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Article

Challenges to Educational Leadership and Equity in México  

Marta Sánchez

Challenges to Mexican educational leadership and equity fundamentally have to do with class struggle and shaping the national identity to conform to one of two competing narratives: México as a country that strives to ensure its place in the first world, subordinating itself to the demands of external bodies and forgoing its own history; or México as a country that sustains and advances its historical struggle for social justice. México’s democratic teachers represent an important voice of educational leadership, as they struggle for educational equity for their students and through active resistance to reforms that rob teachers of their labor rights and intellectual autonomy, and rob students of their rights to the vast epistemological resources that their languages, history, culture, and identity represent. Facing new forms of colonialism that neoliberal education reform ushered in, the teachers fight in contested space that the Mexican curriculum is; they do so with renewed commitments to defeat education reform efforts that have more to do with the restructuring of their labor rights than the education of children in the classroom.

Article

Aligning School Autonomy and Social Justice Approaches to Reform in School Breakfast Clubs in Australia  

Fiona MacDonald

The purpose of education and school reform is a topic of constant debate, which take on a different perspective depending on the motivation of those calling for change. In the Australian context, two of the loudest school reform agendas in the early 21st century center on school autonomy and social justice. The school autonomy agenda focuses on freeing up schools from the centralized and bureaucratic authorities, enabling them to respond to the local needs of their students and school community. Social justice reform focuses on equity, including lack of opportunity, long-term health conditions, low educational attainment, and other intersecting inequalities, and practices of care and nurture that focus on emotional, behavioral, and social difficulties in order to address the disadvantages and inequalities experienced by many students and families. In the early 21st century, school autonomy and social justice reform have been engulfed by neoliberal ideology and practices. Schools are encouraged to engage in a culture of competitive performativity dictated by market-driven agendas, whereas equity has been transformed by measurements and comparisons. Neoliberalism has been heavily critiqued by scholars who argue that it has mobilized the school autonomy agenda in ways that generate injustice and that it fails to address the social issues facing students, families, schools, and the system. Schools are committed to care and social justice, and, when given autonomy without systems-level constraints, they are adept at implementing socially just practices. While the neoliberal agenda focuses on the market and competitive performativity, the premise of school autonomy is to empower school leadership to innovate and pursue opportunities to respond more effectively to the needs and demands of their school at the local level. Schools are implementing social justice practices and programs that introduce responsive caregiving and learning environments into their school culture in order to address the holistic wellbeing and learning needs of their students and school community. With an increasing commitment to addressing disadvantage through the provision of breakfast food, schools are creating wraparound environments of nurture and care that have become enablers of students’ learning and of their connectedness to school and their local community. Adopting a whole-school approach, principals have demonstrated how social justice and school autonomy reform has aligned to address the overall educational commitment to excellence and equity in Australian education.

Article

Reforming Approaches to Persistent Bullying in Schools  

Deborah M. Green, Barbara A. Spears, and Deborah A. Price

Bullying remains a global issue, and persistent bullying among students in schools has become of increasing interest and concern. Extensive research has provided insights into the developmental trajectories of those who bully; however, less is understood about why they either continue to engage in bullying behavior or desist over time. Persistent bullies, those who seem to continue or increase their bullying behaviors over time, not only negatively impact individuals and communities both during their schooling and long after graduation but also experience negative life outcomes as a result of their behavior. It is therefore important to understand what contributes to, supports, or motivates their ongoing bullying behavior: especially when interventions and preventative approaches employed by schools to reduce bullying, have to date, been found not to be universally successful. This is particularly important, as interventions and approaches to reduce bullying behavior, have until the early 21st century been largely measured against and are relevant to Olweus’s traditional bullying definition, which references power imbalances, repetition, and intent to harm and rests largely within the developmental psychology domain. In the early 21st century, debates to contemporize the definition, however, involve contributions from other paradigms designed to bring a more holistic, nuanced understanding of the whole socio-educational context of bullying. This may eventually bring different insights to the issue of persistent bullying, as it would include, for example, an understanding of the broader notions of societal power, individual agency, privilege, and bias-based bullying, potentially resulting in better preventative and intervention outcomes to address bullying more generally, and persistent bullying specifically. Whereas school reform often refers to the process of making changes in educational policy or practice, usually in response to concerns about student academic achievement, behavioral issues such as bullying, which impact wellbeing, engagement, and, ultimately, achievement, also require similar “reforms” to policy and practice. Significantly, such reforms demand evidence to ensure there are no unintended or iatrogenic consequences, such as, for example, the escalation or continuation of bullying behaviors. Reforming approaches to understanding, preventing, and effectively intervening with those who persist in bullying others, a unique subset who seem resistant or immune to bullying prevention and intervention approaches used in the early 21st century, are therefore necessary and timely given the extant knowledge about bullying and victimization derived from the past 30-plus years of research. Knowing more about those who appear immune to intervention and prevention approaches used in the early 21st century, their lived experiences, the contexts that may serve to support and maintain their behaviors, and the community’s view of them, is imperative if approaches are to be reformed in response which subsequently bring about change in schools to reduce bullying. Reforming approaches at the whole-school level are considered, which simultaneously employ a multi-tiered system of behavioral support within the school setting for all students: where specific supports are targeted and enacted for those who persist in bullying, alongside strategies for those victimized, in a climate where all bullying is universally rejected. This approach sits alongside the notion of a whole education approach recommended by the UNESCO scientific committee on school violence. This recognizes that a wider community approach is needed, which acknowledges the interconnectedness of the school, the community, and the technological, educational, and societal systems.

Article

The Norwegian Case of School Reform, External Quality Control, and the Call for Democratic Practice  

Ann Elisabeth Gunnulfsen and Eivind Larsen

Traditionally, the Norwegian education system has been built on equality and democracy as core values, but the disappointing results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) introduced the perception of a “crisis in education” and increased the occurrence of national reform initiatives. New assessment policies with an emphasis on performance measurement and emerging accountability practices have characterized the transition processes over the last decade. With increasing focus on monitoring based on performance indicators, there is a risk that the purpose of promoting democracy in schools will be downplayed by instrumental and managerial regulations. However, the Norwegian school reform of curriculum renewal in 2020 also highlights democracy and participation as separate interdisciplinary themes and includes a concrete elaboration of this topic, which strongly emphasizes that schools should promote democratic values and attitudes as a counterweight to prejudice and discrimination. To obtain more knowledge about how school professionals deal with possible tensions and dilemmas in their work with the contemporary reform, it is important to unpack the interplay between managerial accountability based on performance indicators and identify how educators legitimize their work on promoting democracy in schools. To capture the dynamic nature of educational leadership and the daily subtle negotiation, a micropolitical perspective and theory on democratic agency were used to analyze theoretical and empirical material from two larger studies focusing on certain aspects of school reforms in Norwegian lower secondary schools. The findings suggest that educational professionals respond to the policy of inclusion through negotiating and translating tensions between equalizing students’ life chances and being subjected to collective monitoring and control. The findings also illuminate stories characterized by a predominantly individualistic interpretation of the democratic purpose of education and the challenges and opportunities involved in balancing academic achievement with students’ well-being.

Article

School Boards  

Michael Ford

School boards are a fixture of America’s public education system. The vast majority of public school students obtain an education overseen by one of over 13,000 locally elected school boards. Yet scholars and advocates continue to debate the legitimacy, efficacy, and even need for school boards. Supporters argue that school boards are bastions of local control designed to represent citizen values. Critics dismiss school boards as under qualified, overly political, and generally not up to the task of improving student outcomes. Key areas of school board research include board zones of discretion, superintendent relations, the link between school board governance and outcomes, and role of special interest groups in board elections. All of these research areas relate to the larger question of whether school boards are the appropriate model for the oversight of public education.

Article

Shared Sense-Making, Agency, and Learning in School Development in Finnish School Reforms  

Tiina Soini, Kirsi Pyhältö, and Janne Pietarinen

Curriculum reform is at the heart of educational change and impacts pupils, teachers, other educational professionals, and society at large. Moreover, the way we go about developing our schools and designing curricula defines our future and reveals where we stand regarding the role of education in society. In order to research the desired aims of reforms, it is crucial to understand curriculum making: How does the school develop, and what regulates the development? Learning is at the core of school development. It can be considered as both the aim and the primary means of achieving and sustaining any change in schools. Accordingly, the impact of a school reform is highly dependent on the quality of learning enabled within the school communities. Particularly, the extent to which the reform engages teachers in active and skillful learning by promoting their professional agency is a central determinant of the reform’s outcomes. The core curriculum is the single most influential regulator of school development in Finland. It is renewed approximately every 10 years and provides a common direction and basis for renewing school education and instruction, and sets the framework and foundation for district- and school-level curriculum development work. Teachers in Finland are curriculum makers not only in the class and school, but also at the district and even national levels of the school system. In such a system, teacher autonomy and teacher agency are at the core of school development. Moreover, teachers’ ability to understand the aims of the reform and to integrate, modify, and adopt them as part of their pedagogical practices is essential. This requires making sense of their aims. In Finland, shared sense-making has been the main strategy in the latest participatory reforms, with the aim of promoting transformative learning in professional communities in order to reach reform goals.

Article

Transformational School Leadership to Dismantle Inequitable Systems  

Deirdra Preis

A key reason for the failure of U.S. school leaders to challenge systems of inequity is the lack of exposure to the theory and skill development needed to manage the resistance and political challenges that inevitably occur when interrogating unjust traditions of practice. As preparation programs aim to improve their candidates’ future success in addressing inequitable educational access, it is critical that they develop in their students the self-efficacy around relational practices and strategies needed to manage the micropolitics of transformative work. Examining how transformative K–12 school leaders effectively challenge structural inequities and manage to sustain their leadership positions during turbulent times can help to inform such curricular and instructional revisions. Some of the key practices identified by successful transformative K–12 leaders include engaging in reflection around their positionality, developing racial literacy, effectively facilitating shared visions and collective responsibility for social justice advocacy, building the capacity of stakeholders, developing critical alliances through transparent and authentic community involvement, and participating in supportive professional peer networks that offer ongoing reflection, study, and support. By providing such content and skill practice, and ensuring that instruction and mentoring are provided by faculty who are experienced in transformative leadership, leader candidates can be better prepared for the realities of this challenging work, increasing the likelihood that they will act transformatively upon assuming school leadership roles.

Article

Status, Content, and Evaluation of Lesson Study in Japan on Teacher Professional Development  

Takashi Nagashima

In Japan, various styles of Lesson Study (LS) have been born over 140 years. The first issue is what should be the focus of observation in the live lesson. There are two trends with regard to the target of observation. One is teacher- and lesson-plan-centered observation since the Meiji era (1870s), and the other is child-centered observation since the Taisho era (1910s). The former is closely related to administrative-led teacher training. The latter is more complex and can be further divided into five types. The second issue is which activities are given priority in the LS processes: observation of the live lesson itself, preparation before the lesson, or reflection after the lesson. Furthermore, each activity can be designed as a personal or a collaborative process. Thus, there are roughly six types of LS in Japan related to this issue. Which type is adopted depends on the period, lesson-study frequency, and school type. In addition, it is noteworthy that the type of LS implemented is closely related to which of demonstration teacher or observers are regarded as the central learners. The third issue is whether to regard LS as scientific research or as literary research. Teachers and researchers in 1960s Japan had strong interest in making lessons and lesson studies more scientific. On the other hand, as teachers attempt to become more scientific, they cannot but deny their daily practice: making improvised decisions on complicated situations without objective evidence. Although lesson studies have been revised in various forms and permutations over the last 140, formalization and ceremonialization of lesson studies has become such that many find lesson studies increasingly meaningless and burdensome. What has become clear through the discussions on the three issues, the factors that impede teacher learning in LS are summarized in the following four points; the bureaucracy controlled technical expert model, exclusion of things that are not considered scientific, the view of the individualistic learning model, and the school culture of totalitarian products. To overcome obstruction of teachers’ education in LS and the school crisis around the 1980s, the “innovative LS Cases” has begun in the 1990s. The innovative LS aims not for as many teachers as possible but for every teacher to learn at high quality. In the innovative LS Case, what teachers are trying to learn through methods of new LS is more important than methods of new LS itself. Although paradoxical, in order to assist every single teacher to engage in high quality learning inside school, LS is inadequate. It is essential that LS address not only how to actualize every single teacher to learn with high quality in LS but also through LS how to improve collegiality which enhances daily informal collaborative learning in teachers room. Furthermore, LS cannot be established as LS alone, and the school reform for designing a professional learning community is indispensable. Finally, the concept of “the lesson study of lesson study (LSLS)” for sustainable teacher professional development is proposed through organizing another professional learning communities among managers and researchers.

Article

School Culture  

Diana Gonçalves Vidal and André Paulilo

Over the past several decades, scholars have focused special attention on the relationship between schooling and culture. The first forays focused on curriculum matters, trying to understand how educational policies affected the selection of content and its dissemination in schools. More recently, the concept of school culture has emerged as a frame for researchers, thanks to its ability to problematize how teachers and pupils experience school in terms of time and space. Placing these individuals in the center of the schooling process, the concept of school culture enables scholars to create a more comprehensive analysis of what happens inside classrooms and schoolyards. This tool offers an opportunity for researchers and teachers to debate the merits of tradition and innovation in education, pay attention to material culture as a part of school practices, and consider school community as a social actor. The concept has become commonplace in the academic production in many areas, such as educational sociology, history of education, educational anthropology, philosophy of education, and educational psychology.

Article

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and School Leadership in Action  

Tomoko Takahashi

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871–1944) was a geographer, elementary school teacher and principal, and educational reformer, who was active in the early-to-mid 1900s in Japan. As a school leader and scholar-practitioner guided by a passion for supporting teachers and improving education for the happiness of children, Makiguchi scrutinized pedagogy as a science and proposed a number of reforms of the Japanese education system, key elements of which, he believed, were failing teachers and students alike. His proposals included, among many: the establishment of standards of competency expected of school principals as well as a system of examination to uphold these standards; the abolition of a government-led school inspection system that pressured and restricted teachers from freely conducting teaching activities; and the establishment of an “education research institute” and an organization for the training of teachers. The growing number of modern educational scholars and practitioners paying attention to Makiguchi’s work and philosophy find his ideas not only valid and applicable to education in the 21st century but also remarkably innovative and insightful. His proposal for school leadership was still but a voice in the wilderness in the 1930s. It was also a bold and audacious attempt for him, especially at the time of the militarist regime. Makiguchi is often compared with his contemporary John Dewey (1859–1952). Evidently, Makiguchi and Dewey were both visionaries, passionate school leaders, and fearless reformers. Bearing this in mind, Makiguchi deserves much more attention than he has received thus far—at least as much as Dewey, if we are to balance the historical account of progressive education as a transnational phenomenon.