Making Sense of Assignment

On the Complexity of Being a School Leader


  • Sören Augustinsson Kristianstad University
  • Ulf Ericsson Kristianstad University
  • Henrik Nilsson Linneus University



Assignment, complexity theory, practice-based and process research, technocratic homogenization


The primary aim of this paper is to narrow down the description of how school leaders interpret the assign-ment (the task) and identify the markers for how they look upon the conditions of doing a good job in Sweden. The aim is in the context of practice-based and process-oriented research. We use complexity and complexity theories to frame the emerging practice of leading and organizing. This is in contrast to techno-cratic homogenization—that is, law texts, steering documents, documentation, standardized methods, plan-ning, and ceremonies. A questionnaire was conducted with three open questions (n=363 out of a possible 548 participants) and four focus groups (n=21). Complexity, dilemmas, and inconsistency emerge in the respondents’ answers the closer they are to everyday action. The results show that complexity theories put focus on a conflict between the image of schools as complicated and complex. Complicated is accompanied by generalizing and weak contextualizing of control systems, standardized methods, planning, law texts, and evidence-based education—that is, the concept of technocratic homogenization. Complexity theories emphasize the life in organizations, everyday practice as leaders, and a conflict between weak and robust contextualizing from the perspective as practice-based and process-oriented research.


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Author Biographies

Sören Augustinsson, Kristianstad University

Faculty of economy

Associate professor Human Work Science


Ulf Ericsson, Kristianstad University


Faculty of economy

Associate professor Human Work Science


Henrik Nilsson, Linneus University

Faculty of  social science

Senior Lecturer in Pedagogy


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How to Cite

Augustinsson, S., Ericsson, U., & Nilsson, H. (2018). Making Sense of Assignment: On the Complexity of Being a School Leader. Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education (NJCIE), 2(2-3), 149–164.