Katarina Samuelsson

Collegiality in Context of Institutional Logics: A Conceptual Review


Abstract: This article presents an analysis and discussion of the conceptions of teacher collegiality in times of restructuring, where a shift in the governance of teachers’ work from bureaucratic to market principles can be identified. In addition, several actors from different cultural and social worlds want to contribute to education policy and school success, often through collegiality. Through a conceptual research review, a selection of articles on how teacher collegiality is assigned meaning in the context of different institutional logics is analysed. Different kinds of collegiality are presented, all of which have something to contribute to the understanding of teachers’ work; however, they imply different things. Such differences need to be clarified in order to improve the exchange of ideas, cooperation, and mutual understanding between actors in different cultural and social worlds. Researchers, actors, and experts in market-driven societies will thereby have a better chance to exchange ideas and actually understand each other.

Keywords: Teacher collegiality; teacher professionalism; educational restructuring; structuring principles

Improving schools through “collaborative practices” is currently on the agenda in supranational organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (Schleicher, 2015, p. 10). In educational research, this is also regarded as an important aspect for the development of school organizations and professional cultures of teaching (see, for example, McLaughlin & Talbert, 2006 or Clement & Vandenberghe, 2000). Improving teachers’ collaborative practices is thus currently highly valued in policy as well as in research.

At the same time, teachers’ work like the public sector, in general, has been subject to a shift in governance. Business-like ways of organizing and governing teachers’ work based on New Public Management (NPM) have been introduced including a notion that efficiency and international competitiveness will increase (Hudson, 2007; Lægreid & Christensen, 2007; Santiago, Carvalho, Amaral, & Meek, 2006). This market-like shift is highly visible in teachers’ everyday work, for instance in a new focus on competition (Frostenson, 2011; Lundahl, 2011; Lundström & Parding, 2011). According to Lundström and Rönnberg (2015), teachers’ work and their tasks have changed due to marketization, and according to Dovemark and Holm (2017, p. 45), this market-influenced governance forces teachers into competition and individualism instead of collaboration.

Here a clash in structuring principles appears. On the one hand, collaborative practices—or collegiality—are thought to be promoted by accountability policies (Jacobsen & Buch 2016), but, on the other hand, NPM can also be regarded as a threat to collegiality with increased competition and managerial control of the teaching profession (Dovemark & Holm, 2017; Evetts, 2009, p. 248). It thus seems that collegiality can be assigned different meanings in different settings. In this clash of structuring principles, I raise the issue of what meanings the concept of collegiality is assigned in the context of different management principles and what this implies for the understanding of teachers’ work and working conditions (Parding & Berg-Jansson, 2016). For my purpose, I use educational research literature and theories of institutional logics (Freidson, 2001). The article adds to research on teacher collegiality, professionalism, and teachers’ working conditions in the market-driven societies by analysing collegiality in an intellectual context through the institutional logics. This is of importance when different management principles appear simultaneously in teachers’ work in what Blomgren and Waks (2015) call “institutional crowdedness.”

Point of departure, purpose, and research questions

Teachers’ work is here regarded as socially and politically constructed (Goodson, 2003, p. 52). Teachers work in specific social, cultural, and organizational settings, and these pre-conditions limit what is possible to see and act upon (Freidson, 2001). Put with Hodkinson, Biesta, and James’ (2007, p. 418) words, “people are subject to structures even as they take agentic actions.” In accordance with, for instance, Bernstein (1996/2000, p. 3) and Lundgren (1984, p. 10), it is of importance to understand educational societal contexts. Here, referring to the notion of language games (Wittgenstein, 1953/1978), I study utterances or conceptions, arguing that they take on their meanings in different contexts understood as different structuring factors that are analysed through institutional logics (Freidson, 2001).

Since collegiality is a term used in different social worlds, I regard it as a boundary object.

[p]lastic enough to adapt to local needs and the constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across sites. They are weakly structured in common use and become strongly structured in individual site use. These objects may be abstract or concrete. They have different meanings in different social worlds, but their structure is common enough to more than one world to make them recognizable, a means of translation. (Star & Griesemer, 1989, p. 393)

Boundary objects can be used to understand the relation between science and society and how scientific cooperation between different groups is possible (Wisselgren, 2008, p. 104). They can also explain the possibility of “building bridges” between different social worlds, here seen as research, policy and teachers’ work, each of them wanting to contribute to school success from their perspective.

Purpose and research questions

Given the above-sketched focus on collegiality as a boundary object in different social worlds and the shift of governance in teachers’ work, the purpose of this study is to analyse and discuss conceptions of collegiality. Two research questions are posed:

  1. In terms of expectations and assumptions, how are the conceptions of collegiality assigned meaning in the context of different institutional logics?

  2. What do different notions of collegiality imply for the understanding of teachers’ work?

An additional purpose is to design and evaluate a highly transparent search method for finding educational research literature.

This study is of significance for two reasons. Firstly, it aligns with Kelchtermans who argues that “[a] proper evaluation of collaboration and collegiality, thus, cannot but treat them as organizationally embedded phenomena that can take different forms and therefore can have different values” (Kelchtermans, 2006, p. 225). I see the theory of institutional logics and this study as one way of defining these values.

Secondly, I turn to Sahlin & Waks (2008) who argue that the governance of schools is made up of “a complicated interaction of different actors, initiatives, interests, and ideas,” and therefore new descriptions are needed in order to see what happens and with what effects (Sahlin & Waks, 2008, p. 72, my translation). This is of particular importance in the market-driven societies where an economic organization such as the OECD has a major impact on education policy, politics of expertise according to Lindblad and Lundahl (2015, p. 15). Such arguments are important to analyse (see, for instance, Adamson, 2012; Coffield, 2012; Grek, 2009).

Previous research

According to Svensson (2011, p. 304, my translation), the term colleague means “a person you work with,” and collegiality in general means “unity, solidarity.” Thus, rather broad definitions. However, in both research and individual-site use, it assumes different positions. A few examples follow to illustrate this from the 1970s to the present.

In Lortie’s Schoolteacher (1975/2002, p. 70)—this text’s “ground zero” and seminal (but also heavily criticized) modern study on teachers’ work —teacher collegiality was connected to a lack of technical culture, and teachers were seen as professionally isolated. Thus, collegiality here entailed that a good colleague left his or her colleagues alone, as suggested by Little and McLaughlin (1993, p. 3).

From this notion of “individual collegiality,” most researchers seem to consider collegiality as more “cooperative,” consisting of communication and interaction (Mausethagen, 2013, p. 17) as a structure or as action and practice (Bennett, Woods, Wise, & Newton, 2007). Collegiality can also be regarded as highly contextualized and normative, a result of pursuing the “right” collaborative activities in a workplace (Kelchtermans 2006, p. 221). In general, collegiality includes a positive value (Clement & Vandenberghe, 2000, p. 81); however, see also Clement and Vandenberghe (2000), Little (1990) or Kelchtermans (2006) for a critical discussion. However, following Hargreaves (1994), Vangrieken, Dochy, Raes, and Kyndt (2015) highlight a problem with a loss of individual autonomy and independence replaced by increased contrived collegiality.

Research on teachers’ professional workhas been performed with a variety of different frameworks, giving the field a “lack of internal consistency and stability” (Lindblad, 2009, p. 212). Early sociological research on professions used to treat differences among occupational groups (e.g., Broman, 1995; Gieryn, 1983; Foss Lindblad & Lindblad, 2009) or, for example, professions’ functions in society (Parsons, 1939). This research did not include teachers as teaching was categorized as a semi-profession (Etzioni, 1969). Such early sociological research on professions was followed by a period of critique of professions and professional projects (Svensson & Evetts, 2010, p. 8). For instance, according to Foss Lindblad and Lindblad (2009, p. 7), the altruistic traits of professions were heavily questioned, and it was argued, on the contrary, that professions are characterized by self-interest. Later research on professionalism can be seen as a movement “toward models of professional organizations and knowledge claim” (Leicht & Fennell, 2008, p. 432). In these movements, the work of teachers is also included. Professionalism is discussed as a disciplinary mechanism (Fournier, 1999) or as a way of steering and organizing work (Evetts, 2009; Freidson, 2001). With a new kind of governance based on NPM, Evetts (2009) presents two distinct forms of professionalism: occupational professionalism, in which the occupation sets the rules and collegial authority is incorporated, and organizational professionalism, in which the “discourse of control, used increasingly by managers in work organizations” is dominant (Evetts, 2009, p. 248). Evetts (2009, p. 252) argues that as a rule, “NPM is working more to promote organizational professionalism and to further undermine occupational professionalism.” In this text, I will use “professionalism” in accordance with Freidson (2001) and Evetts (2009).

Governance of teachers’ work has changed from a focus on bureaucracy to more market-like principals in what can be called educational restructuring, a global movement, similar in many Western countries (Ball, 2008; Wiborg, 2013). In the Nordic countries restructuring in education has been similar; curriculum reforms combined with some kind of goal or outcome steering were carried out during the 1990s although with some national differences (Carlgren & Klette, 2008). Antikainen (2006) argues “equity, participation, and the welfare state have been known as the major socio-political attributions of the Nordic model” (Antikainen, 2006, p. 230). In various degrees, these ideals are now competing with market ideals or rather quasi-markets (as used by, for example, Lundahl, 2002), although the countries still maintain “a universal welfare state regime and a comprehensive education system” (Wiborg, 2013, p. 407). Many of these changes have been regarded as “inevitable” in order to make the respective systems better (Johannesson, Lindblad, & Simola, 2002). Nilsson Lindström and Beach (2015) argue that this decentralization and marketization bring about “significant changes in relation to education policy and the management and organization of teachers’ work” (Nilsson Lindström & Beach, 2015, p. 241).

In this shift of governance, teachers’ work is of interest not only to national policymakers—many actors want to contribute to improving education. One example is the OECD and their International Summit on the Teaching Profession. On their website, the summit’s high impact on teacher policy is highlighted (International Summit on the Teaching Profession, 2016).

The main issue emerging from this outline—when vague concepts are used in combination with new and even contrasting governance including many actors—is how concepts are used or rather assigned meaning in different contexts and how teachers’ professional work can be understood in relation to this.

Conceptual framework

To study the structuring principles for teacher collegiality, Freidson’s (2001) three ideal types of institutional logics—market, bureaucracy, and professionalism—will be used. Research on institutional logics is used in many different ways (e.g., Blomgren & Waks, 2015; Freidson, 2001; Thornton, Ocasio & Lounsbury, 2012; Scott, 2000). In this study, it is regarded a way of governing and organizing work, framing teachers’ ways of acting and points of reference (Thornton et al., 2012) and it provides a fixed model to compare and use as an analytic tool. The different logics are characterized by different sets of assumptions.

The logic of the market assumes that there are sellers and buyers who know the value of the goods on the market. For the “customers” to make well-informed choices, much information is required and provided. The idea is that in this way competitive prices and acceptable quality will follow (Freidson, 2001; Blomgren & Waks, 2015; Samuelsson & Lindblad, 2015).

In the logic of bureaucracy, the idea is that through transparency, stability, hierarchical structures, rules, and formal procedures a high degree of standardization will follow. This is often seen in the public sector (Freidson, 2001; Blomgren & Waks, 2015; Samuelsson & Lindblad, 2015), and is often legitimized as measures to implement parliamentary decisions.

Finally, in the logic of professionalism, the idea is that professional actors themselves rule their work with a high degree of autonomy. This is rooted in their long education and training, and their competence and experience are the basis for decisions (Freidson, 2001; Blomgren & Waks, 2015; Samuelsson & Lindblad, 2015).

The point of departure is that different structuring factors are based on different institutional logics—including material and symbolical parts, concrete structures as well as ideas (Blomgren & Waks, 2015)—and that these strategies, in turn, have implications for collegiality in teachers’ work.


A conceptual analysis of collegiality in educational research will generate insight into the field’s arguments that are of importance in understanding teachers’ professional lives. My approach is interpretative and deals with conceptual contributions in research publications, inspired by Lindblad, Pettersson, and Popkewitz (2015). Aligning with Gough, Oliver, and Thomas (2013), it is concerned with “a small number of detailed cases to develop an understanding of processes and mechanisms and meanings” (Gough, Oliver, & Thomas, 2013, p. 20).

I aimed for seminal research texts in the educational research literature in a systematic and transparent search. Different search engines proved to yield different results, so instead, I chose an alternative way, through well-recognized journals and within them the most cited articles according to a strict schedule. To find important academic journals in education, I used SCImago journal and country rank provided by Scopus. The schedule limited the journal search by focus: teachers’ work and education in general (see Appendix A1). After that, the first ten journals, based on their SCImago Journal Rank indicator (a measure of a journal’s impact, influence or prestige) were chosen, which turned out to be mainly with Anglo-Saxon origins (see Appendix A2).

In the next step, the most cited articles within the journals were found through the search terms teacher AND collegiality AND professionalism. Since Lortie (1975/2002) is seen here as a “ground zero” for collegiality, the first articles used were published after Schoolteacher in the 1980s, and the most recent articles used were published in 2016 (see Appendix A3).

All the articles found were thereafter sorted by respective decade 1980−2016 and ranked by the number of citations in Scopus.

Since this search was a bit “unorthodox,” there was a reason to question it. Hence, a parallel search with the same search terms was performed in Google Scholar. Based on this parallel search, the conclusion was that the original search with well-recognized journals and frequently cited articles worked well. Similar articles appeared in Google Scholar although a more active job in evaluating the texts was required on my part due to a higher mixture. Even so, this controlled search has important limitations; no books are included, seminal texts might be excluded, and it also may be contributing to the much-disputed focus on citation impacts. There is also a risk that the discussed research arguments found in the literature search are not the most significant ones. All this is acknowledged. However, there is also gain in finding interesting literature in a transparent way that is rigorously controlled, since it renders the search unbiased and easily replicated.


As a result of this search, a total of 185 articles were found between 1980 and 2016. Within each journal, the number of articles varied between 3 and 68. The mean for all the journals was five articles per year. The chronological distribution is presented in Figure 1 and shows that the number of published articles was low in the 1980s but increased in the 1990s.

Figure 1.

Mean number of articles on teacher and collegiality and professionalism in this paper’s selected journals

Number of articles: 1980-1989=1,5. 1990-1999=5, 2000-2009=7, 2010-2016=6,7

After an increase also in the early 2000s, the interest in teacher collegiality has remained relatively stable in these journals. The two most frequently cited articles within each year span used in this analysis are presented in Table 1.

Table 1a

Articles chosen for the analysis

Article Number

Year span

Author, year, and title

Journal and times cited



Little, W. J. (1982). “Norms of Collegiality and Experimentation: Workplace Conditions and School Success.”

American Educational Research Journal. Times cited: 369



Rosenholtz, S., Bassler, O., & Hoover-Dempsey, K. (1986). “Organizational conditions of teacher learning.”

Teaching and Teacher Education.

Times cited: 37



Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1999). “Relationships of Knowledge and Practice: Teacher Learning in Communities.”

Review of Research in Education. Times cited: 839



Louis, K., Marks, H. M., & Kruse, S. (1996). “Teachers’ Professional Community in Restructuring schools.”

American Educational Research Journal. Times cited: 307



Spillane, J. P., Reiser, B. J., & Reimer, T. (2002). “Policy Implementation and Cognition: reframing and refocusing implementation research.”

Review of Educational Research.

Times cited: 217



Lasky, S., (2005). “A sociocultural approach to understanding teacher identity, agency and professional vulnerability in a context of secondary school reform.”

Teaching and Teacher Education.

Times cited: 288



Zeichner, K. (2010). “Competition, economic rationalization, increased surveillance, and attacks on diversity: Neo-liberalism and the transformation of teacher education in the U.S.”

Teaching and Teacher Education.

Times cited: 82



Moolenaar, N. M., Daly, A. J., & Sleegers, P. J.C. (2010). “Occupying the Principal Position: Examining Relationships Between Transformational Leadership, Social Network Position, and Schools’ Innovative Climate.”

Educational Administration Quarterly. Times cited 68

These selected articles are frequently cited in all more than 2200 times and can be said to be widely disseminated. Each time span is represented by two journals (which was a result of the strict schedule). After this search, “Nordic” or “Scandinavian” was added in order to find articles within this geographic setting. In total eight new articles were found, but after scanning, only two remained.1 These are not as widely cited as the four articles mentioned above, neither are they as widely distributed in time as those above, they are all recent, published in the 2010s. However, they were published in highly recognized academic journals and add to the picture of the landscape of collegiality from a Nordic perspective in a transparent search, see Table 1b.

Table 1b

Nordic articles chosen for the analysis

Article Number

Year span

Author, year, and title

Journal and times cited



Mausethagen, S. (2013). “A research review of the impact of accountability policies on teachers’ workplace relations.” (+ search term Nordic)

In Educational Research Review. Times Cited: 15



Kemmis, S., Heikkinen, H. L. T., Fransson, G., Aspfors, J., & Edwards-Groves, C. (2014). “Mentoring of new teachers as a contested practice: Supervision, support and collaborative self-development.” (+ Nordic)

In Teaching and Teacher Education. Times Cited: 13

The analysed texts will initially be briefly described and then analysed in the light of institutional logics. This deductive analysis utilized a schedule with the characteristics of the logics presented above. The schedule was divided into two parts: 1) accounting for bibliometric issues and research traditions; and 2) accounting for the empirical findings of the article, in the light of institutional logics. A model of this schedule is found in Appendix B.

Overview of the articles

The most cited articles analysed in this text were published in five (out of the ten) journals. These are based in the USA and Great Britain and thus mainly represent an Anglo-Saxon tradition even though three of the articles have a Nordic perspective (added in the second phase). Most of the articles are widely cited even though the latest one was a bit less so (68–839 times). The papers with a Nordic perspective are less cited which reflects a well-known citation pattern where Nordic researchers cite Anglo-Saxon researchers but are not cited by them, as seen in Goodson & Lindblad (2011). The articles have different research approaches (e.g., practice architecture, sociolinguistics) and methodologies (microanalysis, meta-analysis, interviews, surveys), they have different interests (e.g., organizational perspective, teacher learning development, professional communities, and student achievement or teacher education) and they discuss different things through or in relation to collegiality. Sometimes collegiality is very present and in the foreground, but sometimes collegiality is used as an explanation for a phenomenon, in the background. Yet, all articles stem from the set search words which also reflects the wide area in which collegiality is discussed. The articles and their variation move the concept of collegiality between different intellectual contexts, and its different assigned meanings contribute to the understanding of collegiality as a boundary object. The next section presents collegiality in the chosen articles as analysed within different institutional logics starting with collegiality in the logic of the market.

Collegiality in the logic of the market

In NPM, a common idea is that “collaboration is promoted by accountability policies” (Mausethagen 2013, p. 21). However, as Mausethagen (2013) shows, when embedded in features from the logic of the market, collaboration is not promoted but fades away. Instead, the collaborative focus is on monitoring and tests (Little, 1982; Mausethagen, 2013) and thus collegiality in the logic of the market can be regarded an instrument, limiting teachers’ professional leeway and reducing professionalism. In addition, collegiality turns out to ensure the market’s requirements for teachers through procedures and laws (Kemmis et al., 2014, p. 159).

The idea is that the market requires competition in order to improve quality among other things. However, competition can also imply an exclusionary attitude towards colleagues where it becomes more important to protect the individual than the collective group. In a setting of competition, it can, therefore, be difficult for teachers to share and exchange ideas within a school (Little, 1982). This stands in contrast to a safe and courageous setting where the chances are greater that teachers will take risks and implement new ways of working (Moolenaar et al., 2010, p. 654). Spillane et al. (2002, p. 407) argue that teacher individualism “afforded them few opportunities to grapple with the meaning of policy-makers’ proposals for revising practice. They undertook less fundamental, frequently surface-level, changes in their practice.” Spillane et al. (2002, p. 408) compare this to Lortie’s view of working isolated as in “egg-crates,” individual collegiality. Zeichner (2010, p. 1550) argues that in teacher education the market transforms education into a “private consumer item,” which also seems to contradict the common idea introduced in the beginning.

Collegiality in the logic of bureaucracy

In the context of the logic of bureaucracy, there is less room for individualism and spontaneity; the structures and prerequisites are clearly set as are standardized hierarchical structures. However, whether the fact that teachers have a standardized basis is a given path to success is debatable in the articles. According to, for instance, Louis et al. (1996) or Rosenholtz et al. (1986), the standardized basis seems important. Rosenholtz et al. (1986, p. 102) argue that in collaborative settings “there appears to be tighter congruence between the goals, norms, and behaviors of principal and teachers,” but Little (1982), on the other hand, argues that “the greater the frequency of interaction, the greater the prospects for it to build or erode commitments and the more salient are teachers’ views of its utility, interest, and importance” (Little, 1982, p. 334). It seems that standardized routines may develop into a lively professional culture, but then its members actively need to develop it, a collective effort is needed where teachers play an active and dynamic role.

According to Little (1982, p. 333), when collegiality does not pervade the school, the in-service meetings tend to be used mainly for administration issues. Also, Mausethagen (2013, p. 21) finds that some teachers viewed “formal planning meetings as sometimes supportive and sometimes constraining—hence, both fostering and diminishing the sense of being a professional.” In one of Lasky’s interviews in a reform context with increased accountability pressures, a teacher identified a change in the profession “from collegialism to managerialism and stated that the dedicated teachers were leaving the job” (Lasky, 2005, p. 905). This seems more similar to Little’s (1982) more careful statement.

Collegiality in the logic of professionalism

Finally, in the context of the logic of professionalism, collegiality emerges as a result of the professional actors’ initiative. Teachers have more influence, and a collaborative culture appears and grows from within. Collegiality here is the frequent talk and hands-on work of being a teacher and the teachers’ will to train and develop joint work (Little, 1982, p. 331). Here, joint work means that through their standardized meetings teachers build their own teaching repertoire. This collaborative work generates a shared language (Little, 1982) and leads to continuous learning on the job. In collegiality embedded in the logic of professionalism, teachers teach each other, continuously and in the workplace; it includes collaborative work and continuous training on the job (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Little, 1982). Teachers are in charge of their knowledge, and they develop it. It is not only the fact that collaborative actions pervade the school but also that teachers change and develop their teaching through inquiries and data analyses (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999); teachers’ collegial job is to generate knowledge. They also participate in collective decisions in the workplace, which boosts collegiality and professional development (Little, 1982; Louis et al., 1996). Collegiality is valuable, informal, and flexible and is supposed to develop the teacher within the job on the job (Kemmis et al., 2014). Rosenholtz et al. (1986) see principals and teachers’ collegial work as important and thus mixing bureaucratic and professional ideas.

To summarize this analysis, collegiality can be argued to be assigned different meanings in different institutional logics. The idea embedded in the logic of the market—that collaboration is to be promoted by accountability—seems to be contradicted, and instead, collegiality tends to fade away. The thought that through competition and a focus on customers improved organization will follow seems contradicted and, as seen in these examples, collegiality, when exposed to competition, risks losing cooperation within and between schools, and instead, individual actions are the focus. Collegiality embedded in the logic of the market thus seems to focus on the performative part of the job.

In the context of the logic of bureaucracy, teachers by implication get a standardized base for cooperation at a workplace. There seems to be a risk, however, that collegiality in the logic of bureaucracy is not necessarily an expected or positive part of the teachers’ working culture but turns out to be contrived (Hargreaves, 1994). For teachers, collegial work embedded in the bureaucracy can lead to good prerequisites for cooperative collegiality, but it can also become an unwanted burden.

Finally, collegiality embedded in the logic of professionalism has the assumption of being based on the teachers’ judgments and being used for knowledge production. Teachers use and help each other to achieve a better work situation. Here, collegial relations are professional relations, aiming at learning together on the job in work communities.


It has been fruitful to analyse collegiality as a boundary object in the context of different institutional logics in order to find different conceptions or values of collegiality. In the everyday making of schooling and collegiality, these logics overlap, and competing forms of collegiality appear, but departing from the above analyses, here they are translated into ideal types: market collegiality, bureaucratic collegiality, and professional collegiality with a focus on how collegial relations appear within the respective logics, centering on who introduces collegial ideas and on the nature of such ideas. This is of importance in relation to the understanding of collegiality as a boundary object appearing in different social and cultural worlds.

In market collegiality, collegial relations are imposed from the outside of schools—from the market, “customer” and managerial requirements for monitoring and information. A great deal of information is needed and produced for the “outside” to absorb. The outside is here regarded as the media, parents, and students—the recipients of education. This imposed collegiality becomes an instrument for information and suggests that teachers’ work is strictly instrumental, providing important information and ‘products’ for the market. With the “right” tools teachers are expected to do the right thing—an instrumental view of teaching might arise.

In bureaucratic collegiality, collegial relations are regulated “from above,” that is, through formal procedures and/or official steering documents, for the school’s best. These formal procedures may be supporting, but they may also be constraining—cutting leeway for improvisation and possibly hindering collegial relations to develop, and collegiality risks becoming a burden. This imposed collegiality becomes an instrument and supplies the prerequisites for a standardization of the teacher’s job, which provides clear structures, but reduces flexibility. This too can be seen as instrumental teaching.

Finally, collegial relations in the ideal type of professional collegiality are based on professional judgements (based on teachers’ professional knowledge and ethics) concerning what is considered to be for the best of the participants and the school. This demands a lot of the teachers’ involved. Some teachers might want to avoid it, or some teachers are avoided. Yet, when it works, continuous on-the-job learning ensues. This collegiality is not imposed, but emerges from within the group and becomes a tool for professional development. This kind of collegiality originates from within the organization, and provides leeway and scope for development.

These different ideal types of collegiality are regarded as a supplement to Evetts (2009, p. 248) since they can contribute to and deepen the understanding of organizational and occupational professionalism—in terms of organizational and occupational collegiality. The ideal type of professional collegiality resembles occupational collegiality, whereas the other two resemble organizational collegiality. Table 2 illustrates this.

Table 2

Collegiality as ideal types in the framework of institutional logics (Freidson, 2001)

Ideal types of collegiality in terms of collegial relations and collaboration

Market collegiality

Collegial relations as imposed from “the outside,” for information and market requirements.

Collaboration regarded as positive but fades away in a setting of competition and individualism. Leads to less professional development for the collective group. Organizational collegiality.

Bureaucratic collegiality

Collegial relations as imposed “from above” through standardization and formal procedures, for the school’s best.

Collaboration regarded as supportive or constraining. Fostering or diminishing professional development. Occupational or organizational collegiality.

Professional collegiality

Collegial relations as “from within” based on professional judgements and participants’ needs for the clients’ and the school’s best.

Collaboration regardedas positive and is manifested through frequent talk and hands-on work on being a teacher. Participation in discussions and decisions makes teachers active in their work life, leading to professional development. Occupational collegiality.

Here the analysis is based on the fact that the constructed ideal types of collegiality are dependent on and appear in relation to each other. All ideal types of collegiality have something to contribute to teachers’ professional work life; however, they suggest different things and affect teachers’ working conditions in different ways. Bureaucratic collegiality suggests standardization, market collegiality provides transparency, and professional collegiality suggests professional development; thus, the different kinds of collegiality relate to teachers’ work in different ways. This might influence teachers’ work life, but on the other hand, Lasky (2005, p. 912), for one, argues that

[t]he new mandates were establishing new norms, expectations, and tools for the profession. Yet, these teachers did not change their fundamental sense of professional identity or a sense of purpose. This suggests that external mediational systems might have less of an effect on shaping teacher identity and agency as teachers become more certain or sure of whom they are as teachers.

Even so, since collegiality is a weakly structured concept, it is of importance to analyze its mix of ingredients and to recognize that there are different meanings and that certain connotations and expectations follow from each meaning in context, referring to Wittgenstein’s (1953/1978) notion of language-games.

Concluding remarks

In this paper I have argued that collegiality as a boundary object (Star & Griesemer, 1989) is understood differently in the context of different institutional logics (Freidson, 2001). When collegiality is discussed, this is done from a certain context with its set of values. Here I have shown how these values can be manifested in different institutional logics present in teachers’ work. The main finding is that the diverse, often concealed, meanings assigned to collegiality—here made into ideal types—matter for teachers’ daily work and working conditions. The ideal types of collegiality range from imposed collegial relations to collegial relations appearing from the teachers themselves. It also ranges from collaboration as a tool for professional development to collaboration as a tool for administration or information. How can teachers in institutional crowdedness embrace collegiality when its values and expectations are not contextualized? How do expectations correlate with the context teachers’ work is embedded in? Since it seems hard to succeed with ill-defined tasks, it is important to clarify what value of collegiality is intended before campaigning, arguing, or implementing it—as for now, teachers themselves have to translate this meaning in their daily work.

This study used a rather unusual, but strictly controlled way of finding literature. Using the most cited articles in widely recognized journals, texts were found that can be said to be influential. This way of finding literature yields a certain kind of outcome. To find out what texts were excluded, a simple parallel search was performed, which confirmed that this method was an acceptable way in terms of hits. In addition, it was a transparent way of finding articles spread in time and space. I thus see this systematic and transparent search method as an additional result of this study.

Out of the 185 found articles in this transparent search, ten articles were chosen to form the foundation for this analysis. As this present article does not claim to present a picture of the general landscape of collegiality, but rather an example of how collegiality as a boundary object is situated and assigned meanings in different institutional logics, I argue that this is in order. This is an analysis of influential research texts, found in accordance with my goal of transparency. The participating articles can be regarded as “travelling texts” that change meaning in different contexts. These texts are used for my examples, and this reading is mine, through the lens of institutional logics (Freidson, 2001). The fact that another lens would generate new and other insights does not diminish the contribution of this article.

The different ingredients of collegiality require various quality checks that to some extent have to do with trust in teachers (Evetts, 2006). Who is entitled to find mistakes, and how is trust in teachers’ collegial work acknowledged? When collegiality is imposed from the outside as in a market and bureaucratic collegiality, the control also comes from the outside whereas in more professional collegiality this control comes from within, from professional judgments. These different quality checks are probably related to the trust shown in teachers’ collegial work, but further analyses are needed, as is consideration of the mix of the characteristics in a certain setting or how teachers in various settings respond to these structuring principles.

The text departed from the fact that the governance of teachers’ work has shifted towards a focus on NPM and an influence on policy from new actors seen as politics of expertise (Lindblad & Lundahl, 2015). The analysis confirmed that the expectations and assumptions of collegiality were assigned different meanings in different settings ranging from “collegiality for the sake of information for the market” to “collegiality for development for the sake of the occupation” and as such has contributed to research on new description of governance of teachers’ work through defining values of collegiality in different contexts. Since the ensuing assumptions and following expectations are then very different, this article has argued that it is of vital importance to be aware of such differences and to clarify what kind of collegiality is meant, for instance when demanding more or less of it. The ideal types of collegiality presented in this article all have something to contribute to the understanding of teaching, but they imply different preconditions and frameworks. Such differences need to be clarified in order to improve exchanges of ideas, cooperation, and understanding of collegiality as a boundary object with different implications. It affects teachers’ working conditions in their daily work. To recognize and to deal with different meanings of collegiality is important for research, teachers, and teacher educators as well as for policy-makers and planners. Given this collegial clarity, actors in different cultural and social worlds will hopefully have a better chance to exchange ideas, cooperate, and actually understand each other—collegial missions we all could benefit from.


[i] One of them was omitted as it did not deal with collegiality at all, and four were omitted since they did not deal with either Nordic or Scandinavia, and finally one was dropped because one of its authors is also the author of this article.


Appendix A (A1, A2, A3)

A1. Work procedure: finding highly ranked journals

Table A1

Work procedure: finding highly ranked journals

SCImago. (2007). SJR—SCImago Journal & Country Rank, www.scimagojr.com



Step 1: limit by subject:


Step 2: limit to “teachers’ work” or “education in general”—journals within education

Excluding for instance Handbook of the Economics of Education and Studies in Science Education and Child Development.

Step 3: choose by ranking

the first ten journals

A2. Chosen journals on teachers’ work

  1. Review of Educational Research

  2. American Educational Research Journal

  3. Educational Researcher

  4. Sociology of Education

  5. Educational Research Review

  6. American Journal of Education

  7. Journal of Teacher Education

  8. Educational Administration Quarterly

  9. Teaching and Teacher Education

  10. Review of Research in Education

A3. Search for articles within chosen journals

Table A3

Search for articles within chosen journals



Step 1: Keywords

teacher AND collegiality AND professionalism

Step 2: Abstract

Abstracts were studied manually in order to see if they dealt with collegiality, otherwise skipped.

Step 3: Spread in time

  • 1980–1989

  • 1990–1999

  • 2000–2009

  • 2010–2016

Step 3b: Choose articles

Two articles with most number of citations are chosen. Using Scopus November 17, 2017.

Appendix B

Table B

A model of schedule for analysis

Test XX

Part i:

Author, title, year

Times cited, publication

Research questions



Part ii:



The logic of the market, characteristics:

Examples of characteristics visible in the text




Sellers and buyers

Much information


The logic of bureaucracy

Examples of characteristics visible in the text






Rules and procedures


Public sector

The logic of the profession

Examples of characteristics visible in the text


The workers themselves rule

Long education and training



A boundary