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Exploratory study of the approach to school leadership development programmes in latvia zlatopolskis higgins

Exploratory study of the approach to school leadership development programmes in latvia zlatopolskis higgins



Summary: This paper discusses the findings of a small scale exploratory research study on school leadership development programmes in Latvia. A brief international perspective on leadership ...

Summary: This paper discusses the findings of a small scale exploratory research study on school leadership development programmes in Latvia. A brief international perspective on leadership development practices is given to appreciate more clearly the issues facing the Latvian context. The evaluation of current research in this field reveals a number of key trends in school leadership training frameworks. This indicates a changing landscape where traditional models of delivery are being succeeded by more innovative approaches.
Semi-structured interviews with three Programme Leaders and the Head of the Association of Educational Leaders of Latvia were conducted to elicit key empirical data. The findings point to a variety of provision with many good elements. However, it is clear that there is an urgent need to develop a more consistent and improved system based on a coherent, strategic and effective framework that addresses trends in the global educational world and recognizes and responds to the Latvian context.



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    Exploratory study of the approach to school leadership development programmes in latvia zlatopolskis higgins Exploratory study of the approach to school leadership development programmes in latvia zlatopolskis higgins Document Transcript

    • Riga Teacher Training and Educational Management Academy 6th International Scientific Conference THEORY FOR PRACTICE IN THE EDUCATION OF CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY 29.–31. MARCH 2012 RIGA, LATVIA ALEKSANDRS ZLATOPOSLSKIS, BRENDAN HIGGINS University of Leeds, United Kingdom EXPLORATORY STUDY OF THE APPROACH TO SCHOOL LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES IN LATVIASummary: This paper discusses the findings of a small scale exploratory research study onschool leadership development programmes in Latvia. A brief international perspective onleadership development practices is given to appreciate more clearly the issues facing theLatvian context. The evaluation of current research in this field reveals a number of key trends inschool leadership training frameworks. This indicates a changing landscape where traditionalmodels of delivery are being succeeded by more innovative approaches. Semi-structured interviews with three Programme Leaders and the Head of theAssociation of Educational Leaders of Latvia were conducted to elicit key empirical data. Thefindings point to a variety of provision with many good elements. However, it is clear that thereis an urgent need to develop a more consistent and improved system based on a coherent,strategic and effective framework that addresses trends in the global educational world andrecognizes and responds to the Latvian context. INTRODUCTION A few decades ago “it would be accurate to assert that no nation in the world had in placea clear system of national requirements, agreed upon frameworks of knowledge, and standards ofpreparation for school leaders” (Hallinger, 2003, 3). Currently leadership development ineducation has gained increasing attention as complexity and accountability in leading schoolsincreases. Research indicates there are strong links between school leadership and schoolperformance (e.g. Harris, 2004; Huber, 2004; Leithwood et al., 2006; Bush 2008), therebychallenging governments to ensure development of highly performing headteachers. Notsurprisingly there is a broad diversity of school leadership development systems internationallyand each country has to identify the most suitable approach for its context. In Latvia there are no explicit government policies on school leadership development,although school headteachers (and teachers) are required to undergo in-service professionaldevelopment courses for a minimum of 36 hours every three years (LR Ministru Kabinets 2007).There are various providers of short courses, however substantial training of school leaders iscarried out by three higher education (HE) institutions (based on professional master’s (PM)programmes) – at University of Latvia, University of Liepaja and Riga Teacher Training andEducational Management Academy. THE AIM OF THE STUDY This paper reports on the findings of an exploratory research study on school leadershipdevelopment programmes in Latvia based on empirical data, acquired through interviews andexamination of documents. The aims of the study are to: Explore and compare the three leadership development programmes. Understand whether the programmes develop leaders relevant to the Latvian context? 1
    • LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN EDUCATION Across the world there is a wealth of different leadership development programme (LDP)structures and hardly any country has a system that is similar to another. The “primary buildingblocks” for an LDP as offered by McCarthry and Forsyth (2009, 88) provide a simpleframework: a) induction (recruitment and selection to leadership preparation); b) curriculum; c)structure; d) delivery; e) field components. However, when we start to unravel each of thesebuilding blocks, a whole set of options and opportunities emerge of how they can be carried out.Thus there are many questions to be addressed in determining the most suitable system of LDPs.For example Bush (2008) suggests to ask: a) Who provides the training? b) Pre-service or in-service training? c) Centralised or pluralist programmes? d) Certification or ad-hoc learning?Huber (2004, 25) also suggests - optional or mandatory; monopoly or market? The range ofpossibilities is vast – e.g. Huber (2004, 16) provides at least 19 combinations across the worldjust for the question of ‘who provides the training’. McCarthry and Forsyth (2009, 114) emphasise that “a review of research on thepreparation of school leaders reveals more gaps than it does answers to questions regarding whatconstitutes best practices”. Thus there is no single ‘best way’ developed yet of how to build andcarry out school LDPs. However, Huber (2004) summarises a list of tendencies in schoolleadership development based on his research of LDPs in 15 countries: • Central quality assurance and decentralised provision • New forms of cooperation and partnership • Dove-tailing theory and practice • Preparatory qualification • Extensive and comprehensive programs • Multi-phase designs and modularisation • Personal development instead of training for a role • The communicative and cooperative shift • From administration and maintenance to leadership, change and continuous improvement • Qualifying teams and developing the leadership capacity of schools • From knowledge acquisition to creation and development of knowledge • Experience and application orientation • New ways of learning: workshops and the workplace • Adjusting the program to explicit aims and objectives • New paradigms of leadership • Orientation towards the schools In terms of the contents, Bolam (1999 in Bush, 2008, 34) states that leadershipdevelopment can be grouped into four modes: a) knowledge for understanding; b) knowledge foraction; c) improvement of practice; and d) development of a reflexive mode. Bush adds thatcontent-led programmes, which are typical for universities, “may be regarded as predominantlyaiming at ‘knowledge for understanding’” but “in the twenty-first century, however, theemphasis has shifted from content to process” (ibid: 50). Traditionally the structure of LDPs followed the typical higher education degreeprogrammes, but in recent times there has been a shift to innovative structures. Huber (Huber,2003, 281) provides three ‘idealised’ models encountered around the world of how LDPs can bearranged, which are divided into four stages – orientation, preparation, induction and continuousdevelopment. “An international comparison shows that there is a tendency to move away from the idea that adequate preparation and development could be completed in a specific time frame using a standardized program. Instead, school leadership development is more and more regarded as a continuous, life-long process linked to the career cycle and to the specific needs of the leaders and those of their school.” (Huber 2008, 167–168) 2
    • As for traditional forms of delivery - lectures, seminars, group activities – they mainlyprovide knowledge which is either out of context or hypothetical as well as with minimalparticipation in practice (Taylor et al., 2009). The current trend is to move from traditionalcourse-based designs towards more experimental methods such as role playing and simulationexercises, etc. “In many countries, programs use workshops and confront participants withmodelled situations of school leadership work and carefully constructed cases, and involve themin a cooperative problem-solving process, such as the case method or the problem-based learning(PBL) approach” (Huber, 2008, 170). The delivery becomes more focused on individualised learning and student-centredlearning, and that “becomes manifest through facilitation, mentoring, coaching and consultancy”(Bush, 2008, 42). At the same time learning in groups plays “a significant part in manydevelopment programmes” and some of the strategies to deliver it are action learning, residentialand off-site learning, networking and school visits (Bush, 2008, 47). Taylor et al (2009) devised an illustration of the main learning and teaching methods,which is seen in the figure below. It depicts what types of knowledge students acquire and whatis the level of participation in the community of practice depending on the delivery methods andmeans used. Figure 1. MATERIALS AND METHODS Data for the study was collected through four semi-structured interviews and documentanalysis. Such qualitative methods are appropriate as they help to “elicit the ‘meaning’ of eventsand phenomena from the point of view of participants” (Johnson, 1994, 7). The semi-structuredinterview, allows for flexibility and breadth of response. Purposive sampling (Fogelman andComber, 2007) was selected and the programme leaders of the three educational LDPs in Latviawere interviewed as they are entitled to represent views about the whole programme. The fourthinterviewee chosen is the chair of the Association of the Educational Leaders of Latvia, whichallows representative opinion from leadership practitioners’ point of view, and enablestriangulation (Johnson, 1994, 8) of some data. Interviews were carried out face-to-face and a 3
    • voice-recorder was employed to ensure accurate representation of data, as well as notes weretaken. The interview schedule had 12 questions arranged in three sections exploring thecontext, the programme and the future development potential. The reviewed documents includedweb pages and those used for programme accreditations thus assisting in the triangulation ofcertain data obtained in the interviews. To ensure respondent anonymity and confidentialityprogrammes are referred to as Programme 1, 2 and 3 and the respondents as Leader 1, 2 and 3and the fourth respondent is Head of Association (HoA). RESULTS Commenting on the system of the school leadership development in Latvia, respondents(Leader 2, Leader 3 and HoA) were in agreement that there is no such system. HoA emphasised: “Still in Latvia there is no constructive, not even mentioning effective, school leader development before they take on the post, nor a further education when they are in the post, neither there is any motivation evoked to study on a Master’s programme .” Having done such a programme it is not a prerequisite to become a headteacher. Neitherdoes it provide any benefits in terms of career or salary improvements. Leader 3 also highlightedexistence of competition by other options to access similar education, e.g. by local authorities orprojects funded by the European Union. HoA notes that decline in the number of applicants tothe programmes stimulates universities to lower the requirements, which was also collaterallymentioned by the Leaders 1 and 2 during the interview. Further, as one of the main hindrances for building an effective leadership developmentsystem in Latvia, three respondents (Leader 1 and 2, and HoA, from the interview) highlightedthe absence of the professional standards for headteachers. A weak link in the system is also saidto be the recruitment of headteachers, which occasionally can be subjective and obscure (Leader1 and 2, from the interview; Tikmere, 2009). In terms of the educational leadership arena Leader 3 states that “the environment iscontrolling, but it should be directed more towards a developing one” and therefore, they state,there is a need for more evident leaders in the education system (From the interview). The Programmes Based on the document analysis and supported by the interview, Programme 2 (PM inSchool Organisation) is focused more on an educational organisation, processes within it andpreparing a headteacher as a person who can bring change. Programme 1 (PM in EducationalManagement) has a wider view on education as the system not only an organisation, however ismore academic and aimed at developing ‘knowledge and understanding’ and ‘research andevaluation skills’. Programme 3 (PM in Management Sciences), is a general organisationalmanagement programme with a specialism in educational management. It has strong focus ondeveloping the team and organisational culture. Creation of all the programmes where reportedto be based on initiatives of academics with no specific directions from the government. Induction. During the interviews Leaders did not back up the publicly availableadmission requirements and as the main one for all the programmes was a previous highereducation qualification. Thus HoA was critical about the students being potentially admitted to aprogramme without any teaching or management experience. Curriculum and Structure. Structure was reported to be determined mainly by thehigher education programme requirements and provided little flexibility. Programme 1 is basedon the headteacher standards which were then publicly available as a project proposal for thegovernment. For the Programme 2- standards developed by the programme providers whereused. Programme 3 uses the more general ‘professional standard of chief executive officer’. Leader 3 and Leader 2 agreed on the point that educational leadership nowadays ismainly underpinned by the theories of general organisational management, thus it played a hugepart in the curriculum. Leader 2 mentioned that there is not much literature dedicated toeducational management in Latvian language and that interpretation of general organisational 4
    • theories and their adaption to the educational settings is part of their programme, which can bechallenging for some students. Delivery. When describing methods of programme delivery answers varied across theprogrammes. Leader 1, in contrast to the programme description, said that methods are mainlytraditional. Focus is more on the academic knowledge as “it remains [applicable] for a longertime” (From the interview), whereas practical knowledge becomes dated faster. Practical parts ofthe teaching and learning consist of analysis of current laws in education as well as analysis ofpackages of data provided to students which they have to analyse by using SPSS or Moodleinterfaces. Leader 2, however, explained that in addition to the traditional methods (lectures,seminars) they use discussions, individual projects and practical tasks (including PBL) in agroup. The academic focus is around one third of the programme and the practical is around twothirds. She also noted that lecturers’ task is not as much to present the information as to bringparticipants together and let them share their opinions between each other. Innovative approach to learning and teaching is likewise used on the Programme 3 andLeader 3 added that they also use the simulation game “Marketplace” and complete tests whichhelp to determine participants’ leadership approaches. Leader 2 was the only one, though, whoexplicitly emphasised that they promote development of student self-reflection. Nevertheless,she noted that the methods they use do not explicitly focus on development of leadership skills. Field components. According to the programme description the practice modulesconsist of 6 or 8 credit points. All programmes have a significant focus on the collection of datafor the master’s thesis during their practice. Programme 2 stands out with their two partapproach- two weeks for the research practice of comparing three institutions; and a six weekleadership practice of shadowing a headteacher. Afterwards the students present and discuss theirexperiences with their course mates. HoA highlighted several weaknesses of the performance of the practice. First,headteachers occasionally are not willing to take on practitioners. Second, practice is not longenough and that students are mainly concerned about collecting data for their research project,which she “wouldn’t even call a practice” (from the interview). She was also critical about theinexperienced students and added that not every student on the practice is necessarily intendingto become a headteacher. Other Matters. Three respondents (Leader 2, Leader 3 and HoA) admitted that suchmaster’s programme is more suitable for experienced professionals. Moreover all respondentsacknowledged that completion of the programme does not ensure that a graduate will necessarilybe a good leader. “I’m not at all saying that we prepare leaders” says Leader 1 (From theinterview). People come with different reason to study here, “if you interviewed students I don’tthink even a half would want to become headteachers” (Leader 1, from the interview). Leader 1and Leader 2 also added that they do not have such authority to assess students’ leadershippotential. Future Development Potential. Programme 2 was reported to be undergoingconversion from the ‘School Organisation’ to the more general ‘Organisational Management’with specialisms in educational management, business management and public management, dueto two reasons. Firstly, it will be aligned with the professional standard of the chief executiveofficer and will allow issuing the professional qualification. Secondly, and it is a response todecline in applicant numbers (Leader 2, from the interview). They anticipate, however, that thebroadened scope of the programme might potentially result in loss of the focus of understandingof the contexts of corresponding organisations of participants. DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS First, it is imperative to point out that there is insufficient local empirical research oneducational leadership and context in Latvia and the absence of any local research on leadershipdevelopment, currently making it difficult to build a coherent and valid impression on thesesubjects. Further triangulation and deeper exploration would also be necessary by more 5
    • comprehensive analysis of wider range of documents, by interviewing other lecturers on theprogrammes and by gathering data on students’ perceptions. System of School Leadership Development The absence of a coherent and nationally coordinated system of leadership developmentprovision creates several dangers. Thus, for example, low headteacher recruitmentrequirements, foster fall of motivation to acquire additional training, which in turn reducesnumber of applicants to LDPs. This in turn lowers selection criteria for the programmes, whichfurther reduces the profile of the programme participants. That further diminishes learningexperience on the programme. Because of this lack of national coordination LDP providers in Latvia operate in anenvironment heavily influenced by the market forces. Due to a number of constraints beyondtheir influence, e.g. decreasing pupil and school numbers, limited financial resources for schoolsand ambiguous recruitment procedures, they seem to lack leverage for action and thus exercisereactive rather than proactive strategies, which further weakens provision of leadershipdevelopment. Leadership Development Programmes All three programmes are different, depending on what their providers regard asimportant. One offers a more traditional and academic approach providing mainly ‘knowledgefor understanding’. Another incorporates innovative learning methods, such as simulatedproblem-based learning, and focuses on developing teams, values and culture, and may beregarded as providing ‘knowledge for action’. The third provider, potentially, most closelycorresponds to the recent international trends. It is extensively based on real-life PBL, groupwork and self-reflection and is oriented towards organisational improvement and change. It maybe regarded as aiming at ‘improvement of practice’ and ‘development of a reflexive mode’. The shift away from dedicated educational leadership development is amplified by there-active choice in favour of general organisational management programmes (Programmes 2and 3). It means that only one specialized provider of educational leadership has remained in thecountry. Moreover, it was found to have more academic focus, which is completely opposite tothe recent international trends. Programme providers and professional’s views suggest that these particular PMprogrammes are not necessarily providing a benchmark for improvement of leadershipcapacity. Owing to the lack of authority and leverage the programme providers have limitedcapacity to implement substantial improvements at the system level and are constrained adoptingreactive rather than proactive strategies. There could be two general strategies for the future course for school LDPs. One is acomplete restructuring of the programme provision to mach it possibly close to modern trends.Another, more favourable and discussed here, is effective utilisation of the structures already inplace. To ensure effective development of school leaders it would still have to undergofundamental improvements, but they could be more time and cost effective. If analysed in thelight of recent international trends, all programmes could be further improved in virtually all theaspects of Huber’s list and other authors’ recommendations. This paper would not do justice tothis subject if it claimed to offer a comprehensive set of suggestions, as even the programmeproviders have different views on that. However, their views by and large are complementary notmutually exclusive, so some areas of potential improvement are identified and offered here. There are a number of other opportunities to acquire education for the purposes ofdeveloping leadership practice, such as short in-service training courses and projects funded bythe European Union. However, these are reported to be mainly one-off occasions, ratheropportunistic and lacking coordination between one another. To improve the system theexisting structure of the in-service courses could be utilised but national coordinationwould be required, because the authority of PM programme providers is limited. To ensuremore effective use of government funding for the PM programmes, it could be provided only toappointed headteachers, otherwise the investments are often made in students who don’t become 6
    • headteachers. Further research would have to be done in effectively every stage of LDPs andother related matters such as: Impacts of the PM programs on the improvement of further practice. Participants’ evaluation of the programmes and differences of learning experience between aspiring (or novice) and experienced heads. Issues related to the provision and quality of field components. CONCLUSIONS The findings indicate urgent action to improve provision of educational leadershipdevelopment in Latvia is required. The re-active approach of programme provision (due toconstraints of higher education requirements) and absence of national strategies hinders thecreation of a coherent and effective system and risks putting a complete halt to the process. It is reported that there are many exceptional examples of good leadership practice inLatvia, however, there are also some instances of inappropriate practice. These are often due touneven distribution of power across local authorities around the country and often non-transparent recruitment practice and other poorly regulated processes related to schoolleadership. The need for more and stronger leaders for Latvian schools is acknowledged,increasing the importance of rigorous LDPs. A notion of school leadership as a separate profession with specialised training andrequirements is firmly established with the LDP providers in Latvia and increasingly amongprofessionals. However, some concerns are created by the shift from specialised educationalmanagement programmes towards a general organisational management. School LDPs explored in this assignment are traditionally organised in the form ofprofessional masters’ degrees, which allow programme providers to incorporate elements ofpractice and issue a professional qualification award. The absence of professional standards forheadteachers, as well as reducing enrolment on the programmes is encouraging the providers torespond to market forces and shape their programmes based on the standards of generalorganisational managers, which may result in a decline of student experience. In terms of developing high quality leaders in line with recent international trendsthere are concerns about each stage of the programmes. For example, the entry requirementsare seemingly low; there is room for incorporating more innovative delivery methods; thecurriculum can be made more process oriented; the structure is relatively inflexible and fieldcomponents/practice could be extended and significantly improved. The findings indicate that the system at present is not sufficiently facilitatingdevelopment of leaders relevant to the Latvian context. Currently exceptional leaderswould emerge by chance or through their own initiative, since the system hardly facilitatestheir intentional identification and systematic development. Headteacher development as asystematic process is not yet efficient, effective and properly coordinated. Nevertheless,providing that pro-active strategies are implemented, there are sufficient foundations todevelop a more effective system. REFERENCES1. Bush, T. (2008). Leadership and Management Development in Education. London: Sage.2. Fogelman, K. & Comber, C. (2007). Surveys and sampling. In: Briggs, A. R. J. & Coleman, M. (Eds.) Research Methods in Educational Leadership and Management. London: Sage, p. 125–141.3. Hallinger, P. (2003). Reshaping the Landscape of School Leadership Development: a Global Perspective. Lisse, Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers.4. Harris, A. (2004). Distributed Leadership and School Improvement: Leading or Misleading? Educational Management Administration & Leadership, Vo. 32, p. 11–24.5. Huber, S .G. (2003). School Leader Development: Current Trends from a Global Perspective. In: Hallinger, P. Reshaping the Landscape of School Leadership Development: a Global Perspective. Lisse, Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers, p. 273–289.6. Huber, S. G. (2004). Preparing School Leaders for the 21st Century: an International Comparison of Development Programs in 15 Countries. London: Routledge Falmer. 7
    • 7. Huber, S. G. (2008). School Development and School Leader Development. In: Lumby, J., Crow, G. & Pashiardis, P. International Handbook on the Preparation and Development of School Leaders. UK, Oxon: Routledge, Taylor & Francis, p. 163–176.8. Johnson, D. (1994). Research Methods in Educational Management. Harlow: Longman.9. Leithwood, K., Harris, A. & Hopkins, D. (2006). Seven Strong Claims about School Leadership. School Leadership and Management: Formerly School Organisation, Vol. 28(1), p. 27–42.10. LR Ministru Kabinets (2001). MK noteikumi Nr.481 “Noteikumi par otr l me a profesion l s augst k s izgl t bas valsts standartu”. [Regulations No. 481 “Regulations regarding the State Standard for the Second Level Higher Professional Education]. R ga: VSIA “Latvijas V stnesis”. (in Latvian).11. McCarthy, M. M. & Forsyth, P. B. (2009). An Historical Review of Research and Development Activities Pertaining to the Preparation of School Leaders. In: Young, M. D., Crow, G. M. et al. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on the Education of School Leaders. UK, Oxon: Routledge, Taylor & Francis, p. 86–128.12. Taylor, D. L., Cordeiro, P. A. & Chrispeels, J. H. (2009). Pedagogy. In: Young, M. D., Crow, G. M., Murphy, J. & Ogawa, R. T. (Eds.) Handbook of Research on the Education of School Leaders. New York: Routledge, p. 319–370.13. Tikmere, I. (2009) Visp rizgl tojošo skolu direktoru darb pie emšanas pieredze un prakse Latvij . [Headteacher Recruitment Experience and Practice in General Education Schools in Latvia]. Masters thesis. R ga: R gas Pedago ijas un izgl t bas vad bas akad mija. (in Latvian)MA International Educational Management graduateAleksandrs ZlatopolskisUniversity of LeedsStudent Support OfficeSchool of Education, University of Leeds,Address: Leeds, LS2 9JT, United KingdomPhone: +44(0) 113 343 4570Fax: +44 (0)113 343 4541E-mail: a.zlatopolskis@leeds.ac.uk / aleksandrs.zl@gmail.comTutor – Masters in Teaching & Learning, and MA International Educational ManagementBSc, MA, NPQHBrendan HigginsUniversity of LeedsSchool of Education, University of Leeds,Address: Leeds, LS2 9JT, United KingdomPhone: +44(0) 113 343 8389Fax: +44 (0)113 343 4541E-mail: j.b.higgins@leeds.ac.uk / brendanjhiggins@msn.com 8