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Managing innovation in education (especially in schools) is a complex task for the principal, and also the staﬀ, and often includes collaboration with outside partners. Innovations demand learning and are seldom neutral in the eyes of stakeholders, therefore they imply the understanding and handling of intertwined technical, political, and cultural perspectives.
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Management and leadership are not exactly the same thing, but many have noticed that for school leaders they tend to overlap. Leaders engage in mobilization, vision building, problem solving, and learning, whereas managers do the goal setting, facilitation, coordination, monitoring, and rewarding business. Both roles are clearly needed to facilitate innovation and change. There is a growing interest in that teachers now engage more in leadership roles among their peers.
Innovations are programs, material, schemas, structures, etc., that promise to be new and better than the old ones. They denote the technical content of improvement. However, the generation, diﬀusion, and use of innovations are also political and entrepreneurial processes governed by their special rationalities (Fullan and Stiegelbauer 1991). Research had to learn by its own mistakes that there are technical, political, and cultural perspectives on innovations. Neglect of one or two of these still causes school reforms to fail (House and McQuillan 1998).
2.1 Technical Implementation Of Innovations
Innovation as a technical concept originally belonged to the research, development and dissemination strategies of change (RDD) and a related approach advocating ‘planned change,’ both especially strong from the 1950s. Belief in expert-based, top-down change was founded on scientiﬁc positivism and models of rational decision making for implementation. It sometimes simpliﬁed the technical problem to ideas of ‘teacher-proof’ innovations. More sophisticated work within this tradition was synthesized in early work by Havelock (1969) in a system analysis-based view of the linkages and linking roles between providers and users of innovation. Out of this research about change, agent characteristics and training evolved. Increasing interest in the social psychology of organizations culminated in the organization development movement of the 1950s–1970s. RDD strategies also incorporated T-groups and other group dynamic devices in order to change the climate of organizations, making staﬀ more receptive to innovations. Teams or departments can still be sent to ‘temporary systems’ (Miles 1964), resorts where the regular system’s norms and hierarchies cannot easily dominate and thereby allow the training of more creative relations. The problem of how learning from temporary systems can survive in the regular system always remains.
2.2 Political And Cultural Competition
The negotiation of interests and the legitimacy of authority are the focus of the political perspective. Strategies used by individuals or groups to serve their interests within an organization are called micropolitics. A school is fairly often informally run by a dominant coalition of teachers and the principal may be lucky to belong to it. Micropolitics is almost inevitably a part of management as a principal strives to achieve control of and commitment from the staﬀ. When it is done with a hidden agenda, including, e.g., cooptation, and control of information ﬂows, it is even more micropolitical. Micropolitic tensions often imply a gender aspect.
The cultural perspective rests on an image of community where values and shared meanings hopefully merge into cultural integrity. Contrary to issues within the political perspective, cultural issues are hardly negotiable, as their meaning may have deep roots in ideology or group identity. This is one of the reasons why control of the recruitment of organization members greatly facilitates common action.
The political deﬁnitions of outcomes from innovations are stressed by Cuban (1998), who isolates ﬁve important criteria by which the success or failure of them are judged in the USA. Three are favored by the policy elite—eﬀectiveness, ﬁdelity, and popularity, and two by practitioners—adaptiveness and longevity. The eﬀectiveness and ﬁdelity criteria are connected to a bureaucratic concept of top-down authority guarding control and technical rationality, which is preferable for elites.
There are professional and popular movements working from a bottom-up perspective with agendas of their own, reﬂecting diﬀering views about, e.g., learning and teaching. Movements engage in contests over professional culture. Often they are recruited as partners to elite initiatives.
Simola (1998) named a certain blend of utopian and rationalistic ideas ‘wishful rationalism.’ It gives educational reformers ‘self-created problems,’ a most important component for group identity to build around. It can be added that wishful rationalism probably has one of its most fruitful seeding grounds in the literature of management and leadership.
3. Solutions And Problems Of Mixed Character
Teacher eﬃcacy illustrates nicely the need to use several perspectives in searching for solutions to problems of innovation and change. Teacher work is basically characterized by technical uncertainty, which makes high self-eﬃcacy hard to achieve. Rosenholtz (1989) found that receiving positive feedback on performance and collaborating with other teachers were among the most important sources of teacher eﬃcacy. This is in line with general theory on self-eﬃcacy, which predicts that mastery experiences is the most important determinant, but that also social persuasion (pep talk and general feedback), and vicarious experiences (e.g., modeling by peers) are important. It is suggested that the implementation process should contain early and strong support because of its vital importance for teachers’ feelings of practice mastery and which also increases user commitment.
Networking between teachers from diﬀerent schools (but with the same interest in subjects, children of a certain age, etc.) is seen as a powerful instrument for professional development and change. It frees participants from limitations in institutional roles and geographic isolation, and builds a kind of temporary system. Networks are organizationally ﬂexible. They support ‘just-in-time learning,’ learning that is tied to the actual work teachers do. Networks stimulate teachers to take leadership roles among peers. Within them, more egalitarian and sustained interaction between researchers and practitioners may be built (Lieberman and Grolnick 1996).
There have, however, been warnings against networking as just fostering a discussion culture. Some think that the tendency to talk together instead of working and learning together is already too strong within the teaching profession.
Great eﬀorts are made to disseminate complex concepts of constructivistic instruction in science and mathematics to teachers using a ‘systemic reform’ design. Measures at several levels will conjoin: teacher education, curriculae, testing, accountability systems, information, support, etc. Strong coalition building at regional and local levels is needed to achieve this and still the result is highly dependent on the capacity of single schools. High-capacity schools have cohesive staﬀs developing ‘collegial learning communities’ and using professional networks to scan their environment for innovations and models. Low-capacity schools lack a critical mass of teachers willing to or used to work like this (Knapp 1997).
A ‘learning community’ in the sense just mentioned is about teachers learning together at the same school, and another term for that might be a ‘learning organization.’ However, Leithwood and Seashore Louis (1996, Chap. 13) point to diﬀerent conceptions inherent in those terms. Organizational learning implies deep change of norms and repertoires, a process which can be highly stressful for participants and which is by no means linear or harmonious. They ﬁnd that this transformational change must be balanced by evolutionary changes. ‘Breakthroughs’ have to be complemented by ‘small wins.’ The small adaptions of everyday life help to shape continuity and stability in relations and routines, and thus the possibility to build a professional community. So schools need both, and the challenge is to get them into a positive dynamic. There is some evidence that community building preferably foregoes deep organizational learning. Leadership that is simultaneously authoritative and supportive is strongly associated with professional community. So is trust among staﬀ and between staﬀ and leaders, and it also fosters risk taking, which is good for learning.
Louis and Miles (1990) found that successful urban schools struggling to change in hard environments used evolutionary planning; i.e., iterative processes of learning through experience. This must be clearly distinguished from the strategy of ‘muddling through,’ which is to take advantage of any hopeful events that might occur under severe constraints. Evolutionary planning demanded strong coordination by cross-role groups or steering groups which must be legitimate in taking control over the process. Legitimacy came both from the principal and from power sharing. Vision building was important, but contrary to many assumptions it did not depend especially much either on formal data collection or on the leaders’ charisma. It was rather an interpretative act making the staﬀ realize a common task and a common fate. ‘Deep coping’ involved measures such as rolling planning, substantial restaﬃng, attempts at increasing school control over the environment, etc. Actions aimed at building system capacity, such as coordinators and task forces, were more eﬀective than actions aimed at personal capacity building.
However, for ambitious change within schools, another, competing concept is also recommended, i.e., ‘strategic planning,’ which is a revitalized planned change approach. In the version of Kaufman and Herman (1991), it is a bold adventure in which the school interacts with its constituencies in making missions for the future and deriving long-term goals and strategies from them. Involving stakeholders means that the approach uses its political in addition to its technical potentialities. The whole idea of strategic planning has, however, been criticized for being contra-productive in using too formal and technocratic planning methods.
4. Models From Industry And Markets
The 1980s–90s saw a great inﬂow of innovative ways of organizing schools coming from the business sector. This marks a change of control over schooling as both professional and political judgements are circumscribed by administrative and economic models. Total quality management (TQM) is such a broad concept, geared to market mechanisms. It has one line of thought focusing on the tight steering of processes (‘doing it right from the beginning’), and another focusing on the capacity to control the environment. The latter may mean that schools are recommended to inﬂuence their input by putting up their own preschools and parent training programs, and by controlling publishers of school books. It should also engage in consumer research, as ‘in enterprises that depend on public support for their existence, perception is truth’ (Bradley 1993, p. 4).
- Bradley L H 1993 Total Quality Management for Schools. Technomic, Lancaster, PA
- Cuban L 1998 How schools change reforms: redeﬁning reform success and failure. Teacher’s College Record 99: 453–77
- Fullan M, Stiegelbauer S 1991 The New Meaning of Educational Change. Teacher’s College Press, New York
- Havelock R 1969 Planning for Innovation Through the Dissemination and Utilization of Knowledge. CRUSK, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
- House E R, McQuillan P J 1998 Three perspectives on school reform. In: Hargreaves A et al. (eds.) International Handbook of Educational Change. Kluwer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 198–213
- Kaufman R, Herman J 1991 Strategic Planning in Education: Rethinking, Restructuring, Revitalizing. Technomic, Lancaster, PA
- Knapp M S 1997 Between systemic reforms and the mathematics and science classroom: the dynamics of innovation, implementation, and professional learning. Review of Educational Research 67: 227–66
- Leithwood K, Seashore Louis K (eds.) 1996 Organizational Learning in Schools. Swets and Zeitlinger, Lisse, The Netherlands
- Lieberman A, Grolnick G 1996 Networks and reform in American education. Teacher’s College Record 98: 7–45
- Louis K S, Miles M B 1990 Improving the Urban High School. Teacher’s College Press, New York
- Miles M B 1964 On temporary systems. In: Miles M B (ed.) Innovations in Education. Teacher’s College Press, New York
- Rosenholtz S J 1989 Teachers’ Workplace. The Social Organizations of Schools. Teacher’s College Press, New York
- Simola H 1998 Firmly bolted into the air: wishful rationalism as a discursive basis for educational reforms. Teacher’s College Record 99: 731–57