotal activity in dialogue meetings when ensuring productive relations and bridging the gap between municipalities (as school districts) and schools. In the dialogue meetings subjected to the study, steps were taken towards shared understanding, and the involved leaders set the tone in this process by acting as role models, as facilitators of creating space for reflection.
Berg, P. J. (2015). Kommunal styring av skolen: En studie av styring som kommunikasjon i lys av Luhmanns systemteori. (Ph.d.), NTNU, Trondheim.
Bukve, O. (2009). Styringsdialog: Styring eller dialog? - Om vilkåra for samhandling ved fleirnivåstyring. Norsk Statsvitenskapelig Tidsskrift, 25(01).
Coe, R. (2009). School improvement: Reality and illusion. British Journal of Educational Studies, 57(4), 363–379. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8527.2009.00444.x
Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed.). Boston, Mass: Pearson.
Daft, R. L., & Weick, K. E. (2001). Toward a model of organizations as interpretation systems. In K. E. Weick (Ed.), Making Sense of the Organization (pp. 241–258). Oxford: Blackwell.
Datnow, A. (2002). Can we transplant educational reform, and does it last? Journal of Educational Change, 3(3–4), 215–239. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021221627854
Edwards-Groves, C., Grootenboer, P., & Ronnerman, K. (2016). Facilitating a culture of relational trust in school-based action research: Recognising the role of middle leaders. Educational Action Research, 24(3), 369–386. https://doi.org/10.1080/09650792.2015.1131175
Eikeland, O. (2006). The validity of action research: Validity in action research. In K. Aagaard Nielsen & L. Svensson (Eds.), Action and interactive research: Beyond practice and theory (pp. 193–240). Maastricht: Shaker.
Engeland, Ø., Langfeldt, G., & Roald, K. (2008). Kommunalt handlingsrom: Hvordan forholder norske kommuner seg til ansvarsstyring i skolen? In G. Langfeldt, E. Elstad, & S. Hopmann (Eds.), Ansvarlighet i skolen (pp. 178–203). Oslo: Cappelen akademisk forl.
Herr, K., & Anderson, G. L. (2005). Action research dissertation: A guide for students and faculty. thousand oaks, Calif: SAGE.
Hooghe, L., & Marks, G. (2010). Types of multi-level governance. In H. Enderlein, S. Wälti, & M. Zürn (Eds.), Handbook on Multi-level Governance. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781849809047.00007
Levin, M. (2012). Academic integrity in action research. Action Research, 10(2), 133–149. https://doi.org/10.1177/1476750312445034
Louis, K. S., Mayrowetz, D., Smiley, M., & Murphy, J. (2009). The role of sensemaking and trust in developing distributed leadership. In A. Harris (Ed.), Distributed leadership: Different perspectives. Studies in educational leadership (Vol. 7, pp. 157–179). Dordrecht: Springer Science. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9737-9_9
March, J. G., & Olsen, J. P. (1995). Democratic governance. New York: Free Press.
Ministry of Education and Research. (2008). Quality in school (Kvalitet i skolen). Oslo: Ministry of Education and Research.
Moos, L., Nihlfors, E., & Paulsen, J. M. (Eds.) (2016). Nordic superintendents: Agents in a broken chain: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-25106-6
Moos, L., Paulsen, J. M., Johansson, O., & Risku, M. (2016). Governmentality through translation and sense-making. In L. Moos, E. Nihlfors, & J. M. Paulsen (Eds.), Nordic superintendents: Agents in a broken chain (pp. 287–310): Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-25106-6_10
Morgan, G. (1997). Images of organization (New ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE.
Morgan, G. (1998). Images of organization (Executive ed.). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Nir, A. (Ed.) (2014). The educational superintendent between trust and regulation. An international perspective. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
Paulsen, J. M. (2014). Norwegian superintendents as mediators of change initiatives. Leadership & Policy in Schools, 13(4), 407–423. https://doi.org/10.1080/15700763.2014.945654
Paulsen, J. M., & Henriksen, Ø. H. (2017). Mediation, collaborative learning and trust in Norwegian school governing: Synthesis from a Nordic research project. Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education, 1(1), 68–84.
Paulsen, J. M., Nihlfors, E., Brinkkjær, U., & Risku, M. (2016). Superintendent leadership in hierarchy and network. In L. Moos, E. Nihlfors, & J. M. Paulsen (Eds.), Nordic superintendents: Agents in a broken chain (pp. 207–231): Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-25106-6_7
Roald, K. (2010). Kvalitetsvurdering som organisasjonslæring mellom skole og skoleeigar. (Ph.d.), University of Bergen, Bergen.
Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.
Seibert, K. W., & Daudelin, M. W. (1999). Role of reflection in managerial learning: Theory, research & practice. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Swaffield, S. (2008). Critical friendship, dialogue and learning, in the context of Leadership for Learning. School Leadership & Management, 28(4), 323–336. https://doi.org/10.1080/13632430802292191
Weick, K. E. (2001). Making sense of the organization. Oxford: Blackwell.
Weick, K. E., Sutcliffe, K. M., & Obstfeld, D. (2005). Organizing and the process of sensemaking. Organization Science, 16(4), 409–421. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.1050.0133
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2018 Øyvind Henriksen
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Declaration on copyright
- The author/s will keep their copyright and right of reproduction of their own manuscript, with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License, but give the journal a permanent right to 1) present the manuscript to the public in the original form in which it was digitally published and 2) to be registered and cited as the first publication of the manuscript.
- The author itself must manage its financial reproduction rights in relation to any third-parties.
- The journal does not provide any financial or other remuneration for contributions submitted.
- Readers of the journal may print the manuscripts presented under the same conditions that apply to reproduction of a physical copy. This means that mass reproduction of physical copies or production of copies for commercial purposes is not permitted without the agreement of the author/s.